PTC Bets on Microsoft for IoT


By: Michael Vizard

When it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT), expertise in industrial environments experience matters. That is why PTC has announced that the Microsoft Azure service is now the company’s preferred public cloud platform.

While PTC still has relationships with other cloud service providers, PTC has decided to host its ThingWorx Industrial Innovation platform as a service on Azure, says Rob Patterson, vice president of strategic marketing, PTC.

The primary reason for this decision comes down to Microsoft’s long history in providing software to the industrial sector and its greater appreciation for the need for hybrid approaches to cloud computing, says Patterson.

For example, PTC envisions organizations storing large amounts of data in the cloud that will be accessed remotely using applications running locally that were developed using PTC tools.

“In manufacturing there’s still a definite preference to provision IT behind a firewall,” says Patterson.

In addition, Patterson notes that PTC also expects customers to build augmented and virtual reality applications using the Microsoft HoloLens platform. The “digital twins” that get created by using those tools will need to be consistently updated using data stored locally and in the cloud, notes Patterson.

Long term, Patterson says PTC expects most industrial applications will move to the cloud once organizations become more comfortable with the concepts. In the short term, hybrid clouds will emerge as something of a way station on that journey, says Patterson.

One of the first organizations to sign up for employing the ThingWorx Industrial Innovation Platform is Colfax Corp., a manufacturer of air and gas handling and fabrication technology products and provider of associated services.

Colfax is long-time customer of PTC and the cloud service creates the opportunity to provide a consolidated platform through which an expanding number of IoT projects can be centrally managed, says Ryan Cahalane, vice president of digital growth for Colfax.

“You can wind up with a zillion-different IoT solutions,” says Cahalane.

Cahalane says partnering with PTC and Microsoft allows Colfax to work with two IT vendors that have lots of experience in the industrial sector where IoT solutions will by definition require a hybrid cloud approach, a fact that Microsoft has already publicly acknowledged more than other cloud service providers. Colfax already uses Microsoft Azure services elsewhere in its IT environment. Longer term, Colfax also expects to leverage the machine and deep learning algorithms both companies will expose as services, adds Cahalane.

Naturally, it’s still early days when it comes to Industrial IoT. But even so, it’s also clear that Microsoft still exercises considerable strength and influence as the primary incumbent of enterprise IT services.