Industrial Software Companies Make Financial Moves

Industrial Software Companies Make Financial Moves

For the past couple of years, I’ve been convinced that there is a coming consolidation within the industrial software market. You would think that this would be a profitable business, but evidently it’s harder than it looks.

This thought converges with all the Industrial Internet of Things plays. We have platforms and a large variety of software—not to mention a variety of hardware plays. As buyers begin to sort out preferences, there will be changes.

GE Digital on the block

I was trying to figure out where GE was going to wind up in all this. Last fall I thought that GE Digital’s Minds + Machines conference was doomed. Then the 2018 edition was announced. Then yesterday morning I scan news feeds about 6 am and see that most of the GE Digital assets are on the auction block—evidently including Predix.

GE had a “not invented here” syndrome. Rolling your own platforms when other tried and perfected ones already exist is always shaky. So the new CEO mandated partnerships. There’s no reason to build a platform when Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft’s Azure are available. Now it appears that much of the portfolio is for sale.

Investments

But all is not lost. At the smaller end of the spectrum of industrial software there is investment money available according to a note I received from OSIsoft. The note pointed out IIoT company Seeq raised $23 million; Trendminer, Falkonry and Toumetis all recently received investments; and last year, SoftBank also invested in OSIsoft.

When we are consolidating at the top, that usually means it’s time for innovation in the newly available openings for small companies.

Consolidation

I could obviously point to PTC doing its part to consolidate in the IoT software space. But news just came about Plex Systems, a cloud-based ERP and MES supplier.

It announced it has acquired DATTUS Inc. Its solutions connect manufacturing equipment and sensors to the cloud, manage high-volume data streams, and analyze in-motion equipment data. The acquisition is expected to accelerate Plex’s IIoT strategy, extending the Plex Manufacturing Cloud to new streams of machine data and the underlying intelligence. The acquisition was completed in July 2018.

DATTUS brings to the Plex Manufacturing Cloud three major capabilities that will become central to Plex’s long-term IIoT roadmap: IIoT Connectivity, IIoT Data Management, and IIoT Data Analysis. IIoT Connectivity: DATTUS has simplified machine connectivity, providing plug-and-play solutions that work with the wide variety of protocols and data types used by equipment and sensors on the manufacturing shop floor. IIoT Data Management: the DATTUS IIoT platform captures and manages the extraordinary volume and variety of machine data to support real-time visibility into activity across production operations. IIoT Data Analysis: DATTUS analytics enable operational and business leaders to understand IIoT data in motion, providing decision support in areas such as predictive maintenance and machine performance.

IoT Platform EdgeX Foundry Releases New Version

IoT Platform EdgeX Foundry Releases New Version

Platforms that serve to expedite the interaction and collaboration of apps in the Internet of Things (IoT) are sort of the next new thing. There are several that some of the IT analyst firms are following. Trouble is the term allows for a wide variety.

One I’ve written about several times here and here and here is open source developed under the auspices of the Linux Foundation with major leadership and contributions by Dell Technologies. It’s called the EdgeX Foundry. The initiative includes 47 member companies.

The second major release of the platform (California) has just seen the light of day. I picked up information from a blog post by Jim White, Vice Chair of the Technical Steering Committee and Distinguished Engineer and Project Lead of the IoT Platform Development Team within Dell Technologies IoT Solutions Division.

Following is a lightly edited version of his blog concerning the announcement.

While EdgeX is only a year old, our community is demonstrating its staying power with the second major release in its first year.  The California release, which follows Barcelona, shows the commitment and dedication of many who see the importance and potential of developing a flexible, open source, IoT software platform for the edge that provides connectivity and interoperability while still allowing value add.

So, what is new with the California release?  A lot! But before we get into the details, I want to highlight that the biggest focus of this release was to introduce a few key security capabilities and to make EdgeX smaller and faster.
Security

EdgeX began its existence without security and organizations wanting to leverage the platform had to add their own security capability. Today, EdgeX incorporates some of the first security elements.  These initial elements, while useful on their own, are essential building blocks to additional security features in the future.

The first security elements include a reverse proxy that helps protect the REST API communications and a secrets store.  With the EdgeX reverse proxy in place – as provided by incorporating an open source product called Kong – any external client of an EdgeX micro service must first authenticate themselves before successfully calling on an EdgeX API.

The secure storage facility was provided by incorporating the open source Vault (Hashicorp) product, and it allows items such as username/password credentials, certificates, secure tokens, etc. to be persisted and protected within EdgeX.  These types of “secrets” will allow EdgeX to, for example, encrypt data, make HTTPS calls to the enterprise, or connect EdgeX to a cloud provider in a secure manner.

