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Press Release

Digital Infrastructure, Cloud Computing Transforming Manufacturing

Microsoft launches Reference Architecture Framework for Discrete Manufacturers Initiative to accelerate cloud computing

New technology advancements available in a digital infrastructure, such as cloud computing and social computing, are transforming manufacturing industry value chains, according to a Microsoft Corp. survey released today at HANNOVER MESSE 2011 in Hannover, Germany.

The survey results revealed a need to better integrate collaboration tools with business systems (47.4 percent) and to improve access to unstructured data and processes (36.2 percent). Almost 60 percent see an industry wide collaboration that includes manufacturing products and services providers, IT providers, systems integrators and in-house business analysts as most capable of bringing about these improvements.

To support tighter collaboration across these stakeholders, Microsoft has created a Reference Architecture Framework for Discrete Manufacturers Initiative (DIRA Framework) to drive solutions based on cloud computing across manufacturing networks while helping integrate processes within and across the enterprise, extend the reach of the network to more companies globally, and connect smart devices to the cloud. Microsoft partners involved in the initiative currently include Apriso Corp., Camstar Systems Inc., ICONICS Inc., Rockwell Automation Inc., Siemens MES and Tata Consultancy Services Ltd.

"Globalization has fragmented industry value chains, making them more complex and unable to quickly respond to increased competition and shorter product lifecycles. Cloud computing is empowering today's global manufacturers to rethink how they innovate and collaborate across the value chain," said Sanjay Ravi, managing director, Worldwide Discrete Manufacturing Industry for Microsoft. "As a result of these increasingly rapid changes in technology and business, manufacturers are seeking guidance on how to best plan and deploy these powerful technologies in concert with their business strategies and priorities and how to achieve greater competitive differentiation. Microsoft is leading a DIRA Framework in response to this need while offering a pragmatic solution roadmap for IT integration and adoption."

Cloud Computing Survey Findings
The Microsoft Discrete Manufacturing Cloud Computing Survey 2011, which polled 152 IT and business decision-makers within automotive, aerospace, high-tech and electronics, and industrial equipment manufacturing companies in Germany, France and the United States, found that the biggest benefit of cloud computing is lowered cost of optimizing infrastructure, according to 48.3 percent of respondents. This was followed closely by efficient collaboration across geographies(47.7 percent) and the ability to respond quickly to business demands (38.4 percent).

"The survey shows current cloud computing initiatives are targeted at cost reduction, but a growing number of forward-looking companies are exploring new and innovative business capabilities uniquely delivered through the cloud," Ravi said. "Manufacturers are exploring ways to improve product design with social product development, enhance visibility across multiple tiers in the value chain, and create new business models and customer experiences based on smart devices connecting to the cloud."

DIRA Framework
Development of the discrete manufacturing reference architecture will be an ongoing effort led by Microsoft, with close collaboration by participating companies, including industry solution vendors and systems integrators. The initiative defines six key themes to guide this development: natural user interfaces, role-based productivity and insights, social business, dynamic value networks, smart connected devices, and security-enhanced, scalable and adaptive infrastructure.

Microsoft has developed the principles of the DIRA Framework in conjunction with the technology adoption plans and solution strategies of its key partners. Several Microsoft partners across multiple business areas in manufacturing have endorsed the DIRA Framework because it helps them deliver high levels of customer value through complementary solutions aligned with the framework.

More Stories By Salvatore Genovese

Salvatore Genovese is a Cloud Computing consultant and an i-technology blogger based in Rome, Italy. He occasionally blogs about SOA, start-ups, mergers and acquisitions, open source and bleeding-edge technologies, companies, and personalities. Sal can be reached at hamilton(at)sys-con.com.