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New Microsoft IoT Solutions ‘Connected Factory, IoT Central’, More Announced

A new software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering to reduce the complexity of Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, making digital transformation faster, easier and more accessible for manufacturers, customers and partners, Microsoft announced Thursday.

The new solution termed as “Microsoft IoT Central,” built on the Azure cloud, is the first IoT offering from a hyperscale cloud vendor that aims to simplifies cloud development process, enabling powerful IoT scenarios for customers without requiring cloud solution expertise.

IoT Central will be available alongside Microsoft’s existing platform-as-a-service solution, Azure IoT Suite, which enables deep customization and full control.

“Built on the Azure cloud, Microsoft IoT Central simplifies the development process and makes it easy and fast for customers to get started, making digital transformation more accessible to everyone,” writes Sam George, Microsoft partner director for Azure IoT.

Microsoft will showcase the solution at Hannover Messe 2017 next week, along with other new IoT investments including Azure Internet of Things (IoT) Suite: Connected Factory, a pre-configured solution and six-step framework that makes it easy to connect on-premises OPC Unified Architecture (UA) and OPC Classic devices to Microsoft cloud for insights on operational efficiencies.

The connected factory solution also enables customers to securely browse and configure factory devices from the cloud. This preconfigured solution includes 8 assembly lines running in a Linux Virtual Machine on Azure. Azure IoT Gateway SDK is also used in each simulated factory location.

“We believe that the Azure IoT Suite is the best choice for businesses to cloud-enable industrial equipment — including already deployed machines, without disrupting their operation — to allow for data and device management, insights, machine learning capabilities and even the ability to manage equipment remotely,” Sam George says.

Azure Time Series Insights
Azure Time Series Insights

Microsoft also released a preview of Azure Time Series Insights, a fully managed service that makes it easy to explore, visualize and analyze billions of data events from IoT solutions.

Here are the features of Time Series Insights:

  • provides near real time global view of data across various event sources and lets you quickly validate IoT solutions and avoid costly downtime of mission-critical devices.
  • helps discover hidden trends, spot anomalies, conduct root-cause analysis in near real-time, all without writing a single line of code through its simple and intuitive user experience.
  • additionally, it provides rich API’s to enable you to integrate its powerful capabilities in your own existing workflow or application.

Also a preview of Azure Stream Analytics on edge devices enables customers to deploy analytical intelligence closer to IoT devices and unlock full value of the device-generated data.

Azure Stream Analytics on edge devices extends all the benefits of unique streaming technology from the cloud down to devices like “Complex Event Processing (CEP) solution on edge devices to easily develop and run real-time analytics on multiple streams of data.”

One of the key benefit is the seamless integration with cloud: “users can develop, test, and deploy their analytics from the cloud, using same SQL-like language for both cloud and edge analytics jobs,” the team says. “This SQL language notably enables temporal-based joins, windowed aggregates, temporal filters, and other common operations such as aggregates, projections, and filters.”

Users can also seamlessly integrate custom code in JavaScript for advanced scenarios.

Azure Stream Analytics on edge devices
Azure Stream Analytics on edge devices

New functionality that automatically streamlines device provisioning to Azure IoT Hub service that allows customers to provision millions of devices in a secure and scalable manner.

Azure IoT Hub Device Provisioning enables zero-touch provisioning to the right IoT hub without requiring human intervention, and is currently being used by early adopters to validate various solution deployment scenarios.

Provisioning is an important part of the lifecycle management of an IoT device based on any number of characteristics such as: “Location of the device (geo-sharding), Customer who bought the device (multitenancy), and Application in which the device is to be used (solution isolation).”

Devices running Windows 10 IoT Core operating systems will enable an even easier way to connect to Device Provisioning via an in-box client that OEMs can include in the device unit.

In conjunction with this, Microsoft also announced hardware partnerships with STMicro and Micron as well.

Microsoft to strengthen IoT security announced Azure IoT now support two industry-wide, hardware security standards: Device Identity Composition Engine (DICE) and many different kinds of Hardware Security Modules (HSMs).

While, “DICE is an upcoming standard at Trusted Computing Group (TCG) for device identification and attestation which enables manufacturers to use silicon gates to create device identification based in hardware, making security hardware part of the DNA of new devices from the ground up.”

