Hannover Messe 2024: Scaling Industrial Transformation with Azure’s Adaptive Cloud Approach

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As I reflect on Hannover Messe International 2024, it was amazing to see how industrial organizations are embracing this year’s show theme of “energizing a sustainable industry”.  Large industry events such as these are incredibly valuable, as we get the opportunity to meet with many of the customers and partners who inform and guide our strategy in this space.  This year, we were excited to share our vision for how Azure's adaptive cloud approach provides the foundation for scaling industrial transformation efforts to the next level.  Announcements include how we’re working with the ecosystem to empower customers to do more with their data, new capabilities to help customers build secure, resilient and observable edge applications, and how we’re making it simpler to manage Azure resources in a cohesive way across distributed physical operations. 


The opportunity for industrial transformation with an adaptive cloud approach


Today, we’re at an inflection point where two of the most significant technology trends – – are converging to create meaningful outcomes for industrial customers.  AI and advanced analytics tools provide the intelligence to optimize business processes, while the cloud offers the global footprint required to scale those outcomes organization-wide, including physical operations.   Customers such as 

Chevron are committed to responsibly applying AI to achieve its objectives of delivering safer and more efficient operations.  And Electrolux Group is leveraging the cloud and advanced analytics to keep quality at the forefront of their global manufacturing processes.

Electrolux Group Quote.png


Defining the adaptive cloud approach


To drive comprehensive organizational transformation, customers need to be able to harness data across a distributed estate that typically spans a variety of people, places, and processes.  To date, however, many organizations have taken a decentralized approach to digitizing physical operations environments that has challenged their ability to successfully scale business outcomes.  Today, we see the opportunity for a new approach; one that uses the cloud as a consistent operations and innovation platform to drive visibility, repeatability, and scalability across heterogeneous edge environments.  This approach, referred to as adaptive cloud, brings separate teams, sites, and systems into a unified model for operations, applications, and data, so organizations can take advantage of AI across a global operational estate. 


Applying the adaptive cloud approach in physical operations environments


This standardized approach to data, applications and management, is enabled by Azure Arc, which allows organizations to leverage best of breed Azure capabilities across their entire computing estate for repeatability and scale.  Azure IoT Operations, currently in public preview, allows organizations to extend these benefits to their physical operations environments with a unified, enterprise-wide technology architecture and data plane that democratizes data, enables cross-team collaboration, and accelerates decision-making. With Azure IoT Operations, enabled by Azure Arc, data and operational technology professionals can cultivate insights across digital and physical operations with a contextualized edge to cloud data fabric, while developers can rapidly build and deploy intelligent applications across boundaries with a consistent set of application development, deployment and management tools and methodologies.  In parallel, IT can remove complexity by centralizing management, security processes, and policies across distributed applications and infrastructure. 


The importance of the ecosystem within physical operations environments


As mentioned earlier, physical operations environments have traditionally been managed in a decentralized way.  The reason for this paradigm is the highly heterogenous nature of such environments, which often include assets and devices built by various manufacturers, each with their own tooling and applications.   Success in this market won’t be achieved by trying to replace the unique value that these ecosystem partners bring to the table.  Instead, as a platform company, Microsoft’s goal is to provide an open, common pattern that partners can utilize, together providing customers with a common foundation for their industrial applications.  This common foundation provides customers with a single place to manage these highly complex environments, as well as the benefit of being able to integrate data from different solutions and sites together for enterprise-wide insights.  Partners not only benefit from a customer-centric approach, but also by being able to deliver solutions faster using the flexible, standards-based reference architecture offered by Azure IoT Operations. 






Today, we have several exciting product and partner announcements that will help industrial customers embrace the transformative benefits of the adaptive cloud approach.  


Enabling insights at scale with an open, interoperable foundation


At Microsoft, we are committed to empowering our customers to achieve more with their data and unlocking new insights and opportunities across the industrial ecosystem.


For customers to cultivate insights across their operational environments, they first need access to the data sitting within their industrial assets – and to be able to get that data into a format that will be usable by other applications.   To assist with these efforts, Microsoft is working with the ecosystem of connectivity partners for Azure IoT Operations to modernize industrial systems and devices. These partners provide data translation and normalization services across heterogeneous environments for a seamless and secure data flow from the shop floor to the cloud.  We leverage open standards and provide consistent control and management capabilities for OT and IT assets. To date, we have established integrations with connectivity partners Advantech, PTC, and Softing that are uniquely positioned in their field and enable a wide range of customers.   Beyond connectivity, we are also partnering with Rockwell Automation to deliver a set of composable solutions that take advantage of the adaptive cloud approach to unlock the promise of rapid digital transformation at scale across manufacturing scenarios.    


Additionally, to help drive interoperability across edge applications, edge devices, and edge orchestration software, Microsoft is also proud to participate and contribute to Margo, a new open standard initiative for interoperability at the edge of industrial automation ecosystems.  Hosted by The Linux Foundation, the Margo initiative defines the mechanisms for interoperability between edge applications, edge devices, and edge orchestration software to help accelerate building, operating, and scaling complex automation solutions at the edge. It will help customers grow operations quicker and help them achieve their digital transformation objectives faster. 


