Rent a gateway! – Azure Stack Edge

Some of us know the problem:

Bandwidth terror through an abundance of chatty sensors!

For example, in a manufacturing building, network traffic would go through the roof, if “everything” would be directly connected to the Internet (although, it is the Internet of Things) and, of course, it would be a security nightmare, too.
Well, let us leave the latter topic aside for a moment and stick to the traffic requirements.
The Cloud promise was, connect everything to the Internet and in the Cloud, magically, everything gets done!
While this is not false in a lot of scenarios, it is not always true!
Depending on solution use cases in focus, there are quite a few scenarios where distributed smart architectures have significant benefits over a centralistic approach.
In these cases devices on the “Edge” come into play. They are gateway devices running pre-processing logic and providing storage capabilities to handle part of the overall system workload on-premise, on the edge to the Internet. By doing this, enable the transformation of raw events into higher quality events, such as e.g. the reporting of temperature sensors only, if set limits are exceeded. The higher quality events are passed into the Cloud solution and are handled there to trigger related business logic.
Benefits of this design include

  • Significant lower traffic on central system
  • Better manageability / monitoring and security of data flow
  • Robustness against network outages (at least in some of the scenarios)

but, it comes with challenges, as well, such as:

  • Handling of business logic on the edge
  • Device management of IOT devices as well as edge devices

This needs to be taken into consideration!

However, if you are a vendor creating Cloud solutions experiencing a lot of data ingress, sooner or later you end up installing Edge devices to sort out raw events spamming your backend. You will buy devices and or talk to the customer to install these devices in the on-premise data-center.
The drawback with this approach is that it adds a lot of upfront cost to your solution.
Edge devices might be quite capable, full-fledged and therefore expensive servers that a customer may also want to include into his system management to keep them patched and secure. This triggers often time consuming approval processes to get things into place.
All of this may kill your project or POC before it even has started!

So, is there a smarter way to approach this issue?
As you may have guessed from the title of the post, there is. Microsoft is extending its Cloud-native rent-my-system approach to edge hardware and software. In this case the system of interest is called Azure Stack Edge (fka Azure Data Box Edge – Microsoft likes the renaming game, as we know).
There is a very informative IOT Show episode on this solution, still using the old name.

Benefits of the Cloud-rental approach are that the Stack Edge devices are managed centrally via an Azure service. The service allows the installation and management of Azure IOT edge modules taken over the responsibility for the distributed logic in the system. Looking at IOT devices, it is especially interesting that these devices can be connected to a local (Edge) instance of IOTHub and also be managed from there, which gives you the best of both worlds: The devices are safe behind the firewall, but still accessible via the Edge gateway for administrative purposes!
Microsoft operates the Edge devices as an appliance, which means it takes over responsibility for any OS (Stack Edge is running on Linux) or runtime patches.
IOT Edge modules deployed can be available building blocks from Microsoft or 3rd party vendors, as well be self-developed Edge modules suiting the implemented solution.

This is really powerful, because it leaves solution developers the flexibility to draw existing commercial building blocks e.g. for AI or highspeed processing from Azure Marketplace and focus on the business needs of the solution.

If a customer needs a test at their location, the rental model is not to beat. Just ship your devices and a pre-configured Edge device and a POC can be up and running in minutes, not costing a fortune and hardware. If not suiting, it can be stopped any time with out wasting more costs and energy.

Looks like a quite innovative, efficient and modern approach to me! 🙂

Alexander


Cloud News 2020 / 05

In episode 5 of Wechsler Consulting Cloud News, we talk about the top news from Microsoft Build 2020 and especially Azure Digital Twins, which have truly made an incredible leap in functionality.


Here are the links to topics mentioned in the video:

Azure Digital Twins
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/digital-twins/about-digital-twins

Azure IOT Edge
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/iot-edge/about-iot-edge

Windows IOT 10 – Linux Runtime
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/wsl/install-win10

IOTHub – Private Link
https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/updates/azure-private-link-is-now-available-for-multiple-new-azure-services/

IOT Plug & Play
https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/intelligent-edge-innovation-across-data-iot-and-mixed-reality/

Azure RTOS – GA
https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/rtos/

Azure Sphere updates
https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/azure-sphere/

Sphere and RTOS can work together
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure-sphere/app-development/applications-overview

IOT Central
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/iot-central/core/overview-iot-central

New OPC UA – “Getting Started” course released!

The OPC Unified Architecture communication standard is one of the main technical pillars you can build a digital transformation project on.
This has been especially true for the industrial automation market over the last years, but currently OPC UA is making huge in-roads into other verticals, such as retail and logistics, used by companies transforming to be Industry 4.0-ready.

