When is a partner not a partner?

As I have been focusing on the Industrial platform providers like Bosch, Siemens, Schneider Electric and GE, you constantly see part of their partnership validation has been with Microsoft Azure, or Amazon and AWS or even both in some form or another. Comforting, reassuring perhaps, or is it?

Both Microsoft Azure and AWS are building their own platforms also. Where would you put your money or fee’s to join?

Now if you are offering solutions that are focused specifically on solving industry problems where do you go, sign up, pay significant fees into and learn?

Would these decisions to join a platform take you towards those within an industry, the industrial builder of platforms, that build the physical assets and increasingly defining their digital services, or the providers of the digital kit, in the form of cloud, applications, data storage and security and the base platforms? Both have value but are the offerings clear enough in value or are they still leaving many potential clients still ‘sitting on the fence,’ not sure, watching what ‘plays out’

I am not sure how those within Partnership arrangement on platforms presently separate their knowledge and contribution but with the recent “slew” of Microsft Azure announcements, I wonder who is working for whom in some of these relationships?  Is the one with the digital architecture just piggybacking on the industrialist back, so as to understand industrial problems and then bring out their own ‘stand alone’ solutions? Where does that leave the industrial platform providers like GE & Siemens if the likes of Microsoft and Amazon seperately offer their own platforms? Take a read here and let me know your thoughts, please? I want to understand the dynamics going on here a little better.

Just take a look at this announcement from Microsoft Azure detailed below, not in partnerships but in providing the services for others to partner up with Microsoft. It opens up so many questions in my mind.

This opens up many questions on platforms -emerging winners and losers.

Where is the separation of intellectual understanding within current partnerships and is there just some very heavy extraction of industrial knowledge or digital knowledge being exchanged as mutually beneficial? Are we seeing a breaking down of the ecosystems built around platforms, reforming with the strongest emerging in true Darwinian ways?  Are we seeing separation occurring between specialist platform providers, knowing the physical assets, and the general digital experts (Microsoft and Amazon)  recognizing the need to capture the digital insights more on an exclusive basis? Are the early industrial platform builders paying a price in their ecosystem models, as the end prize of connecting industry for digital insights is a huge market being chased by many?

Each announcement mentioned here by Microsoft Azure undercuts, reaffirms or defines the value of why you join a platform. It is the underlying value being offered. They are the basis of present choice. Do platforms need to be physical asset specific or data only specific? How do you choose? It seems Microsoft wants to cover both sides of the street, both being in partnerships with the “branded” industrial platform providers but continually building their own ‘stand-alone’ platforms. How do you separate the business proposition out to the eventual client? What do you commit too and get “locked into.” Who are you dealing with on the platforms? Who is handling your data?   It requires a greater clarity in what is offered on the different business models and are these clear enough to make a decision yet today? It seems Microsoft Azure is making its own very specific ‘play’ to attract industrial clients onto its own IoT platform.

Let me quote directly from announcements made by Microsoft Azure:

For instance, Microsoft Azure is learning to simplify IoT for deepening customization and full control

Announcing Microsoft IoT Central, a new SaaS solution to simplify IoT

Today, Microsoft is announcing Microsoft IoT Central, a new software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering that reduces the complexity of IoT solutions. Microsoft IoT Central is a fully managed SaaS offering for customers and partners that enables powerful IoT scenarios without requiring cloud solution expertise.

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

Microsoft IoT Central will be available along with our existing platform-as-a-service (PaaS) solution, Azure IoT Suite, which enables deep customization and full control. This new IoT SaaS offering has the potential to dramatically increase the speed at which manufacturers can innovate and bring new products to market, as well as lower the barriers to creating IoT solutions that generate new revenue opportunities and better experiences for customers.

Microsoft IoT Central will be rolling out more publicly over the coming months. Check out MicrosoftIoTCentral.com to sign up for essential content and updates.

Why is this “deep customization and deep control” important? I would currently suggest some of the Industrial providers (GE, Siemens) have a business model that might be far more controlled in their conditions that clients have to sign up too. The key for customers is their control, not signing this away to others, especially within the industry.

Then we have the “connected factory” for making the Industry 4.0 really possible

Microsoft Azure IoT Suite Connected Factory

For customers and partners with cloud solution expertise, Microsoft is continuing to invest in our existing PaaS offering, Microsoft Azure IoT Suite. At the Hannover Messe industrial show next week, Microsoft is introducing a new preconfigured solution in the Azure IoT Suite: Connected Factory, which helps accelerate a customer’s journey to Industrie 4.0 and makes it easy to connect on-premises OPC UA and OPC Classic devices to the Microsoft cloud and get insights to help drive operational efficiencies. In addition, it enables customers to securely browse and configure factory devices from the cloud.

