Industrial Internet opens cloud doors to non-IT vendors

Vertical-specific cloud services are going further down the stack as companies such as GE try to get in the door with the Industrial Internet.

As public cloud vendors race to offer services to address the rise of big data and IoT, some unlikely non-IT companies have embraced the cloud by narrowing their focus to like-minded customers.

Cloud services targeted at specific industries aren't new, with software as a service (SaaS) providers offering applications expressly for certain verticals. But that strategy has made its way down the stack as providers such as IBM and Microsoft roll out tailored versions of their Internet of Things (IoT) cloud services.

And that bifurcation of platform as a service (PaaS) offerings has encouraged those outside of IT that see their knowledge as an upper hand in luring in customers.

The most prominent example is General Electric (GE), which last month launched Predix Cloud, its PaaS offering targeted at companies reliant on the Industrial Internet. GE is banking on its experience as a manufacturer and says it has put a premium on security, compliance and data sovereignty to capture and process data collected by industrial sensors across the globe.

Pitney Bowes Inc., a Stamford, Conn. tech company with more than 1.5 million clients in roughly 100 countries, moved to Amazon Web Services (AWS) to consolidate its disparate cloud hosting services. The company has reaped huge benefits in time and money by moving more than a dozen of its applications to AWS, according to Roger Pilc, the company's chief innovation officer.

But when the company looked to the cloud for its asset performance management app suite, AWS didn't have the type of machine-to-machine security and industrial expertise the company needed, Pilc said.

You don't bring your automotive solution into a hospital. It's just that simple.
Alfonso Velosaresearch vice president, Gartner

Pitney Bowes instead partnered with GE Predix to update its billing product and services business unit. It was able to deliver a product that was tailored to the company's needs, in part because of GE's understanding of the volumes of data machines and formats for how to inject and send that data securely.

"We fundamentally believe, and it's proven true, that someone like GE understands the industrial use case really well," Pilc said.

A lot of the IoT cloud services will be industry- and region-specific, so GE and others like it will have some advantages, said Alfonso Velosa, research vice president for Gartner, Inc., in Stamford, Conn.

"What differentiates them from somebody else is they do have that deep industrial expertise," Velosa said. "You don't bring your automotive solution into a hospital. It's just that simple."

And while GE might be ahead of the pack, it's certainly not alone. A host of companies from the industrial sector, including Siemens, Hitachi, Bosch, John Deere and Komatsu, have signaled their intention to offer similar types services to address what they see as the impending ubiquity of IoT.

"Think of this as the Internet in 1995," Velosa said. "Do you want to get into this? Absolutely."

A tag team with traditional IT

Still, there are challenges to building cloud services, so these newcomers to cloud will align themselves closely with traditional IT vendors, Velosa said.

"There's a lot of close ties between all these folks, but what you're seeing in these types of investments is they want to make it an explicit offering from them, even if it's AWS or Azure on the back end," Velosa said.

The very nature of IoT explains why this is open to so many types of vendors, said Bryan Hale, president of, a DevOps platform for IoT that was certified as part of the newly available Microsoft Azure IoT Suite.

"IoT is not really an industry," Hale said. "It's more like a whole bunch of existing segments like manufacturing and health care that are changing around what the products actually mean to their customers and the role their technologies play in it."

For SaaS services, specific industrial verticals have made sense because it gives sales and marketing teams a better understanding of the language of those industries, Hale said. That's true in IoT, but it's also the wide range of networking technologies and devices that play a role, from the Bluetooth connected device to the massive satellite-connected, off-shore wind turbine farm.

Trevor Jones is a news writer with TechTarget's data center and virtualization media group. Contact him at [email protected].

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