Microsoft Pushes Deeper Into Linux, Containers, IoT

Microsoft announced a slew of corporate cloud solutions at Tuesday’s AzureCon.

“The value for IoT is in control, data collection and analysis, and Microsoft is apparently building a cloud service that can do all three, and wrapping it with enterprise-level security,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

Microsoft announced a new open Azure Container Service that will let enterprises deploy and configure Apache Mesos to cluster and schedule Dockerized apps across multiple virtual hosts.It will be available for preview by year end.

“I found it interesting that [Microsoft is] going to ship Linux cluster container management on Linux ahead of Windows,” said Al Hilwa, research program director at IDC.

This is “definitely the new Microsoft trying hard to be as platform-agnostic as it can in the cloud in order not to be left behind,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

The Azure IoT Suite

The Azure IoT Suite integrates with a company’s existing processes, devices and systems, allowing it to use preconfigured solutions to build and scale projects for the Internet of Things. It is now available for purchase.

“Think of the suite as the Windows platform for IoT,” said Dilip Sarangan, industry principal for the Internet of Things at Frost & Sullivan.

“It will help developers by bringing together some critical hardware and software elements to build a solution on top of,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

IoT projects can be “anything that requires the use of devices and software, from fleet management to monitoring sensors or tracking people or objects,” Sarangan said, and a suite like this “is long overdue.”

Microsoft’s IoT Projects Ecosystem

Microsoft also announced the Azure Certified for IoT Program ecosystem of partners, whose offerings have been tested and certified.

Members include BeagleBone, Freescale Intel Corp., Raspberry Pi,, Seeed Technology and Texas Instruments.

There’s a lack of understanding of IoT, and the certification of partners “means Microsoft is ensuring the component will work, removing some of the risk to buyers — most of whom won’t have the skills, time or breadth of experience to do so,” Enderle told the E-Commerce Times.

Expect more partners to join Microsoft’s IoT ecosystem.

“It would not surprise me to hear of some Fortune 500 companies joining hands with Microsoft soon to accelerate the adoption of the Azure IoT Suite,” Frost’s Sarangan predicted.

Data and Virtual Machines

Microsoft announced the expansion of Azure Data Lake to include Data Lake Analytics and Data Lake Store, as well as U-SQL, a new programming language, and Azure HDInsight’s general availability on Linux.

Data Lake makes big data processing and analytics easier and more accessible.

The company introduced the N-series family of new Azure virtual machines powered by Nvidia GPUs, which will be available for preview in a few months.

Keeping Things Safe

Microsoft announced enhanced cloud security through the Azure Security Center, which integrates security solutions from Barracuda, CheckPoint, Cisco Systems, CloudFlare, F5 Networks, Imperva, Incapsula and Trend Micro.

Solutions are available as virtual clients running inside Azure, said Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of Microsoft’s Cloud + Enterprise Division.

By analyzing information from customers’ deployments and comparing it with the global threat intelligence Microsoft aggregates, the security center can warn of attacks or point out gaps in customers’ infrastructure.

The enhancements made in Azure Active Directory “are an improvement from on-premises AD and will make Azure more secure,” Stealthbits Product Manager Alex Berger told the E-Commerce Times.

The Azure Security Center will be available broadly by the end of the year.

Fighting for the Market

IBM offers IoT Foundation Services within Bluemix. Over time, IBM and Microsoft “will likely start to work together,” as they have done in other markets, Frost’s Sarangan suggested.

However, “IBM will likely choose carefully what kinds of opportunities they want and then execute sharply,” as it’s “more deeply and broadly entrenched with more mature offerings like Smarter Cities,” Enderle predicted, while Microsoft, Amazon and Google will take the shotgun approach.

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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