Microsoft already has two “industry clouds” – for healthcare and retail – expect more. “These are the first two that have appeared, but there will be more,” said Takuya Hirano, Microsoft vice president for global alliances and partner systems integrators, in a recent statement on the status. of the Microsoft Partner Ecosystem.
The plan is to create several more industrial clouds where Microsoft’s partners and integrators have the opportunity to use their in-depth industry knowledge and Microsoft tools to create specific end-to-end solutions that are suitable for these types of businesses.
The whole point of cloud services is that they are abstractions that can be used to build whatever an organization needs, so having vertical clouds can seem like a way to market the existing options. .
Specialized versions of general services
But industry clouds include specialized versions of general services. There is a “healthy” version of Teams with additional features, such as the ability to reach someone in a specific role, such as the specialist for a particular department.
You can create a chatbot to order pizza or answer customer support questions with Azure bot tools, but Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot service makes it easy to create chatbots for health. It includes a symptom checker, validated medical content, and language comprehension models that are already tuned to understand medical and clinical terminology. Developers therefore don’t have to dig into cognitive services providing language comprehension to teach them that the “eruption” will be a skin condition rather than a gush out of a volcano of various materials.
But as specialized as it is, it is now an Azure service rather than part of Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare. So why have industry specific clouds?
Create services faster in specific sectors
A big part of that strategy is to enable partners to build services more quickly in specific industries where they have expertise, says Casey McGee, vice president of ISV Partner Strategy at Microsoft. Their industry specializations and the scenarios they see as priorities for those industries determine the “building blocks” that go into industry vertical clouds. “Our ecosystem of partners is often as deep, if not more, on the industry side than Microsoft’s. Many of these companies have served one sector, or one or two sectors, for decades. “
Microsoft Research NeXT initiative transforms research into new industries. She began exploring opportunities in healthcare in 2015, including working with partners like Nuance on patient documentation automation systems and working directly with healthcare and research organizations.
More generally, Microsoft looked for partners who understand a specific industry, developed its strategy for these partners and decided which industrial clouds to launch based on customer demand. “There isn’t a single Microsoft cloud for industries that goes without partners,” says Casey McGee. “In fact, in all of the announcements we made at the start of the year, be it healthcare, retail, there is a subset of independent software companies and service partners who play a crucial role in this launch. They have not only provided feedback in this process, but they are essential. ”
For an extremely specific thing like tax audits, Microsoft may turn to partners who have the necessary skills and knowledge but need the help of Microsoft engineering. Other partners have the knowledge and the intellectual ability, but they are looking for Microsoft’s help to expand their business so that they can work with more customers, and then ask Microsoft to help them find those customers and complete the business. sales.
With industrial clouds, Microsoft is engineering to manufacture components that partners use to create solutions, then help them sell and operate them.
“These will be end-to-end solutions, because the engineering team will be involved and the partner can then leverage the building blocks to create solutions much faster, and we also support them in getting to market. and execution, ”says Takuya Hirano.
Basic elements built on specific industrial scenarios
Microsoft’s work with Nuance on Ambient Clinical Intelligence (medical records created automatically from real-time transcripts of patient appointments) was highlighted with the launch of Microsoft Cloud for Healthcare. With many doctors offering video appointments due to the pandemic, Nuance took the work it was doing for its Dragon Ambient eXperience – a multi-microphone device designed to mount on the wall of the doctor’s office or room. ‘examining a hospital and capturing up to eight people talking at the same time to turn the conversation into data for patient records – and integrated that into Microsoft Teams.
Partners like Nuance take advantage of the common data model (used by Dynamics 365, Teams and the Power platform) for their specific industry. It sounds like a more sophisticated version of Project Oakdale, the low-code way organizations can integrate forms from their own business applications into Teams.
The building blocks that Microsoft creates for its partners to use in industrial clouds will be built for these specific industrial scenarios, but what it learns by building them will likely end up in more general tools for Azure, Office 365, and Dynamics. 365 in the future.