Microsoft Buys Solair for Azure IoT

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Microsoft last week announced the acquisition of Solair, a move to expand its global Internet of Things business.

Solair's IoT customization and deployment solutions, which are built on Microsoft's Azure cloud platform, have helped a wide range of businesses improve efficiencies and profitability, according to Microsoft.

"The integration of Solair's technology into the Microsoft Azure IoT Suite will continue to enhance our complete IoT offering for the enterprise," said Sam George, partner director for Azure IoT.

Solair is "an important part of [Microsoft's] ongoing efforts to build the intelligent cloud," Microsoft spokesperson Lenette Larson noted.

The companies are familiar with each other's technology, as Solair's IoT applications are built on the Azure platform, but they did not previously work together, she told the E-Commerce Times.

Solair, which was founded in 2011, has always focused on helping customers quickly and easily gain access to the huge benefits of IoT, CEO Tom Davis said.

"By building our solutions based on real customer requirements that allow them to gain real value, I'm confident that Solair's technology and talent will be able to make an important contribution to Microsoft's Azure IoT Suite and Microsoft's broader IoT ambitions," he said.

The acquisition takes place amid a major push by Microsoft to expand its presence in the IoT business. In March, it introduced a series of Azure IoT Starter Kits to help developers test new devices for proof of concept and prototypes.

At its Build conference, Microsoft announced the Azure IoT Gateway SDK, which helps companies deploy legacy devices and sensors to the Azure cloud without having to replace existing infrastructure.

"Solair's offering, regional focus and vertical market expertise complement Microsoft's cloud-based IoT offerings," said Alfonso Velosa, IoT research VP at Gartner.

"It has specific vertical element capabilities for connecting to industrial and light commercial assets that complement the overall Microsoft Azure IoT Suite. It also had experience working with Microsoft and some of its partners on projects in Europe. So it did not need to buy them, but it made sense for them to acquire them," he told the E-Commerce Times.

"Solair not only gives Microsoft additional IoT software and technology, it also has a track record of success in major enterprises worldwide," said Jeffrey Kaplan, managing director of ThinkStrategies.

"So Solair's team gives Microsoft proven skills and practical experience in real-world IoT deployments," he told the E-Commerce Times.

Microsoft likely will continue to acquire companies in the IoT space. It "has been building some of these capabilities for years, but it makes sense for it to work with partners and acquisitions such as Solair," Velosa noted.

"Overall, the peer group of companies for Microsoft, such as SAP, Oracle, IBM and so forth, are all evolving their solutions at roughly the same pace. They all need to finish building out their go-to-market strategy, their vertical market solutions, and their full ecosystem that can align with customers on a global and vertical industry basis," he said.

"Each of them has some pluses and minuses, but at the moment they're all still ramping up their capabilities for the IoT market opportunity," he added.

Solair has deployed its IoT cloud-based applications to help the Rancilio Group manage its coffee machines, which it sells to the hotel, restaurant and cafe sector.

The Solair IoT apps help Rancilio manage everything from managing coffee supplies to remote programming of maintenance and avoiding sales losses when the machines are not working.

In Japan, Solair's IoT platform has helped factories monitor production lines, according to Microsoft. The company's Smart Factory Advisor application has been used to help boost manufacturing capacity and optimize energy efficiency, George said.

Solair has developed a reputation for helping the Italian IoT market play catchup to some of its more advanced rivals in the UK and Nordic countries, Andrea Siviero, a senior research analyst at IDG, and Gabriele Roberti, research manager at IDC Italy, wrote in a February blog post.

The company's IoT applications included a suite of seven specific software modules that extrapolate value from data and provided measurable business value and insight, they wrote.

It worked with an extensive list of technology vendors that helped this IoT ecosystem work in tandem with client needs, they wrote. On the infrastructure side, it relied on Microsoft's Azure platform as well as Eclipse, MultiTech and Seco. On the sales and implementation side, it worked with NTT Data, Vodafone and Altea.

One area that stood out was Solair's ability to deploy a fully operating IoT system in just two weeks, which they said was important not just for new installations, but for expanding deployment among existing clients.

David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain's New York Business and The New York Times.

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