Amazon managed to turn selling off excess capacity of its hyper-efficient data center infrastructure into a $US7 billion business with Amazon Web Services.
Now General Electric is hoping to do the same, with the announcement of its Predix Cloud, a cloud computing platform that wants to help power plants, factories, and industrial sites like Amazon did for the average Silicon Valley developer.
The issue, says GE VP of Software Bill Ruh, is that so little software takes into account the needs of heavy-duty industrial users, who have to crunch insane amounts of data drawn from machines, factory sensors, and connected devices.
To address the issue, GE spent the last four years building Predix for its own internal use. Now it’s opening the doors for Predix for any developer anywhere to take advantage of what GE learned on the job and find its way into the competitive cloud market.
“Getting into this is not easy, but we’ve spent the last four years doing it for ourselves,” Ruh says.
Industrial companies are “very focused on outcomes,” Ruh says.
This means that they don’t want to put in the legwork of buying server capacity from Amazon Web Services, installing data-crunching software like Hadoop or Spark, and then putting teams to work figuring out the best way to wrangle all that data into something useful.
Instead, Predix has already built all of that in, Ruh says. The platform is built to optimise that data and turn it into something actionable, like figuring out how to optimise trucking routes so they use less gas and save hundreds of thousands, or figuring out how to speed up a production schedule so more product can leave a factory faster.
Plus, Predix has extreme levels of security that Amazon or any other data center provider can’t match, Ruh says.
“Data center experts don’t know about securing a power plant,” Ruh says. But GE does.
Ultimately, Predix Cloud is aimed squarely at industrial companies who have very specific needs, but still want the kind of flexibility that Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform can offer them.
“It’s the same argument,” Ruh says. “It’s for speed and scale.”