As a company, General Electric is a diversified MNC with presence in infrastructure, finance and media. GE Software Center, GE’s foray into software, is recently in the news as General Electric hops into the Internet of Things (IoT) bandwagon. GE has decided to extend its Predix platform to provide Infrastructure as a Service. The Predix Platform has earlier been positioned by GE as a software platform which would provide services over the Industrial Internet.
Predix is an optimizing platform, enabling assets and operations, and it standardizes the processes of running of industrial scale analytics, converging data, people and machines. It enables machine to machine communications, analytics of large industrial data sets, industrial asset performance systems and smoothly scales from the smallest to the largest high-performance computing clouds.
Given, GE’s presence in the industrial space globally, it makes sense for GE to depend on Predix to offer an IoT platform for industries. The idea of Predix Launch is to help companies and organizations in different industries like aviation, energy, healthcare and transportation to use the vast data generated from these systems.
But, what made GE embark on the strategy of “Cloud for the Industry”? Companies in general are tapping into cloud technology so as to reduce data storage charges, increase flexibility of availability of resources and utilize the various touch points of data that the Internet has to offer. The focus for GE however is more domain specific. The opportunity in the industrial sector stems from the vast and complex data that these industries produce which, as stated by GE are too complex for current clouds to handle.
The essential difference between a General Electric and an offering from IBM or Amazon is the type of users. Unlike consumer and general purpose IT applications, GE plans to connect machines and industrial equipments, so that they can talk to each other in the future.
So, how is Predix different from other cloud services in the market today?
Here is a feature comparison of Predix vis-à-vis Consumer Cloud services provided by other Cloud Service Providers:
- Predix Cloud is built on a Connectivity-As-A-Service paradigm for the billions of connected industrial assets existing as well as predicted in the near future. By combining proprietary technologies with partners in global telecommunication space, this would enable rapid provisioning of gateways, sensors and software-defined machines.
- The Consumer cloud services are not capable to handle vast amount of machine data, while Predix Cloud is built specifically for scalability – to store, analyze and manage machine data in real time. Examples are getting time series data from a large number of sensors in a locomotive, or delivering 3D MRI image for a doctor which has large number of data points.
- The cloud focuses on building operational security and information security with highly advanced security protocols.
- Predix also is designed for streamlining governance and reducing compliance costs.
- It has been built considering seamless interoperability of applications across different cloud environments.
- Predix cloud believes in a “Gated Community” of industrial users unlike other Clouds.
- Developers are expected to get visibility to their operating environments and see the users connected to this cloud.
- Finally, as any cloud provides, Predix also has a convenient and on-demand and pay-as-you-go-pricing model.
IaaS market today is dominated by players such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google or IBM. There are other players heavily investing in the IaaS Space such as Alibaba to enjoy a pie of this market.
General Electric, on the other hand has intelligently differentiated itself from the larger players in the market place, while focusing on its core competency and industrial knowledge. To a certain extent, GE’s approach seems to be close to that of IBM, which had earlier bought Softlayer in 2013, and thereafter launched the BlueMix development environment.
Internally, GE uses Amazon Web Services as an IaaS platform and the Predix platform is built on top of it. Initially, Predix was supposed to be a PaaS, but its recent transition to IaaS is something to watch out for. This platform generated $4 billion of software revenue last year and therefore, it does have the potential to rule the industrial segment in cloud.
IBM has earlier launched its own Internet of Things initiative with a strategic investment of $3 billion, and the larger players like Amazon, Microsoft and Google are working on different aspects of IoT. But GE definitely has the advantage of being a manufacturer of large industrial equipments.
However, experience of GE on software is limited as compared to IBM, or Microsoft.
It needs a strong player to help it in Software IT and so comes Pivotal. Pivotal is a Silicon Valley company based in Palo Alto, California, which offers a PaaS platform by name Pivotal Cloud Foundry, and has required experience and expertise in this space. Pivotal has entered into an agreement with GE for a broad research and development effort with an aim to accelerate GE’s capability to develop new analytic solutions and services for its consumers. GE plans to invest close to $105 million in Pivotal.
Overall, GE’s strategy to enter this space is a great move. The specifics around implementation would define GE’s success in this domain.