Ultimately, the goal of these intelligent applications is to support better decision-making.  Digital twins allow organizations to optimize decision-making by modelling possibilities based on actual past outcomes and the predicted future.  In this area, in collaborative move with the W3C Consortium, Siemens and Microsoft have announced the convergence of the Digital Twin Definition Language (DTDL), the language used by Azure Digital Twins to describe digital twin models and interfaces, with the W3C Web of Things standard. This convergence will help consolidate digital twin definitions for assets in the industry and enable new technology innovation like automatic asset onboarding with the help of generative AI technologies.


Providing enterprise class resiliency, observability and security for edge applications


While Azure IoT Operations provides the foundation for industrial data flow, customer use cases are implemented in applications running on the edge that use that data. To that end, we’re investing in new capabilities to make it easier to build those applications.  Today, we’re excited to announce three new capabilities for the development of enterprise-class Kubernetes applications running on the edge in the realms of application resiliency, observability and security.


  • Edge Storage Accelerator public preview – At the edge, Kubernetes storage capabilities vary in durability, persistence, and performance, posing a challenge for customers seeking reliable solutions.  To address these challenges, we recently introduced Edge Storage Accelerator (ESA), a storage system designed for Arc-connected Kubernetes clusters.  ESA offers fault-tolerant, highly available cloud-native persistent storage, empowering customers to confidently host stateful applications like Azure IoT Operations, custom apps, and other Arc extensions with ease and reliability.  Through standard Kubernetes APIs, users can effortlessly attach containerized applications managing file data stored on Azure Blob storage, leveraging its limitless cloud storage capacity for edge applications.  ESA’s flexible deployment options, simplified connection via a Container Storage Interface (CSI) driver, and platform neutrality transforms edge storage solutions, alleviating customer pain points and enabling seamless operations at the edge.


  • Azure Monitor pipeline public preview – As enterprises scale their infrastructure and applications, the volume of observability data naturally increases, and it is challenging to collect telemetry from certain restricted environments. With today’s announcement, we are extending our Azure Monitor pipeline at the edge to enable customers to collect telemetry at scale from their edge environment and route to Azure Monitor for observability. With Azure Monitor pipeline at edge, customers can collect telemetry from the resources in segmented networks that do not have a line of sight to cloud. Additionally, the pipeline prevents data loss by caching the telemetry locally during intermittent connectivity periods and backfilling to the cloud, improving reliability and resiliency.


  • Secrets Sync Controller private preview – Industrial customers want the confidence and scalability that comes with unified secrets management in the cloud, while maintaining disconnection-resilience for operational activities at the edge.  To help them with this, the new Secret Synchronization Controller for Kubernetes (currently in private preview) automatically synchronizes secrets from an Azure Key Vault to a Kubernetes cluster for offline access. This means customers can use Azure Key Vault to store, maintain, and rotate secrets, even when running a Kubernetes cluster in a semi-disconnected state.  Synchronized secrets are stored in the cluster secret store, making them available as Kubernetes secrets to be used in all the usual ways—mounted as data volumes or exposed as environment variables to a container in a Pod. 


Delivering simplified, cohesive management of physical operations environments


During HMI last week, we were also excited to announce the public preview of Azure Arc site manager.  Arc site manager extends existing grouping constructs in Azure, allowing customers to group their resources, including Azure IoT Operations clusters, and assets by physical location.  IT professionals can use Arc site manager to create sites to organize their Arc-enabled servers, clusters, and other assets, and view aggregated monitoring data. Arc site manager simplifies the overall monitoring and management of Azure resources by integrating individual resource pages, Azure Monitor, Update Management Center, and other offerings into a single cohesive experience.  With Arc site manager, IT administrators can easily monitor health, updates, security, and other key areas for each site.  Because Azure IoT Operations, along with the new services announced today are all Kubernetes based Arc-enabled services, they can be centrally managed using Arc site manager.


Azure Arc site managerAzure Arc site manager 


In addition to Azure Arc site manager, we also demonstrated a new Azure edge infrastructure solution for small form factor devices like the Lenovo ThinkEdge SE30 at the show. This new solution, which supported our Azure IoT Operations demo on the expo floor, runs AKS enabled by Azure Arc directly on bare metal with Azure Linux, with the option to cluster multiple nodes for availability.  To learn more and register interest for the preview, head over to the Azure Stack blog.


We want to thank all the customers, partners and attendees who engaged with us at Hannover Messe 2024.  We firmly believe Azure's open and standardized strategy, an adaptive cloud approach, can help industrial organizations reach the next level of transformation and we’re excited to partner with you on that journey. 


To learn more about how Azure’s adaptive cloud approach can help you cultivate insights across digital and physical operations, please read our latest blogs:


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