“HSMs are the core security technology used to secure device identities and provide advanced functionality such as hardware-based device attestation and zero touch provisioning,” writes the azure team.

In addition, Azure IoT team with standards organizations and major industry partners is working to employ latest in security best practices to deploy support for a wide variety of Hardware Secure Modules (HSM).

Cloud Partner Portal public preview for publishing single-virtual machine offers announced on Thursday, enables publisher partners to “create, define, publish and get insights for their single virtual machine offerings on the Azure Marketplace,” team azure says.

With this release, “all new and existing publisher partners who wish to publish virtual machines on to Azure will be able to use new Cloud Partner Portal to perform any of the above actions.”

This new portal will soon support all other offer types and will replace current publishing portal in time. The features included in this release such as:

  • Org Id login support alongwith RBAC, so that offers remain secure and publishers don’t have to make all contributors co-admins giving them only the level of access needed.
  • Offer is validated as you type. This reduces unwanted surprises after publishing offer, an overall reduction in time from starting defining an offer to actually publishing an offer, new validations with every release which make process a lot more predictable.
  • Simplified publishing workflow providing one path to offer publishing—just need to ‘Publish’ their offers.
  • It lets publishers know even before they publish their offer about steps their offer would go through along with estimated execution times.
  • A direct link into insights of an offer—provide a quick glance and drilldowns into an offer’s health and performance on Azure Marketplace.

Additionally, feedback is just a click away – the send a smile/frown button will be ubiquitous in the new portal.

With Cloudera Enterprise Data Hub 5.11, you can now run Spark, Hive, and MapReduce workloads in a Cloudera cluster on Azure Data Lake Store (ADLS), the team says.

Benefits of running on ADLS include:

  • Grow or shrink a cluster independent of the size of the data.
  • Data persists independently as you spin up or tear down a cluster. Other clusters and compute engines, such as Azure Data Lake Analytics or Azure SQL Data Warehouse, can execute workload on the same data.
  • Enable role-based access controls integrated with Azure Active Directory and authorize users and groups with fine-grained POSIX-based ACLs.
  • Cloud HDFS with performance optimized for analytics workload, supporting reading and writing hundreds of terabytes of data concurrently.
  • No limits on account size or individual file size.
  • Data is encrypted at rest by default using service-managed or customer-managed keys in Azure Key Vault, and is encrypted with SSL while in transit.
  • High data durability at lower cost as data replication is managed by Data Lake Store and exposed from HDFS compatible interface rather than having to replicate data both in HDFS and at the cloud storage infrastructure level.

On Thursday, Microsoft Azure announced grant for The Nature Conservancy, will now support projects locally and globally.

With this annoucement, the Azure grant will allow organization to expand its Natural Solutions Toolkit, a suite of geospatial tools and web apps for climate adaptation and resilience planning across land and sea environments.

Additionally, Nature Conservancy will also be able to migrate specific programs and projects to Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, including Coastal Resilience, a public-private partnership that helps coastal communities address devastating effects of climate change and natural disasters.

And, lastly, Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pangolin) is nearing end-of-life in April, which has been on since Microsoft first embarked on the journey to support Linux virtual machines in Azure.

“This is a reminder that the Ubuntu 12.04 (Precise Pangolin) release is nearing its end of life. Ubuntu announced its 12.04 (Precise Pangolin) release almost 5 years ago, on April 26, 2012. As with the earlier LTS releases, Ubuntu committed to ongoing security and critical fixes for a period of 5 years. The support period is now nearing its completion and Ubuntu 12.04 will reach its end of life near the end of April 2017. At that time, Ubuntu Security Notices will no longer include information or updated packages, including kernel updates, for Ubuntu 12.04,” read the Microsoft announcement.

With this announcement, Microsoft advising users are encouraged to evaluate and upgrade to latest 16.04 LTS release via 14.04. “Ubuntu 14.04 and 16.04 continue to be actively supported with security updates and select high-impact bug fixes,” Microsoft said.

If you can’t upgrade immediately, Canonical’s Ubuntu 12.04 ESM (Extended Security Maintenance) offering is available with important security fixes for the kernel and most essential user space packages in Ubuntu 12.04.

To learn more about how IoT can help transform your business, visit www.InternetofYourThings.com.

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