Today we are announcing the public preview of Azure IoT Operations, enabled by Azure Arc. Azure IoT Operations expands on our Azure IoT portfolio with a composable set of Arc-enabled services that help organizations onboard assets, capture insights, and take actions to scale the digital transformation of their physical operations.
Industrial customers are navigating disruptive forces, including economic uncertainty, increasing amounts of regulation, and changing workplace dynamics. In this environment of constant change, digital technology is a powerful ally to help build more resilient, agile, secure, and intelligent business processes. Evolving technology paradigms and advances in cloud and AI are accelerating the opportunity to reason over industrial data in unprecedented ways. For customers to capitalize on these advantages, they need a consistent, scalable technology foundation that unifies the IT and OT environment from cloud to edge to support data-driven feedback loops.
Production lines, processing facilities, shop floors, or anywhere workers and machines make products are central to an enterprise’s physical operations. Organizations often have a large variety of geographically dispersed sites, each with their own equipment and device types, people, and processes. In addition, each site typically generates large volumes of data that need to be processed and analyzed - either at the edge, in the cloud or some combination of both.
Due to these variations, customers have traditionally taken a decentralized approach to digitizing their physical operations environments. However, the lack of a unified, enterprise-wide technology architecture and data plane is not only inefficient and difficult to scale, but it can also have a negative impact on key digital transformation goals, such as innovation and data-driven decision making. In these complex environments, customers have the opportunity to accelerate the transformation of their physical operations by simplifying how they harness data across their globally distributed estate.
Unified Foundation for Industrial Digital Transformation
Microsoft is a recognized leader in the Industrial IoT space, providing a best-in-class suite of services that allows customers to securely connect and manage large fleets of IoT devices. For customers in many industries, this ability to connect the physical world to the digital world is a foundational step in the digital transformation journey, providing access to new, rich sources of data that can help optimize business processes.
Azure IoT Operations empowers our customers with a unified, enterprise-wide technology architecture and data plane that supports repeatable solution deployment and comprehensive AI-enhanced decision making. It enables a cloud to edge data plane with local data processing and analytics to transfer clean, useful data to hyperscale cloud services such as Microsoft Fabric for unified data governance and analytics, Azure Event Grid for bi-directional messaging, and Azure Digital Twins for live data contextualization. This common data foundation is essential to democratize data, enable cross-team collaboration and accelerate decision-making.
Microsoft is also the market leader in hybrid, edge computing and multi-cloud with Azure Arc. Azure Arc extends the Azure control plane and key Azure services anywhere, enabling customers to take a consistent approach to developing, deploying, managing, and securing applications and infrastructure – no matter where they reside. Today’s product announcement of Azure IoT Operations extends the benefits of Azure Arc out to the operational edge and IoT devices.
Azure IoT Operations Capabilities
Azure IoT Operations is built in a way that is open and extensible, leveraging open source, standards and specifications including MQTT, OPC UA, OTel, Akri, and Kubernetes, simplifying integration across a customer’s solution ecosystem and their existing infrastructure. The resulting interoperability is key to designing and scaling flexible solutions. It includes several composable components that work together and can be deployed on different machines across facilities. By using Azure IoT Operations, customers can greatly reduce the complexity and time it takes to build an end-to-end solution that empowers them to make near real-time decisions backed by AI-driven insights, resulting in agile, resilient, and sustainable operations.
For simple discovery and projection of locally networked devices and assets, Azure IoT Akri exposes secure protocol-specific brokers to automatically detect interfaces and translate them to standard Kubernetes resources and MQTT streams, reducing manual configuration effort and creating a universal platform for interacting with your IoT assets. Azure IoT OPC UA Broker enables the collection of real-time asset process telemetry and events of OPC UA Servers connected to industrial PLCs and control systems. These devices and assets connect to Azure IoT MQ, a highly available distributed messaging platform that enables data flow between edge workloads, devices, and the cloud. As the edge-native, highly available messaging platform for mission-critical edge deployments, MQ works in intermittently connected conditions with seamless cloud ingestion, secure bi-directional cloud-to-edge communication, and ecosystem enabled south-bound connectivity to IoT assets.
For optimized local data processing, pipelines are configured using Azure IoT Data Processor, which applies customer defined normalizations and contextualization enrichments, such as filtering out noise, adding timestamps, converting units, etc. Data Processor can integrate with custom on-premises code, data pipelines, as well as connect to historians - and ensures clean data is ready for consumption on the edge or for ingestion into the cloud.
Azure IoT Operations: Changing the Game for Operational Outcomes
Our customers are also really excited about the possibilities Azure IoT Operations offers for meeting their business objectives. Grupo Bimbo, a multinational food manufacturer and Ecopetrol, an integrated energy conglomerate, represents two such examples.
Bimbo Bakeries USA (BBU) is a part of Grupo Bimbo, a multinational food company with 217 plants in 34 countries globally. Bimbo Bakeries USA takes pride in its product, zealously safeguarding high standards and quality. To turn out millions of loaves every day, they depend on metrics that illustrate everything from machine speeds and temperatures to downtime. Bimbo is always looking for innovative ways to produce the quality products their customers expect from them. BBU is leveraging Azure IoT Operations to improve their current IIOT solution and tackle the challenge of IT/OT convergence. It provides seamless data flow from process and equipment; everything from machine speeds and oven temperatures to equipment downtime. This new platform will enable robust data processing so that BBU can get visibility into near real time production data that allows them to make timely adjustments, therefore maximizing production efficiencies.
As an integrated energy conglomerate, Ecopetrol operates across the entire hydrocarbon chain - encompassing exploration, production, transportation, refining, and commercialization - as well as linear infrastructure, including energy transmission and road concessions. By harnessing the power of Azure IoT Operations, Ecopetrol is poised to continue expanding and enhancing its Industrial IoT platform. This strategic move is designed to not only streamline and standardize intelligent Edge solutions but also to significantly improve operational efficiencies, minimize the carbon footprint, and enable rapid adoption of big data and AI technologies at the core of their business. This commitment is a testament to Ecopetrol’s dedication to leading the energy sector into a more sustainable and technologically advanced future.
Continued Commitment to the Industrial Ecosystem
The industrial technology ecosystem is vast due to the heterogeneity of physical operations environments. To navigate this complexity, customers need platform companies, such as Microsoft, to work closely across a variety of partner types to ensure a healthy ecosystem that functions well together. The support of open standards and a composable approach are critical to ensuring Microsoft’s solution can extend functionality and value at different layers. Microsoft is a partner-first company and has a rich history of working closely with the industrial ecosystem – from industrial automation vendors to connectivity providers to ISVs, SIs and OEMs - to enable customer success. We are committed to expanding upon these relationships as we usher in this new era of industrial digital transformation.
Partners like Avanade are critical to helping customers succeed in this space, as they extend the value of what our platforms offer by building industry-specific solutions upon that foundation. "The approach Azure IoT Operations is taking to both process edge data locally and integrate with cloud services will help our customers to increase quality and throughput from the added business insights they are getting.” – Juergen Mayrbaeurl, Senior Director – Industry X, Avanade
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