Microsoft is releasing the Azure IoT Suite. Coupled with two new programs, it is intended to take users to the Internet of Things (IoT) quicker.

The new suite and programs dovetail with the development of the new Windows 10 IoT operating system, as well as a number of Azure services. All of it is intended to help business that use digital technologies transform to digital businesses.

While that distinction appears subtle, it is actually pretty significant one. It flags a new business environment that will be driven by the IoT, with other applications feeding into it.

The announcements were made at this week's Convergence conference in Atlanta.

Getting in Early

On one hand, it should come as no real surprise that Microsoft started developing its IoT interests so early. But when you think back, this hasn't always been the case.

Think how long it to it took the company to build and develop its cloud technologies.

The same thing is not going to happen with the IoT though, not on CEO Satya Nadella's watch.

In fact, the IoT is so important to Microsoft that Nadella himself announced the Azure suite. The IoT, he argued, will bring all of an organizations’ intellectual assets, data and processes together to create new business models and operations. 

Pulling all these elements together is still  beyond the capabilities of many enterprises at the moment. But the two new programs Microsoft just revealed could help push organizations onto the IoT.

Even better, they could help them profit from it.

What's it Offering?

The first is Quick Start. It's designed to offer businesses a personalized, accelerated introduction to IoT. Participants in the consultations will spend time diving into their business needs and goals, exploring the tools and resources available to them.

The second program is the IoT Leadership Program. It will bring together selected customers to share insights, participate in Microsoft-led technical workshops, preview Microsoft technologies, and learn best practices from one another.

In other words, Microsoft is providing both the technologies and the training to shepherd businesses onto the IoT quicker and more effectively — using proprietary technologies, of course.

At that heart of this transformation is the Azure IT Suite and the IoT-focused version of its Windows 10 operating system.

Although we are still waiting to see the full version of Windows 10, Microsoft has offered some insight.

Microsoft is creating a version of Windows for a diverse set of IoT devices under the Windows 10 IoT moniker.

It will offer one Windows platform with universal applications and driver models that will span a wide range of devices. Those devices range from low-footprint controllers such as IoT gateways to powerful devices such as ATMs and industrial robotics.

Windows 10 IoT will also bring enterprise-grade security from the device to the cloud. It will also offer native connectivity for machine-to-machine and machine-to-cloud scenarios with Azure IoT services.

Azure IoT

Azure is Microsoft’s cloud-computing platform that provides the infrastructure to build and management apps in the cloud. The IoT version, which will be released in preview later this year, will enable companies to integrate and connect all their devices.

It will also provide finished applications to speed deployment of common scenarios across many industries, such as remote monitoring, asset management and predictive maintenance," noted Takeshi Numoto, corporate vice president of cloud in a blog.

Microsoft plans to create a "transparent pricing model" so customers can plan and budget appropriately.

The Azure IoT Suite will be released in preview later this year. But there are already a number of services  available, including Azure Stream Analytics. It is currently in preview and will be generally available next month.

Stream Analytics enables users to process massive amounts of data in real time. The incoming data can be used to help predict trends and automate services or responses.

But don't rush out to sign up without asking some hard questions. Does your company really need this?

This is an ongoing discussion that only organizations themselves can answer. And while security is paramount, it is not the only issue.

Research from ParStream, for example, shows that the vast majority of businesses are struggling to optimize and take useful insights from all the data the Internet of Things (IoT) provides. (Not too surprising, since ParStream is a provider of IoT analytics.)

More than two-thirds of those polled do not have quantifiable metrics to assess the success or failure of their projects, and only eight percent are making full use of their IoT data.

Earlier today, Boris Kraft, co-founder and chief visionary officer of Magnolia, a Swiss-based open source CMS vendor, pointed out that many enterprises are having difficulty integrating their systems and linking up with technology vendors.

These are problems that are not unique to any vendor and common to all. Microsoft is no exception. How it overcomes them is for another day.