We have partnered with several industry leaders in the OPC UA ecosystem that have built turnkey gateway solutions which have the Azure connectivity used by this solution already built in and require close to zero configuration. These partners include Unified Automation, Softing, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

For more on the connected factory and what it enables for customers and partners, see the Azure IoT Suite home page, along with this technical blog post and our Six Step Framework to Connected Factory white paper and demo.

See the website of Microsoft Azure on the Connected Factory  I don’t see references to the Industrial Partners in the same way as on the Industrial Partners “ecosystems”. So who actually does need whom?

The Connected Factory is very much a critical component offering again of GE and Siemens. They have specific groups or even dedicated divisions set up for managing the digital factory and its future. So are Microsoft and these industry providers collaborating, in a partnership or are they separating to become real competitors and the one that holds the final platform is the eventual winner and that seems in my limited mind, eventually Microsoft or AWS?

Everything is centered around sensors and Azure is building a number of API’s

Microsoft Azure Time Series Insights

IoT devices and sensors send data in a time-based fashion, and a critical requirement of IoT solutions is to find anomalies and trends in this data. But until now, companies have had to hire partners or staff experts to mine the data for insights.

Today, Microsoft is announcing a new service: Azure Time Series Insights, a fully managed analytics, storage, and visualization service that makes it simple to interactively and instantly explore and analyze billions of events from an IoT solution.

Azure Time Series Insights provides a global view of data across various event sources so companies can quickly validate their IoT solutions and avoid costly downtime of mission-critical devices. It helps organizations discover hidden trends, spot anomalies, and conduct root-cause analysis in near real time, all without writing a single line of code through its simple and intuitive user experience. In addition, it provides rich APIs to enable companies to integrate its powerful capabilities into their existing workflows and applications.

Microsoft IoT Central and the Azure IoT Suite connected factory preconfigured solution both leverage the new Azure Time Series Insights service now available in preview.

Companies and partners like ThyssenKrupp Elevator and Codit are already leveraging Time Series Insights to drive cost reduction and meet customer needs. To learn more, read our technical blog and sign up for the Azure Time Series Insights preview today.

Another key selling point for the industrial platform providers is edge devices or is it?

Microsoft Azure Stream Analytics on edge devices

Although many developers are already benefiting from connecting IoT devices directly to the cloud, some scenarios require edge intelligence to get the most out of the IoT solution. In 2016, Microsoft launched the Azure IoT Gateway SDK, which enables developers and ISVs to easily build and deploy gateway intelligence tailored to their specific scenario.

Today, Microsoft is announcing the preview of Azure Stream Analytics on edge devices, a new feature of Azure Stream Analytics that extends the benefits of this unique streaming technology from the cloud down to the device level.

Azure Stream Analytics on edge devices has the same unified cloud-managed experience for stream analytics running across edge devices and the cloud. This approach enables organizations to use streaming analytics in scenarios where connectivity to the cloud is limited or inconsistent, but the need for quick insight and proactive actions are essential to run the business.

What about getting up and running, where will clients turn too?

Microsoft Azure IoT Hub Device Provisioning service

Microsoft is continuing our commitment to reducing the complexity and time required to get started with IoT. The new Azure IoT Hub Device Provisioning service simplifies the enrollment process, enabling organizations to automatically register and provision their devices to IoT Hub in a secure and scalable way while saving time and resources. Device Provisioning will work with any type of IoT device already supported by Azure IoT Hub.

Devices running Windows 10 IoT operating systems will enable an even easier way to connect to Device Provisioning via a client application that OEMs can include in the device unit. With Windows 10 IoT, customers can get a zero-touch provisioning experience, eliminating configuration and provisioning hassles when onboarding new IoT devices that connect to Azure services.

When combined with Windows 10 IoT support for Azure IoT Hub device management, the entire device lifecycle management is simplified through features that enable device reprovisioning, ownership transfer, secure device management, and device end-of-life management. You can learn more about Windows IoT device provisioning and device management details by visiting Azure IoT Device Management and reading our technical blog.

Then finally in this “slew” of Microsoft announcement comes a stronger IoT security set of partnerships

Security partners bring silicon to the age of IoT

Microsoft’s commitment to leadership in IoT security continues, and today we are announcing Azure IoT support for a wide variety of hardware and standards to strengthen our commitment to IoT security.

Azure IoT now supports the industrywide security standards Device Identity Composition Engine (DICE) and Hardware Security Module (HSM). The DICE standard enables manufacturers to use silicon gates to create device identification based on 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.

