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Microsoft today announced a major update to Azure IoT Edge, its cloud solution for internet of things devices. It’s exiting preview and gaining support for new hardware devices, management services, and developer tools.
“Since we introduced Azure IoT Edge just over a year ago, we have seen many examples of the real-world impact from the factory floor to the farm to run cloud intelligence directly on IoT devices,” Azure IoT director Sam George wrote in a blog post. “Now devices can act immediately on real-time data — whether it be recognizing a crack in a pipe from an aerial view or predicting equipment failure before it happens.”
Following the open-sourcing in May of IoT Edge Runtime — the framework that enables custom and cloud logic to run on IoT Edge devices — Azure IoT Edge has been similarly open-sourced and is available on GitHub. It integrates with Moby, the platform on which virtualization program Docker is built, and supports the full range of containerization, isolation, and management features.
“Moby containers work on Docker-based systems, and vice versa,” George wrote.
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That’s not all that’s in Azure IoT Edge, however. A trio of complementary services — device provisioning management (DPM), security manager, and automatic device management (ADM) — are going live alongside it today.
DPM allows administrators to set up connected devices in the field and provision them all at once — theoretically “thousands” at a time, Microsoft said. The Azure IoT Edge security manager lets device manufacturers implement their choice of hardware security module (i.e., plug-in cards and external devices that perform cryptoprocessing and protect against data theft). Meanwhile, automatic device management (ADM) allows users to deploy Azure IoT Edge modules — the containers that run Azure services or custom code — to devices over the air.
Lastly, Microsoft is streamlining the developer experience in Azure IoT Edge, chiefly by expanding the number of programming languages supported in module software development kits (SDKs) and by introducing tooling for Visual Studio Code. Programmers can code, test, and debug Azure IoT Edge modules from Visual Studio and work alongside other contributors in Visual Studio Team Services.
In tandem with the formal launch of Azure IoT Edge, Microsoft is expanding its Azure Certified for IoT program — an ecosystem of battle-tested hardware from manufacturers like Dell, Raspberry Pi, Intel, Panasonic, Toshiba, and MSI — to certify features such as device management and security.
“As we evolve toward a world of ubiquitous computing, the design of the IoT solution spanning hardware, edge, and cloud must be consistent and secure to drive real impact,” George wrote. “These robust updates position Azure IoT Edge as a true end-to-end solution for enterprise-grade edge deployments.”
New customers looking to get started with Azure IoT Edge need an Azure IoT Hub instance to connect and manage devices (if they aren’t using a third-party solution), plus IoT Edge Runtime and edge modules. IoT Edge itself is free, but services on Microsoft’s Azure will be billed according to their specific pricing.
The launch of Azure IoT Edge reaffirms Microsoft’s commitment to the internet of things market. In April, the Redmond company announced that it would invest $5 billion in connected device infrastructure over the next four years, tripling its prior spending. The IoT industry is projected to reach $457 billion in 2020, according to Statista, and lead to a $1.9 trillion productivity increase and $177 billion in reduced costs.
“With our IoT platform spanning cloud, OS, and devices,” Microsoft Azure executive Julia White wrote in a blog post in April, “we are uniquely positioned to simplify the IoT journey so any customer — regardless of size, technical expertise, budget, industry, or other factors — can create trusted, connected solutions that improve business and customer experiences, as well as the daily lives of people all over the world.”
Customers already using IoT Edge include Rockwell Automation, Mapbox, Qualcomm, Schneider Electric, Chevron, Vulcan Steel, Amano McGann, Redis Labs, and Moxa.
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