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What GE's cloud computing foray means for big data

GE aims to create Industrial Internet cloud, with baked in big data analytics from Hadoop

By , Network World
June 19, 2013 11:48 AM ET

Network World - As if GE doesn’t already have enough on its plate, the company entered the cloud computing marketing this week, announcing plans to provide cloud-based analytics services for its industrial customers.

The move reinforces a couple of major themes across the industry, including a growing trend by both providers and end users to capture and actually get some value from the massive amount of data generated by their companies, machines and other sources. It also shows how providers are increasingly offering services tailored specifically for certain vertical markets, in this case industry and manufacturing. And finally, in announcing the product in conjunction with partners Amazon Web Services and new analytics firm Pivotal, GE is showing how it can use technologies from others and package them  as a service.

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GE has two major products, one being its Predictivity line, which will provide real-time data analytics across a company’s network, while Proficy Historian HD is a separate service based on open source Apache Hadoop to provide historical analysis. GE is aiming the services at the customers to which it already supplies heavy machinery and manufacturing goods and services. This software packages can help businesses make decisions about what sorts of products should be made and how, for example. “It is only in the ability to quickly analyze, understand, and put machine-based data to work in real-time that points us to a society that benefits from the promise of big data,” GE Vice President of global software Bill Ruh said during a release party on Tuesday. “This is what the Industrial Internet is about.”

Industrial companies have a lot to gain from big data analytics because they have so much data, experts say. Companies across a variety of industries are dealing with the rise of machine-to-machine, batch data and making actionable business decisions based on it, says Wikibon analyst Dave Vellante. Wikibon estimates that Industrial Internet Technology spending will balloon from $20 billion this year to $514 billion by 2020 as more companies rely on data to drive business decisions in sectors from manufacturing to health care, transportation and utilities. The key, he says, will be architecting systems that are able to capture data, and bring it to the cloud and provide actionable intelligence based on it.

As for how the system will technically work, Ruh says GE will work with customers to architect solutions that run in the public cloud, such as Amazon Web Services, or on customers’ own premises to solve the issue of data migration. 

Werner Vogels, AWS’s CTO who appeared at the announcement, says the company is already providing the infrastructure “building blocks” to support these services. Existing AWS customers can layer GE analytics services on top of data stored in Amazon’s cloud, for example. 

Paul Maritz, the former VMware chief who is now heading the new spinout from VMware and EMC named Pivotal, says his company’s Hadoop-based analytics technology will be baked into the offering as well.

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