Microsoft Takes Lead In Moving The Public Cloud Towards The Edge – Forbes

At Build 2017, Microsoft has outlined its plan to take Azure beyond the public cloud towards the edge. Branded as Azure IoT Edge, this offering exploits the growth in enterprise IoT and industrial automation.

During the early days of Cloud Computing, the key differentiating factor of the providers was the number of regions followed by the breadth of services. With the global presence and a comprehensive set of services, Amazon has been enjoying the attention and the leadership position in the industry. But the market dynamics are changing rapidly, and the key competitors of AWS are moving fast. Global footprint, broad service portfolio, rapid shipping cycles are the new norm in the industry. Both Microsoft and Google are turning out to be serious contenders giving stiff competition to Amazon. Microsoft’s recent updates to Azure indicate its aggressive strategy to outsmart the competition.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft Azure

In the current context, the core IaaS offerings such as virtual machines, storage, and virtual networks are table stakes. The real opportunity lies in delivering intelligent solutions powered by Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to enterprise customers. In scenarios such as industrial automation, this intelligence layer needs to be closer to the devices reducing the latency. Many use cases in the manufacturing and healthcare domains cannot afford the round trip to the public cloud. Edge Computing emulates the public cloud capabilities by bringing intelligence closer to the devices.

Though there are a few offerings in the market, Microsoft’s Azure IoT Edge is the most comprehensive solution for industrial IoT implementations. Azure IoT Edge is a software that can run on both Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems. It supports x86 and ARM architectures making it possible to run on smaller devices such as Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone. Developers can use a variety of languages including C, Node.js, Java, Python, and C# to develop applications. Azure IoT Edge delivers local device management while relying on the concept of device twins to handle offline scenarios. When the connectivity gets established, all the changes made to the edge will be automatically synchronized with the cloud.

Source: Microsoft

Azure IoT Edge

Azure IoT Edge acts as a runtime to deploy multiple Azure services locally. Some of these modules include Machine Learning, Stream Analytics, Functions, and IoT Hub. Each module is packaged and deployed as a Docker container that runs on top of Azure IoT Edge. Developers familiar with Azure can target the edge runtime with no changes. The code snippets that run on Azure Functions will continue to run on the edge. The SQL-like queries designed for Azure Stream Analytics will work as is in Azure IoT Edge. The IoT Hub enables machine-to-machine communication through familiar MQTT and AMQP protocols. Customers can seamlessly move the code between the edge and the public cloud. The modular architecture based on containers makes it possible for Microsoft to bring additional Azure-based public cloud services to the edge gradually. The registered Edge devices can be seamlessly managed from the same portal that customers use to manage their public cloud assets.

Customers will be able to build edge appliances powered by Azure IoT Edge easily. These appliances can be deployed in shop floors, vessels, automobiles, airplanes, oil rigs, and construction sites. OEMs may ship hardware appliances with preinstalled Azure IoT Edge software.  Though Azure IoT Edge is designed for IoT use cases, it can be leveraged by any data-centric application.

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