GE has been marching towards this point for several years. In 2013, the company said it would have a cloud offering by 2015. The current press statement confirms that intent.
As a digital industrial company focused on answering the unique needs and scale of customers across aviation, energy, healthcare and transportation, GE has announced plans to enter the cloud services market with Predix Cloud. The world’s first and only cloud solution designed specifically for industrial data and analytics, this platform-as-a-service (PaaS) will capture and analyse the unique volume, velocity and variety of machine data within a secure, industrial-strength cloud environment.
Between now and the end of the year, Predix Cloud will be in controlled beta while being rolled out to its main internal divisions and select customers. The plan is to go into general availability in early 2016.
GE is already a powerhouse player in software, claiming revenue of $4 billion for 2014, expanding to $6 billion in the current year. I was interested to discover how this will work for developers including what kinds of developer they are looking to attract. Here are the questions I put to Harel Kodesh, Vice President, General Manager of Predix at GE Software lagoon with his answers:
A: This is true – it is a tough undertaking for anyone although it is hard to argue that microservices-based architecture with a decent develop process DOES make it easier to develop. We have a slightly easier job, because the industrial ecosystem lacked someone like MSFT (for enterprise) or Apple (for consumers) that took it upon itself to come up with an IDE to make it easier. GE is willing to spend and build it. It does have something that other companies don’t – a deep understanding of what an industrial device (as “asset”) does or what a technician is supposed to do. We are targeting our own developers, our customers’ developers (who also need to deal with similar abstraction) but also ISVs. We don’t have all the answers, but our CI/CD process will make sure we find them quickly.
Q: What are the plans regarding on boarding/promoting devs i.e. - will there be 'click and go' access? Will there be a supported store?
A: Yes for dev/test – click and swipe your credit card and go. It is a bit more tricky when a developer wants to deploy. This is going to be more like an Apple Store than AWS.
Q: What is the licensing model for devs?
A: Devs – usage based. We are still working on it and we will not charge until 2016 but we will have the numbers when we open for beta in October 2015.
Q: What is the cost to devs in using the PaaS for: 1. dev and test, 2. deployment?
A: We don’t talk about cost right now. For devs – we will announce in M&M. For apps – Predix developers (including our own GE developers, will need to decide that). We do have a biz ops layers that will give them the cost to serve, but it is up to the commercial teams that sell the apps to decide the apps’ value and price. We do allow apps to be priced on a per- asset or even per-consumption unit (GW) and the system will deal with that.
Q: What languages are natively supported?
A: Java, Spring, Node.js, Go, Python for now. More to come based on demand.
Q: Will there be access to REST APIs?
Some have argued that this is a defensive play by a legacy business. That is wrong headed thinking. The industrial internet is the kind of topic area that will attract some of the brightest minds on the planet. The industrial internet poses interesting problems that developers like to solve and in some of the most inhospitable environments. Crucially, GE has deep domain expertise in a number of critical industries like aero engine manufacture, utility pipelines, energy and healthcare. Finally, GE has the scale to make this work well. But - it will come down to pristine execution.
As I said at the top of the Q&A, many vendors have tried to build developer communities. With the possible exceptions of Microsoft and Salesforce, few have truly succeeded. Having met some of their most senior people, I expect that GE is well prepared to benefit from others' mistakes.
Disclosure: Salesforce is a premier partner at time of writing.