Connect devices using OPC UA and .NET Core!

Its stability, resiliency and security features are hard to match and truly on enterprise level.
Our new Wechsler Consulting interactive online course provides an introduction to the OPC UA standard and pragmatically explains its different building blocks implementing a simple example in .NET Core using the Open Source OPC UA reference stack released by the OPC Foundation.

There is no faster way to get involved with OPC UA!

In addition – we take care of You!
This course includes two 45 minutes calls with the author to answer your questions, discuss ideas and get inspirations for your current or future project.

Interesting Industrial Azure IOT showcases from Festo, Kao, and AkzoNobel

We just stumbled about some quite interesting new showcases in the Industrial Azure IOT space that demonstrate quite good the bandwidth of different services leveraged in Azure ranging from operating IOT devices in the field to using AI and Machine learning creating new and innovative products by turning Big Data into Smart Data.

Festo for example, uses Azure IOT to create dashboards providing insight on all their deployed industrial IOT devices.

Azure networking capabilities move into the edge!

When implementing telemetry solutions with mobile systems, network latency can be a quite limiting factor. Communication retries are costly and also hinder a system to provide a real-time view on the current state.
To mitigate this risk you now are able to leverage Azure Edge Zones! Microsoft is teaming up with some Telcos leveraging the new 5G to provide a fast lane into Azure data centers.

Azure Edge Zones – 5G access directly into Azure

This is approach, combining all the newest technologies, is able to provide ultra-low latency in the area of milliseconds response times. Especially looking at older mobile connections this is a performance gain in more than an order of magnitude and a great enabler, if your solution requires to be as close to reality as possible.
It is certainly also interesting to mention that this technology is also available for on-premise solutions, keeping the same APIs and services. Due this your solution can be ready for any network scenario.

Wechsler Consulting joins OPC Foundation

We are very happy to announce that Wechsler Consulting has joined the OPC Foundation as a corporate member.


The OPC Unified Architecture communication standard has been tremendously successful over the last years in the industrial automation space, but has a lot of beneficial functionality to offer for other vertical markets, as well.


Complete and seamless interoperability between devices is definitely the goal, when a company is transforming its business digitally and OPC UA is providing all to be a great asset in this context.
We at Wechsler Consulting are supporting our customer’s efforts with architectural consulting and training. Being a corporate member in the OPC Foundation standards body enables us to be on top of the newest developments and decisions for this very capable and efficient communication standard.
Due to this, we will be able to apply these, as fast as possible, in real world projects.

We have already started working on an “Getting Started” online course to help interested customers to jump start their OPC UA project.
The currently available course preview is free and gives a first glimpse, on what is to expect, laying the groundwork to be successful with OPC Unified Architecture.

Is Yocto Linux the new Windows Embedded Standard?

As a former Windows Embedded Standard expert and former embedded MVP, I watched the most recent episode of the IOT Show by Olivier Bloch on Channel 9 with quite some interest.

Seems like Yocto is filling the large gap, Windows Embedded Standard, as a configurable operating system for IOT devices, had left for Microsoft customers.
With access to source one certainly gains some flexibility, but in normal project life build times matter and the construction kit approach of WES is, even today, not easy to match.
However, it is great to see that there is a configurable OS solution out there, which is supported to some extent and with IOT Edge by Microsoft.
Containerization, somehow, made the underlying OS commodity, anyway.

In any case, I want to recommend the IOT Show as a great source of information on the newest development in Azure IOT as well as Microsoft IOT efforts! Olivier is a great host and his guests are explaining complex stuff the easy way.

Cloud News 2020 / 02

This is the second episode in our Wechsler Consulting Cloud News Channel talking about newest developments in Cloud and Azure IOT.

Please find the resource links from the video below.

Azure Talk
Azure Sphere is now generally available (GA) !
https://wechsler-consulting.cloud/2020/02/21/azure-sphere-update-20-01-released/
BMW and Microsoft have started Open Manufacturing Platform initiative
https://www.bmwgroup.com/de/innovation/unternehmen/open-manufacturing-cloud.html
https://www.press.bmwgroup.com/global/article/detail/T0305773EN?language=en
App Configuration GA
https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/app-configuration/
Azure API Management provides extension for App Services
https://azure.github.io/api-management-resources/
Azure IOTHub Device Streaming
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/iot-hub/iot-hub-device-streams-overview

Azure Eventgrid on IOT Edge
EventGrid support in IOT Edge preview 2
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/event-grid/edge/overview
Cloud Events
https://cloudevents.io/