Microsoft is also announcing partnerships with Micron, STMicro to support various types of silicon leveraging HSM and DICE security technologies and Spyrus to support HSM as part of SD and USB storage devices.

Next week at Hannover Messe, Microsoft will showcase how the device identification and attestation model can be used to protect IoT devices large and small by allowing for automatic device registration and assignment to IoT Hub as soon as the device is turned on — automating an authentication and provisioning process to save time for IoT implementations. Hardware from Micron and STMicro will be on display.

So next week Microsft at Hannover Messe compete or compliment others? Time to decide?

Microsoft at Hannover Messe

Next week at Hannover Messe, Microsoft will showcase how we’re helping to advance digital transformation for customers by simplifying IoT, making it more accessible and easier to implement, as well as continuing to offer the most comprehensive portfolio of IoT solutions.

With Microsoft IoT Central, Microsoft is simplifying IoT so every business can digitally transform through IoT solutions that are more accessible and easier to implement. Microsoft has the most comprehensive IoT portfolio with a wide range of IoT offerings to meet organizations where they are on their IoT journey, including everything businesses, need to get started — ranging from operating systems for their devices, cloud services to control them, advanced analytics to gain insights, and business applications to enable intelligent action.

Microsft announces they will invest $5 billion in IoT

Today, we are announcing that we will invest $5 billion in the Internet of Things over the next four years. The reason we are doing this is simple: Our goal is to give every customer the ability to transform their businesses, and the world at large, with connected solutions.

Enabling increasingly sophisticated customers

Microsoft’s IoT offerings today include what businesses need to get started, ranging from operating systems for devices, cloud services to control and secure them, advanced analytics to gain insights, and business applications to enable intelligent action. We’ve seen great traction with customers and partners who continue to come up with new ideas and execute them on our platform.

So what does this all mean for the Industrial Platform provider like GE Predix or Siemens Mindsphere?

There is a time, a tipping point where clients will decide on where to invest their IoT dollars.

Already I have been writing recently about  the dark clouds surrounding IIoT platforms as well as  “So are clients resisting IIoT platforms- Why?” There are multiple hurdles to overcome in being clear on which platform is better to invest in.

So where will clients decide to go? Will they go in exclusive “locked in” arrangements with GE or Siemens as providers of their systems, PLM software and machines and feel confident enough to extend this out across their “connected factory,” as these Manufacturers of the physical assets, have such deem domain knowledge. Or will they look to Microsoft Azure or Amazon AWS for the future, who have that deeper digital domain understanding, where they might feel these dedicated software solution experts offer a more flexible set of solutions? It is actually the need for both and that is why you need a powerful ecosystem of partners but what happens if one breaks away and offers their own platform, it can confuse clients wanting less risk but better cohesive solutions.

Then you do have to ask are any of these industrial platforms truely open? Determining the business model and its revenue generating approach becomes quite complex. Is it all about the race towards “lock-in”? Do the industrial platform providers have sustainable business models as they stand today?

Is it not about time that the clarity of the relationships offered on an Industrial platform provider, like GE Predix or Siemens Mindsphere, and the ability to interchange, move around, work within a greater connected ecosystem, becomes well stated by all involved?

This goes beyond Governance it provides the open clarity required in any investment, knowing what you are getting yourself into. Any sharing of data, any partners you engage with, and any reliance on 3rd parties, needs careful consideration. I would suggest those industrial partners, built up over years of collaboration, have real value.

What is needed is a change into a different form of collaborative thinking,  a new ecosystem management where transparency, collaboration and co-creation are at the heart of the approach and the platform provider ‘orchestrates’ the inputs and outputs, for collective value.

Today I think it is still very murky and grey. What do you think?

If I was GE or Siemens I would be thinking very deeply on their existing business model for Predix or Mindsphere, otherwise, the software providers of Microsoft and Amazon AWS will eat all their lunch………do you see the same happening?

What should the industry providers of platforms change? What should they emphasis as their real value? Are platforms open enough to ‘encourage’ true ecosystem behaviors of collaboration and co-creation? Or does the instincts of one species want to start dominating to build their own specific version of self-interest imposed on the ecosystem? We have had the ‘battle of devices’ now we have the ‘battle of platforms’.


*****Details drawn from  https://blogs.microsoft.com/iot/2017/04/20/microsoft-simplifies-iot-further/

2 thoughts on “When is a partner not a partner?

  1. Pingback: Biting off more than we can chew can be a good thing……depending. | Ecosystems 4 innovators

  2. Pingback: Entering 2019 – What Do Each of Us Need to Focus Upon? | Paul4innovating's Innovation Views

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