Monday, 11 July 2016

GE Partners with Microsoft To Sell Its 'Industrial' Cloud Platform On Azure

After spending months building its own platform called Predix to help industrial companies manage their data in the cloud, GE has partnered with one of the big cloud providers to drum up some business in the “Internet of Things.”

GE chief executive Jeff Immelt appeared with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto on Monday morning to unveil a new cloud partnership between Predix and Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and business applications, one the companies have billed as the beginning of a larger strategic alliance. The move comes a week after Microsoft rebranded its business apps in the cloud under a new suite called Dynamics 365 as part of a major refocusing of Microsoft towards the cloud under Nadella’s leadership.

Under the new partnership, Predix customers already working with GE will gain access to Microsoft Azure’s data and natural language tools, as well as access to its global infrastructure centers and the Cortana Intelligence Suite. Microsoft will make Predix an integrated part of its Azure IoT Suite, making it easier for industrial customers to integrate their data into Microsoft’s own apps.

Developers will get a preview of the new integration at the end of 2016, according to a GE press release. Predix will be fully available on Azure starting in the second quarter of 2017 after that.

GE formally announced Predix in August 2015 to some skepticism as to why the company would want to enter a cloud market that’s getting increasingly competitive. Amazon Web Services, with $10 billion in revenue and a head start of several years on its rivals, remains the dominant player in the space and has invested more in its own IoT cloud platform in recent months. Google and Microsoft, however, have positioned themselves to make a run at the cloud leaders in the next several years as the category itself grows to as much as a $1 trillion market. (Read all about those efforts in Forbes’ feature story in the July 26 issue on the cloud wars here.)

While the new partnership may drive new customers to Predix through Microsoft’s ecosystem and help Microsoft remain competitive in the fast-growing IoT cloud sector, a spokesperson for GE notes that the company has and will continue to offer Predix on AWS and work with other cloud vendors moving forward. Predix already uses Pivotal Cloud Foundry as its platform-as-a-service to make it easy for customers to use different cloud providers interchangeably; both Microsoft and GE are Pivotal investors. IoT is appealing to all the vendors as Gartner forecasts 6.4 billion objects will be connected and used this year, rising to 20 billion by 2020.

GE previously had moved hundreds of its enterprise applications to AWS as part of a broader commitment to move thousands in the next several years. The deal between GE and Microsoft, therefore, is the latest sign that Nadella and Azure chief Scott Guthrie are looking to many of the same large-scale business customers as their rivals as sources for growing their business, as those companies work opportunistically with the major cloud providers from one area to the next.

Forbes has also reached out to Microsoft and Amazon for comment and will update this story.

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