Microsoft delivers preview of new Azure cloud service for Internet of Things

Microsoft delivers preview of new Azure cloud service for Internet of Things

Summary: Microsoft is kicking off a limited preview of a new Azure cloud service for managing and analyzing data from Internet of Things devices and sensors.


Microsoft is making available a new cloud service, known as the Microsoft Azure Intelligent Systems Service that will allow users to capture and manage machine-generated data from sensors and devices.


Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced the availability of a limited preview of the service during a data-focused customer and press event in San Francisco on April 15.

Businesses will be able to use Microsoft data-analysis tools like HD Insight, its Azure Hadoop service, and Power BI, its business intelligence service, to capture and analyze the data from that service.

Microsoft's Embedded business is now known internally as its Internet of Things (IoT) team. At the company's Build 2014 developer conference in early April, Microsoft execs talked up plans to enable Azure to manage IoT devices.

But this new Azure Intelligent Systems Service will manage not just Windows-based devices but devices running other operating systems. 

Those interested in applying to be part of the limited public preview of the Azure Intelligent Systems Service can get more information here. Microsoft's site describes the service this way:

The Azure service "provides agents and open-source agent software to support heterogeneous operating systems and protocols across LoB (line of business) assets, alleviating barriers from custom solutions that take many months to implement and may have limitations supporting diverse environments. The result is a more comprehensive and much faster solution to deliver, accelerating adoption and deployment to yield enterprise value. A unified approach to security distinguishes the solution with enterprise-grade security developed and supported by Microsoft."

At the Microsoft data insights event, officials also announced another new product, called the Analytics Platform System (APS). APS combines SQL Server and Hadoop into a single offering that Microsoft is touting as providing "big data in a box."

APS is the "evolution" of Microsoft's current SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse product. It now supports the ability to query across the traditional data warehouse, plus data stored in a Hadoop region, whether in an appliance or a seprate Hadoop Cluster.

Nadella described the purpose of today's event as a chance to explain the data-platform piece of the company's cloud first, mobile first strategy.

Nadella told attendees of the event that SQL Server is already "over a $5 billion business for us." Last we heard, SQL Server was a billion-dollar business for the company. Update: Microsoft officials are confirming that as of last fiscal quarter, SQL Server is now a $5 billion annual business. Nadella also noted that Excel is the most ubiquitous tool that's already built to deal with data.

Nadella used one of his seemingly new favorite terms, "ambient intelligence," to describe Microsoft's plan to try to harness the data generated by the growing number of smart devices and make sense of it. He said the way that users will be able to take advantage of this "data fuel" will be to use a "data platform or ambient intelligence platform.". At one end of this platform are Office applications like Excel; on the other are SQL Server and Hadoop.

During the event, various Microsoft officials provided demonstrations of recently released Microsoft products, including PowerBI for Office 365 and SQL Server 2014, which includes built-in "Hekaton" in-memory transaction processing technology

Update: Nadella's a busy guy. I hear he will be on the Microsoft Q3 FY 2014 earnings call, which is happening on April 24. All these appearances are part of his pledge to spend time with customers, partners and the financial community, I'm told.

Update 2 (April 17): Microsoft provided a few actual specifics about the coming Intelligent Systems Service via a new blog post on April 16.

According to the post, there will be a software development kit (SDK) allowing customers and partners to add custom vertical solutions on top of the service. The core service will handle the connectivity, the complex event processing and data administration, as well as plug into business-intelligence tools. The Embedded tam also said it is building an Intelligent Systems Service portal. (But there's no word on how/if this will work with the Azure Management Portal that is now in preview.)


Topics: Cloud, Big Data, Microsoft, Business Intelligence


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • So Microsoft is announcing.

    How much data collection they plan on doing? Everyone knows that WP 8 devices track everything, and repost back to the "mothership". This goes for Phones, tablets, and desktop/laptops that are running WP 8 (basically every product that has a Microsoft OS on it).
    I hate trolls also
    • Nope

      This isn't about Microsoft collecting data (though it may enable that). This is about creating a platform for collecting data so that anyone can do it. The data that would be collected could be anything (consider a company like Nest (who obviously won't be using Microsoft - they are now owned by Google - but they might have a competitor)).

      This is for any class of device (or devices) that rely on a connection to the internet to work. The data from the device gets collected, analyzed, parsed six ways to Tuesday and put to use somehow.
      • I don't honestly care who's doing it

        I don't like anyone harvesting data. It's wrong for Google/Microsoft/Apple/AT&T/Sprint/T-Mobile/Verizon/etc. to collect anything more than the most basic data. Yet everyone of them in collecting more, and more. My issue is the honesty level. When Microsoft run ads "shaming Google", they need to stop doing the same thing, themselves. Is that really too much to ask? The same goes for every company.
        I hate trolls also
        • you should maybe

          Just unplug everything you own and go hippie then because like or not you are being tracked.

          for instance I could buy a list of people on here that write posts you do so I can sell Armageddon kits for paranoid ones like you.
      • Re: Nope...

        Flydog57, well said.

        While I really like using Excel for a lot of databases, when it comes time to anaylize data with a lot of variables, I do prefer using Minitab.....

  • "...things..."

    I don't actually see the point of linking everything together. I don't see a personal reason to do it and our business issues are already at our beck & call with what we have. It seems like someone is afflicted with "technology raptures" and everyone is piling on so they can take advatage of whatever cash flow they can acheive. Sure we can do it; but why?
    • Imagine ...

      Imagine you create a startup to build and release a .

      Tell me that you wouldn't find enormous value your devices being able to connect to the internet and upload data to your services describing how that device has been operating, errors it's detected, how long its batteries last, how often a user interacts with it, download firmware updates, offline data, etc.

      There's ENORMOUS value to a device manufacturer in being able to gather telemetry and information on how its devices are being used, how they perform, how reliable they are, how users are using them, etc. And there's often ENORMOUS value to users in having more devices gather and share information that's important to users with that users' other devices, systems, etc.

      The IoT isn't about "tracking users" per se, it's about connecting an increasing number of devices that are able to gather data & share data that's useful to their creators and/or users.

      Just because some may abuse this capability doesn't mean that no device should ever gather and communicate its data.
      • Damn ZD Net Commenting engine ... you guys NEED to fix this

        Apparently, anything with angle brackets gets deleted.

        Replace the first line above with:

        Imagine you create a startup to build and release a (insert_device_name_here).
      • Great Post

        Nice summary of what IoT is. Glad you debunk all the paranoia here.
  • Data Collection Raises Security Questions

    I have an organization that uses Microsoft products. While we aren't a government contractor or financial institution, we have client and corporate data that I don't want harvested. Our admins contacted Microsoft Gold Partner consultants to help figure out if there are security issues, what they are and the appropriate fixes. We’re using Innovative Architects and so far, so good.
    • Doesn't seem they 'harvest' the data, so much as scan it for keywords

      No company offering service would stay in business long, if they actually copied your emails; moreover, no one has big enough servers, to store all that stuff in transit. Instead, I'd bet that during transmission, the data is scanned for keywords and the keywords are then stored for tailoring advertising content and usage, etc. Far different thing, to scan for keywords and then use those words as tags to give you tailored advertising. Mindless machines adding keywords to a kind of user dictionary, is very different from snooping on your email to learn its content.
  • Really bad idea

    The Internet of things is stupid, stupid, stupid. We can't even protect the current contents under peace-time conditions. Why build an infrastructure that invites disaster?
  • A Dream Come True

    for the Fascists at the NSA.