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

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.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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.)


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