General Electric’s Predix Cloud
This week, General Electric has launched its first hosted cloud service. Designed for building applications for the Internet of Things, GE has differentiated itself from market-dominating services such as Amazon’s AWS by targeting the industrial market, and will be focusing on applications related to medical equipment, jet engines, wind turbines, and locomotives. Named Predix Cloud, this product is an addition to GE’s Predix developer tools, initially designed for use only with GE equipment, expanding the Predix Internet of Things platform to deliver Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Predix Cloud is both a place to run applications and a platform for building IoT integration applications quickly and easily.
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GE is well-placed to offer this service, already manufacturing large equipment and machinery loaded with sensors that generate vast amounts of data. Though Predix was initially designed as a Platform as a Service (PaaS) allowing customers and third-party developers to put all of this data to use, GE believes providing the infrastructure for running these applications is of benefit, and CTO of GE Software Harel Kodesh notes that a primary selling point of this new infrastructure offering is that it works well with the software development segment of the platform. Furthermore, having built them, GE already has a comprehensive understanding of how many of the large pieces of equipment work. Predix is thus able to process the enormous amounts of data generated by these devices, and understand and predict the impact certain data will have on equipment based on workload, temperature, composition, and such factors.
Wired remarks that GE’s new cloud may be particularly appealing to hackers, with current security fears surrounding IoT heightened since Chrysler’s recall of 1.4 million vehicles after a security vulnerability allowing hackers to control remotely Jeeps came to light. Both the hacking of devices and theft of data are serious concerns, and with their focus on high-value industrial applications, GE is making security the priority. GE will follow standard practices such as encrypting data flowing between devices and the cloud, and goes further by using software defined networking which separates every layer of an application and observes and limits the data each layer has access to. Kodesh remarks, “Each layer will go with the stringent assumption that every other layer has already been breached.” Additionally, the limitation of customers to an exclusive set helps reduce the number of entries into the system, diminishing the risk of attack.
With the Predix platform generating software revenue of $4 billion last year, GE isn’t criticizing the competition but instead intends to address a neglected market. Kodesh has reported that they use Amazon Web Services internally and have built their Predix platform for a different and particular need. Reported by the New York Times, head of GE’s software business, William Ruh, states, “We think it will change the industrial world. We’re talking about where an industrial company goes to get its applications.” GE isn’t alone in the IoT market. Amazon’s subsidiary 2lemetry and Google’s Brillo compete with IBM and Microsoft’s own IoT initiatives, though these all concentrate on different aspects of IoT, and GE may be a forerunning with their focus on industrial equipment.
By Jennifer Klostermann