What is the Internet of Things?

Today, the Internet of Things (or IoT) is a difficult trend to define precisely as there is no standard definition for it, and everyone has a different meaning. Before we go any further, let’s take a moment to talk about the trend… the IoT. The Internet of Things really comes down to four key things:

  • Things – Physical “things” such as line of business assets, including industry devices or sensors
  • Connectivity – Those “things” that have connectivity to either the internet or to each other or humans
  • Data – Those “things” have the ability to collect and communicate information – this information may include data collected from the environment or inputted by users
  • Analytics – And then the analytics that comes with the data enable people or machines to take action

Let’s face it… the Internet of Things can feel complex and confusing as there are many conflicting messages in the marketplace about the massive scale and potential of IoT, and companies are experiencing confusion and uncertainty about how to respond.

Let look closer to some information that I was able to get access from.

IoT IS BIG:

  • Regardless of what numbers you look at, there are BILLIONS of devices that have the ability to collect information; this number grows daily (leading analysts are playing a numbers game trying to estimate the potential size of IoT; numbers vary from 30 billion to 212 billion of the number of installed base of things connected by the end of 2020)
  • “Big” isn’t limited to the number of devices; it also promises huge potential in terms of revenue generation, cost savings, productivity improvement, etc.

IoT IS NOISY:

  • It can seem like everyone has a different opinion about how IoT will evolve
  • The key takeaway here is that the industry is mobilizing quickly and big names are making big moves—from marketing to gain mindshare, to technology acquisitions to beef up their solutions

IoT IS CONFUSING:

  • With these different definitions and opinions come lots of different approaches
  • Sounds futuristic, complicated and too technological
  • The big question facing most enterprises is, “What’s the right IoT strategy for me?”

Why the Internet of Things Matters?

Once you get past all the confusion and noise and realize just how simple and powerful IoT can be, the next question becomes: “What can it do for my business? Why does it matter?” Let’s go through the chief reasons

  • Gain insight and agility: when you connect business systems and tap into new and existing data streams, you get real-time visibility into your processes, enabling you to make smarter decisions now, and better plan for the future
  • Build a competitive edge: by putting the Internet of Things to work against the competition, companies can gain an edge that allows them to become leaders in their industry. When you harness your data, and connect your people and infrastructure, you can unlock new opportunities, increase efficiency, delight customers, and gain a real advantage over the competition
  • Open new business opportunities: by harnessing and analyzing data, organizations can more quickly spot trends, identify, and prepare for new opportunities, open new revenue streams, predict customer and partner behavior, and innovate faster
  • Redefine customer service: when you build the Internet of Your Things, you gain greater insight into your customers’ wants and needs, allowing you to provide what they want—sometimes before they know they want it. When you create truly personalized experiences that surpass your customers’ needs, provide instant access to inventory information via a connected devices, or offer speedy, streamlined service, you raise the bar on customer service—and that leads to loyal, repeat customers

Microsoft’s view of IoT

Microsoft believes the Internet of Things doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Businesses can start small, with a few changes that make a big impact. It’s not about the billions of things that can be connected, it’s about YOUR THINGS, and it’s already happening.

Microsoft believe that the Internet of Things starts with your things: it’s about the things that matter most to your business. Build on the infrastructure you already have, connect the devices you already own, then add to your existing investments and tap into the data that already exists. The Internet of Your Things is not about ripping and replacing technologies in your enterprise, but rather leveraging what you have, adding on to your existing systems, using your existing things in new ways, and innovating and optimizing so that everything works better together

Look at these examples:

  • If you’re a retailer, think about how much smarter POS terminals can increase cross-selling and up-selling
  • If you’re in the health industry, think about how connecting patient monitors, tablets, signage, and other equipment can streamline patient care
  • For manufacturers, sensors on the factory floor can “talk” to diagnostic monitors to improve production efficiency and reduce downtime
  • What about if you’re a city leader? IoT is going to help revolutionize the world’s cities in the coming years—think about water systems, fire, police, and medical, traffic and power lines—sensors and data embedded here will deliver real-time insight on populations and infrastructure

Why choose Microsoft Cloud for the IoT?

So, why should Microsoft be your vendor of choice for IoT? It’s because of the technologies they’re bringing to the market, Azure is on a fast pace when it comes to new and enhanced features. Microsoft make IoT real today and they have a rich ecosystem of partners and solutions.

When you think about technology, look what Microsoft is doing so far. We are at an amazing time to see all of this technology coming to us. They’re a proven leader in the enterprise space with a complete stack of enabling productivity, analytics, infrastructure, cloud technologies

If you think about it, Microsoft is already by your side as a trusted technology partner, with technologies that your employees currently know and use from Windows, to Office 365 to Azure. Microsoft makes the Internet of Things real today. This is not “marketecture” or product vision stuff—They’ve been delivering the Internet of Things for more than 15 years when others are just getting into the game

Using Virtual Machine extensions to configure the OS on a VM

When deploying Azure VMs, in addition to configuring the platform-specific settings (such as Azure Storage or networking parameters), you can also configure the operating system and applications running in the VM. This ability depends on a software component called the Azure Virtual Machine Agent (VM agent). The primary purpose of the VM agent is to load additional software components called VM agent extensions that implement specific management, monitoring, or security features.

VM images available from the Azure Marketplace include a VM agent by default. When using custom images or disks, you have the option of installing the agent manually. Both the Windows and Linux operating system versions of the VM agent are available for download, from the Microsoft Downloads website and GitHub, respectively.

After the installation completes, you also need to set the ProvisionGuestAgent property of the VM via Azure PowerShell or Azure CLI.

Some of the more commonly used VM extensions include:

  • BGInfo. This extension displays desktop background on Windows VMs containing such information as the computer name, total amount of memory allocated to it, its IP address, or the operating system version.
  • VMAccessAgent. This extension enables you to reset local administrative credentials and fix misconfigured RDP settings on Windows VMs.
  • VMAccessforLinux. This extension enables you to reset local administrative credentials and fix misconfigured SSH settings on Linux VMs.
  • ChefClient and PuppetEnterpriseAgent. These extensions integrate Windows and Linux VMs into cross-platform Chef and Puppet (respectively) enterprise management solutions.
  • CustomScriptExtension. This extension enables you to run custom scripts within Windows or Linux Azure VMs. On the Windows operating system, you implement scripts by using Windows PowerShell. The extension for the Linux operating system allows running code written in any scripting language that the operating system supports, such as Python or Bash.
    The most common use of the Custom Script extension involves applying custom configuration settings during VM provisioning. However, it is also possible to use it to perform any scriptable action after the initial deployment. The script can reside in an Azure Storage or a GitHub location.
  • PowerShell Desired State Configuration (PowerShell DSC) extension. This extension implements a template-based configuration of Windows operating systems, including the ability to modify such settings as file, folder, registry, service, or an operating system feature.
  • AzureDSCForLinux. This extension implements a template-based configuration of Linux operating systems, equivalent to the one that PowerShell DSC provides for Windows.
  • IaaSAntimalware. This extension protects in against viruses, spyware, and malware in real time.
  • IaaSDiagnostics. This extension enables Azure VM diagnostics, collecting metrics and logs from the operating system and its components.