GE and Microsoft: Azure is getting big

The industrial cloud is about to get a lot bigger thanks to Microsoft.

GE and Microsoft are uniting their cloud computing technologies in a partnership that will bring GE’s industrial internet platform, Predix, to businesses running on Microsoft Azure. The companies say the combination of Predix with Azure will bridge GE’s digital expertise in industry and manufacturing, and Microsoft’s forte in information technology.

“Every industry and every company around the world is being transformed by digital technology,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a statement announcing the partnership. “Working with companies like GE, we can reach a new set of customers to help them accelerate their transformation across every line of business—from the factory floor to smart buildings.”

The partnership is a milestone for GE, a traditionally mainline industrial company. Over the last five years GE has started collecting and analyzing data from jet engines, power plants and hospitals, and spent $1 billion to make Predix the operating system for the Industrial Internet. GE believes that by 2020, more than 20 billion devices will beconnected to the Industrial Internet, producing an avalanche of data that can be analyzed to make business more efficient. “GE is helping its customers extract value from the vast quantities of data coming out of those machines and is building an ecosystem of partners that will allow the Industrial Internet to thrive on a global scale,” said GE Chief Executive Jeff Immelt.

Microsoft train
GE has started connecting power plants and railroads to the Industrial Internet. Image credit: GE Digital
There is more;

Azure will give those industrial companies already using Predix additional muscle in areas such as artificial intelligence, advanced data visualization and natural language technology. “Companies don’t want disparate, disjointed systems; they want technology that brings things together,” says Abhi Kunté, global head of technology strategic alliances at GE Digital. “This partnership will provide seamless integration that will drive a lot of efficiencies.”

The partnership will give companies using Microsoft’s Azure a platform to build apps using the data from assets running on Predix. For example, a factory using GE’s Asset Performance Management software will be be able to talk with systems—such as supply chain management and product lifecycle management apps that run on Azure—to unlock greater value from the Industrial Internet.

GE and Microsoft say that by marrying Azure and Predix, the spiderweb of platforms competing on the Industrial Internet begins to pull together. “This is a game changer for this industry that will drive consolidation of platforms on the Internet of Things,” says Kunté.

A developer preview of Predix on Azure will be released by the end of the year, with a commercial release by the second quarter of 2017.