Performance and Scalability

The EdgeX Foundry Technical Steering Committee decided early last year in the project’s formation that we would release twice a year – once in April and once in October.  You probably noticed that it’s not April.

Last year, we decided that EdgeX needed to be smaller and faster to better function effectively at “the edge”, which the largely-Java code from the seed donation was going to make difficult. To do this, we needed to rebuild the EdgeX microservices in Go Lang – and do so by our spring 2018 release.  This was not a small endeavor and it was made at a time when the EdgeX Foundry developer community was just coming on board.  We knew it would take a bit more time, but we were committed to this, and added two more months to this release cycle.

The extra time was well worth it!  With the California release, we’ve dramatically lowered the footprint, startup time, memory and CPU usage. Take a look at the statistics below, which compares services from our first community release last October (Barcelona) to our current release (California).

We still have work to do, but it’s now possible to run all of EdgeX on something like a Raspberry Pi 3.

Additional Features
In addition to the initial security capabilities and reducing the size and latency of the platform, this release includes other work – some visible to the user while some features are more hidden but improve the overall quality of EdgeX.
• Several additions were made to the export services to provide additional “northbound” connectivity, to include connectors for XMPP, ThingsBoard IoT, and Brightics IoT
• We improved the documentation and now have documentation stored with the code in Github – allowing it to be maintained and updated more like code by the community
• Arm 64 is now fully supported.  In fact we worked with the Linux Foundation to add external environments and tools to create native Arm 64 artifacts.
• We added blackbox tests for all the micro services.  These are now kicked off as part of our build and continuous integration processes.
• Other improvements were made to our continuous integration – to help streamline developer contributions

On to Delhi

Our next release, named Delhi, will come out in October 2018.  Due to the extended release cycle for California, the Delhi release cycle is going to be short. The significant features planned for Delhi include:
• Initial manageability services and capability
• Device Service SDKs (Go/C) and at least one example device service
• The next wave of security features to include access control lists to grant access to appropriate services and improved security service bootstrapping
• Better/more unit testing and added performance testing
• Adding the last of the refactored and improved Go Lang microservices
• Outlining options and a potential implementation plan for alternate or additional database support
• An EdgeX UI suitable for demos and smaller installations

HPE Commits to IoT and the Edge

HPE Commits to IoT and the Edge

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) held its annual Discover conference in Las Vegas last week. It has made a sizable commitment to Internet of Things (IoT) and the Edge—areas central to my writing for the past few years. I am floating a number of ideas looking for feedback as I travel, and I’ll bounce some of those here later.

There is so much I learned last week beyond even what I wrote Monday about the new Edgeline computer. Perhaps the best place to start is with my latest discussion with Lin Nease, Chief Technologist IoT at HPE. This was a continuation of a discussion we began in Madrid last November and resumed at Industry of Things World in San Diego in February.

HPE’s power of compute at the Edge fascinates me. Even though my being in Las Vegas precluded being in Boston for LiveWorx, ThingWorx came up in many conversations at Discover. Nease said that ThingWorx (product and division of PTC) has been a good partner. Back to compute power at the edge Nease mentioned this power combined with TSN—Time Sensitive Networking, a new extension of Ethernet promulgated by IEEE.

Indeed, there is sufficient power in Edgeline that an enterprising developer could, for instance, accomplish the software defined DCS that seems to be the dream of some of the engineers at ExxonMobil and the Open Process Automation folks. Anyone out there have time and money?

Speaking of Edge, evidently the enterprise IT bloggers I hung out with during the event try to avoid the term. CEO Antonio Neri had said, “Edge is everything outside the data center.” In the blogger round table that I posted Monday, blogger Alastair Cooke noted, “Gary, we consider everything you do as edge.” Back to Neri who stated 94% of data is wasted; 75% of data comes from the edge.

Following are some points I gleaned from a session called “Harness the Power of Digital Platforms”:

  • HPE is a huge fan of open source & open platforms
  • Digital natives build platforms-e.g. Uber, Google, Amazon, etc.
  • An internal team built an open API platform to solve a problem in supply chain
  • Biggest problem was selling the system internally so that people would actually use the system (never seen that before—said no one anywhere)
  • Traditional—>Digital; everything is a frictionless stream of data
  • Platform always on, always looking for exceptions — sense/respond

HPE has an OEM Solutions group. Following are some points from a session discussing them:

  • OEM Solutions can be Embedded, Integrated, Private Label
  • Everything as a Service — Green Lake is the service offering that OEMs can resell the service
  • Shift to software defined
  • From storage to flash
  • Example—Konica Minolta embedded an Edgeline computing device in a printer called workplace hub that makes it easier to set up and install a new remote office

HPE has momentum in IoT and edge devices—and an organization supporting manufacturing.

