Not long ago, most manufacturing executives and plant managers were openly skeptical about moving their business and/or operations software applications to the cloud. But just as similar apprehensions about the use of wireless and Ethernet in plant floor applications dissipated with increased exposure to the technologies and knowledge of successful applications, so too are concerns about the use cloud-based software applications.
Two new cloud-based releases from GE and Infor underscore this shift in attitude.
GE announced its plan to enter the cloud services market with Predix Cloud. According to GE, this is “the world’s first and only cloud solution designed specifically for industrial data and analytics. This platform-as-a-service (PaaS) will capture and analyze the unique volume, velocity and variety of machine data within a highly secure, industrial-strength cloud environment. “
Features of Predix Cloud highlighted by GE include:
- Asset Connectivity. Predix Cloud provides connectivity-as-a-service for industrial assets, combining proprietary technologies with global telecommunications partners to enable rapid provisioning of sensors, gateways and software-defined machines.
- Scalability for Machine Data. Predix Cloud was purpose-built to store, analyze, and manage machine data from a variety of asset sources, across industries, in real time.
- Security and Compliance. Predix Cloud is designed using advanced security protocols, including customized, adaptive security solutions for industrial operators and developers.
- Governance. Predix Cloud can be used to streamline governance and drive down compliance costs for each individual user, while respecting national data sovereignty regulations globally.
- Interoperability. Predix Cloud will reportedly operate seamlessly with applications and services running in a broad spectrum of cloud environments.
- Gated Community. Unlike public cloud services, which are open to any individual or organization, Predix Cloud is based on a gated community model to ensure that tenants of the cloud belong to the industrial ecosystem.
- On-Demand Availability. Businesses will be able to scale with the Predix Cloud, which will be offered through an on-demand, pay-as-you-go pricing model.
Pitney Bowes, a supplier of postage metering machines and related technologies, is an early user of Predix Cloud. Roger Pilc, chief innovation officer at Pitney Bowes, says that "With our asset performance management apps running on Predix Cloud, we're able to extract and analyze data from our assets faster than ever, and use that insight to drive real business outcomes for Pitney Bowes and its clients, including lower operational costs, greater productivity and output and higher service levels."
GE businesses will begin migrating their own software and analytics to Predix Cloud in Q4 2015, and the service will be commercially available to customers and other industrial businesses for managing data and applications on Predix Cloud in 2016.
In related cloud news, Infor has released an upgraded edition of its CloudSuite Industrial Enterprise software. According to Infor, this upgraded version of CloudSuite delivers new tools for document management, providing a central repository that supports the entire lifecycle of business documents—from input through storage, retrieval and sharing. The software suite also includes an integrated suite of financial performance management applications, packaged analytics, and compliance tools that operate across enterprise systems to deliver a “real-time, single version of the truth for the enterprise.”
Infor CloudSuite builds upon Infor's offerings available on Amazon Web Services. "Manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to simplify their IT infrastructure while keeping technology investments up-to-date, and without disruptions, to navigate changing business climates around the globe," says Larry Korak, industry and solution strategy director, industrial manufacturing, Infor.
In addition to its CloudSuite upgrade, Infor also announced it has entered into an agreement to acquire GT Nexus, reported to be the world's largest cloud-based global commerce platform, for $675 million. The deal is currently pending regulatory approval. Approximately 25,000 businesses use GT Nexus, including six of the top ten logistics service providers and 30 global financial institutions, all managing more than $100 billion in goods each year using its cloud-based business network. GT Nexus customers include Adidas Group, Caterpillar, Columbia Sportswear, DHL, Home Depot, Levi Strauss & Co., Maersk, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, and UPS.
GT Nexus provides a global order management system that coordinates commerce across partners. Retail, fashion, and manufacturing companies can collaborate with suppliers to manage and optimize shipments to customers, distribution centers, and retail outlets to meet demand. The GT Nexus network integrates directly into the order management system of the buyers and suppliers. Buyers transmit order information through GT Nexus to their suppliers, financial institutions, freight carriers, and logistics providers. GT Nexus becomes the order management system for the entire network by managing the master record of the order across multiple partners.
“Together, Infor and GT Nexus will provide customers with unprecedented visibility into their supply chains to manage production and monitor goods in transit and at rest,” says Charles Phillips, CEO of Infor. “In a complex, high velocity supply chain, all partners need to know what was ordered, when it was built, where it is in transit, if the order has changed, and has it cleared customs. Specialization and speed are moving the future of manufacturing into the commerce cloud.”