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Microsoft Azure IoT Hub Reaches General Availability

by Kent Weare on Feb 14, 2016 |

Microsoft has recently announced its Azure IoT Hub offering has reached general availability (GA).  This is a follow-up release to the public preview that Microsoft provided in October of last year. InfoQ previously covered the public preview announcement as part of the Azure Con event coverage.

Azure IoT Hub is one of the foundational services that make up the Azure IoT Suite.  The Azure IoT Hub service provides bi-directional communication between devices and the cloud. Devices may connect through a local field gateway when internet connectivity may not be available on the device or when a device only communicates in unsupported protocols such as ZigBee or Modbus.  The field gateway, in turn, will communicate with the IoT Hub Cloud gateway.  Alternatively, if a device supports HTTP(S) 1.1, MQTT 3.1.1 or AMQP 1.0 it can natively communicate with the IoT Hub Cloud gateway.  Device SDKs are available for C/C#, Java, and JavaScript/Node.js.

As part of the GA of the service, Microsoft is increasing the number of regions where the service is available by adding Southeast Asia, West Europe and West US.  Previously, in preview, only East Asia, East US and North Europe were available.

From a security standpoint, Azure IoT Hub supports per-device identity and can support customer scenarios that involve millions of devices. Since per-device identity is supported, administrators can white list and black list devices.

Since the communication is bi-directional between the device and cloud, command and control messages can be sent down from the cloud that allows operators to change the state of a device remotely.

Once a device has connected to the Azure IoT Hub and is sending messages, other services that are part of the Azure IoT Suite can be used in the processing of these events.  This allows organizations to perform complex event processing or provide predictive analytics. The remaining services that make up the Azure IoT Suite backend include:

The following image provides an illustration of how devices can communicate with the Azure IoT Suite through either a local field gateway or cloud gateway and where these backend services position themselves in the architecture. 

Image Source https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/documentation/articles/iot-suite-what-is-azure-iot/

Due to the variety and vintage of devices that participate in modern IoT architectures, allowing for interoperability across devices and cloud has been a priority for Microsoft. As a result of needing to provide an open solution for IoT, Microsoft has developed a certification and partner program in order to drive adoption. Sam George, partner director for Azure IoT, discusses some of their recent successes in partner on-boarding: “Over the past three-plus months, nearly 30 industry leaders have joined the program. Today, even more are announcing their participation, including Advantech, Dell, HPE, and Libelium. Each of these partners brings their own unique perspective and value proposition to the IoT landscape, and we’re thrilled announce such widespread industry involvement in Azure Certified for IoT.” In addition to the partners just mentioned, Microsoft already has agreements with Arduino, Beagleboard, Freescale, Intel, Raspberry Pi, Samsung and Texas Instruments amongst others.

The Microsoft IoT Hub GA announcement follows Amazon’s GA announcement back in December when they officially launched their IoT platform.

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