Advantech Morphs Strategy for Internet of Things Development

Advantech Morphs Strategy for Internet of Things Development

Taiwan-based Advantech’s leaders have always been intellectual strategic thinkers. They have clued me in on several good management books. The company is an industrial computer company with industrial data acquisition and I/O devices that has successfully positioned itself as an edge device leader in the Internet of Things space.

The company has announced its strategies for entering the next phase of IoT development. To expand local operations, Advantech will fully activate the deployment of branch locations throughout various regions. In addition, a co-creation model will be adopted to construct the Industrial IoT (IIoT) ecosystem and strengthen the influence of vertical domains.

Advantech’s Executive Director of the Board, Chaney Ho, stated that since taking over as executive director last year, he has been focusing on developing regional strategies and establishing development goals and directions for each region, all of which are based on their scope.

In regions with a larger scope (Europe, United States, and China), to reinforce the Advantech brand recognition in IoT and Industry 4.0, talent cultivation and an increased presence in local sales are the company’s primary goals to actively respond to recent developments in Industry 4.0 trends in the EU, plans by the U.S. government to shift production back to America, and the China One Belt One Road policy.

For medium and small-scale regions, Mr. Ho stated that Advantech will develop Japan, South Korea, India, and Russia to generate $130 million in revenue. The company also plans to further increase investment in Malaysia and Thai IIoT organizations and new branch locations in Vietnam, Russia, and Turkey will be established through mergers and acquisitions as well as joint ventures.

Regarding developments in the European region, Miller Chang, President of Advantech’s Embedded-IoT (EIoT) Group, expressed that a sector-lead strategy has been practiced by the EIoT group since 2014. Various product divisions from headquarters have been fully connected with overseas frontline business teams and compound annual growth rate from 2014 to 2017 has reached 25%.

Key development points for the next three years in Europe are:

1. Elevating operation levels in five key regions, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands.
2. Establishing branch offices in emerging European regions for conducting business and providing technical support.
3. Focusing on key industries, such as gaming, medical, transportation, and automotive, in Germany, UK, and the Netherlands.

With respect to development in the Greater China Region, Linda Tsai, President of Advantech’s IIoT Group, believes that the embedded systems/hardware from Phase I IOT development as well as IoT solutions platforms from Phase II are Advantech’s “double-growth engine” in IIoT development. Following this, three key strategies have been proposed.

1. Implement and IIoT sector-lead organizational development model expanding industry management and optimize regional resource allocations,
2. Set successful examples in the Greater China Region to accelerate the marketing of hardware/software and imaging solutions.
3. Actively cultivate local personal to become mid-to-high level supervisors to expand into the Chinese market.

Fantine Lee, Manager of Advantech’s Corporate Investment Division, pointed out that Advantech will continue to actively promote platform management during Phase II IoT development, SRP co-creation, and the co-created digital transformation of vertical industry cloud services during Phase III through the co-creation model. As for vertical industry, cloud service companies to be co-created during Phase III, Advantech plans to establish subsidiaries in Taiwan and China and will include domains such as Smart Manufacturing, Smart Environmental Protection, and Smart Retail. These companies will be managed together with Advantech’s co-creation partners. Furthermore, opportunities in other domains, such as Smart Hospitals, Smart Factories, Industrial Vision Systems, Consultant Training, and Integration Services will continue to be promoted and co-created.

Miss Lee further stated for Phase II development, Advantech’s WISE-PaaS cloud platform will serve as the foundation for building a comprehensive value chain for SRPs. This year, third-party software and WISE-PaaS platform integration with SaaS suppliers and collective sales/agents will be introduced at an accelerated pace. In addition, partnerships with software developers specializing in monitoring and diagnosing connected equipment, energy management, data analysis, machine learning, and other vertical industries will be established.

Internet of Things Prominent at Dell Technologies World

Internet of Things Prominent at Dell Technologies World

A few of us gathered for a round table discussion of Internet of Things while I was at Dell Technologies World at the beginning of the month. I arrived a little early and had a private round table for several minutes before others arrive and the discussion became broader.

Ray O’Farrell, CTO of VMware and GM of IoT at Dell Technologies, said the focus of last 6 months since the new Internet of Things organization was announced included these three points:

1. Dell is 7 companies, trying to achieve one cohesive strategy across all; one organization when facing customers.

2. Best way is to work within the ecosystem, that is history of VMWare.

3. Building technology and leverage solutions. This is a complex undertaking as not all challenges within IoT are alike—there are few cookie cutter applications.

The evolution of Internet of Things within Dell to Dell EMC to Dell Technologies constitutes an upward spiraling path encompassing the greater breadth of technologies and organization reflecting the post-merger company. When I first came along, the concept was building an ecosystem around selling an edge device appliance. Now the strategy is much broader bringing the goal of IT/OT convergence closer to reality. As I’ve mentioned before, the IT companies are attacking that convergence from the IT side after years of manufacturing/production oriented suppliers trying to accomplish the same thing from the OT side. Maybe like the old country song we’ll meet in the middle someday.

Everyone talks Artificial Intelligence (AI) these days, and Dell Technologies is not exception. However, AI is not the science fiction doom and gloom predicted by Ray Kurzweil, Elon Musk, and others. Mostly it entails machine learning (ML) from detected patterns in the data.

Or as Dell Technologies says, it is applying AI and ML technology to turn data into intelligent insights, drive a faster time to market, and achieve better business outcomes.

News summary

• Dell EMC PowerEdge expands portfolio to accelerate AI-driven workloads, analytics, deployment and efficiency

• Deepens relationship with Intel to advance AI community innovation, machine learning (ML) and deep learning (DL) capabilities with Dell EMC Ready Solutions

• Dell Precision Optimizer 5.0 now enhanced with machine learning algorithms, intelligently tunes the speed and productivity of Dell Precision workstations.

• Dell EMC uses AI, ML and DL to transform support and deployment

14th generation Dell EMC PowerEdge four-socket servers and Dell Precision Optimizer 5.0 are designed to further strengthen AI and ML capabilities.

According to the recently released update of the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) 2018 IT Transformation Maturity Curve Index, commissioned by Dell EMC, transformed companies are 18X more likely to make better and faster data-driven decisions than their competition. Additionally, transformed companies are 22X as likely to be ahead of the competition with new products and services to market.

“The Internet of Things is driving an onslaught of data and compute at the edge, requiring organizations to embrace an end-to-end IT infrastructure strategy that can effectively, efficiently and quickly mine all that data into business intelligence gold,” said Jeff Clarke, vice chairman, Products & Operations, Dell. “This is where the power of AI and machine learning becomes real – when organizations can deliver better products, services, solutions and experiences based on data-driven decisions.”

Unlike competitors’ four-socket offerings, these servers also support field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs)3, which excel on data-intensive computations. Both servers feature OpenManage Enterprise to monitor and manage the IT infrastructure, as well as agent-free Integrated Dell Remote Access Controller (iDRAC) for automated, efficient management to improve productivity.

Dell EMC is also announcing its next generation PowerMax storage solution, built with a machine learning engine which makes autonomous storage a reality.

Leveraging predictive analytics and pattern recognition, a single PowerMax system analyzes and forecasts 40 million data sets in real-time per array4, driving six billion decisions per day5 to automatically maximize efficiency and performance of mixed data storage workloads.

The new Dell Precision Optimizer 5.0 uses AI to automatically adjust applications running on Dell Precision workstations to maximize performance by:

• Custom-optimizing applications: Dell Precision Optimizer learns each application’s behavior in the background and uses that data to employ a trained machine learning model that will automatically adjust the system to optimized settings and deliver up to 394% improvement in application performance.

• Automating systems configuration adjustments: Once activated and a supported application is launched, the software automatically adjusts system configurations such as CPU, memory, storage, graphics and operating system settings.

Speaking of partners and collaboration, Dell Technologies and Microsoft join forces to build secure, intelligent edge-to-cloud solution featuring Dell Edge Gateways, VMware Pulse IoT Center, and Microsoft Azure IoT Edge

News summary

• Joint IoT solution helps simplify management, enhances security and help lowers cost of deployment at the edge

• Built on innovative analytics applications, management tools and edge gateways to enable network security from edge devices to the cloud

• Accelerates IoT adoption in industry verticals key to economic growth and development

The joint solution offers an underlying IoT infrastructure, management capabilities, and security for customers looking to deploy IoT for scenarios like predictive maintenance, supply chain visibility and other use cases. The solution will deliver:

• Intelligence at the edge with Microsoft Azure IoT Edge: This application extends cloud intelligence to edge devices so that devices can act locally and leverage the cloud for global coordination and machine learning at scale

• Management and monitoring of edge devices with VMware Pulse IoT Center: This provides more secure, enterprise-grade management and monitoring of diverse, certified edge devices including gateways and connected IoT devices, bios and operating systems.  This ecosystem will be built over time involving deeper integration and certification to support customer requirements.

• High-performance, rugged Dell Edge Gateways: IoT devices with powerful dual-core Intel® Atom™ processors connect a variety of wired and wireless devices and systems to aggregate and analyze inputs and send relevant data to the cloud

VMware Pulse IoT Center will serve as the management glue between the hardware (Dell Edge Gateways or other certified edge systems), connected sensors and devices and the Microsoft Azure IoT Edge. Initially, Pulse will help to deploy the Microsoft Azure IoT Edge to the requisite edge systems so that it can start collecting, analyzing and acting on data in real-time.

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