Microsoft officially launched Cortana Suites — a key part of Windows Azure Intelligent Cloud — in China last week, together with MySQL Database on Azure. Windows Azure Intelligent Cloud provides real-time analytics and open source database services to Chinese customers in nationwide data centers operated by 21Vianet.

To give Chinese customers a better idea of how to use cloud-based analytics, Windows Azure demonstrated customer usage scenarios involving big data analytics on cloud. The China Meteorological Administration partnered with AccuWeather, using Windows Azure to monitor and analyze air quality data from meteorological satellites and local air monitoring stations in real time.

Chinese manufacturers face challenges from digital service providers that better understand customers and shorten the distance from product design to the end user. After implementing real-time analytics on sensor data and customer behavior, manufacturers can improve their business models via:

  • Product innovation. Chinese manufacturers have started tracking operational data from sensors embedded in their products to manage and predict product upgrade and maintenance cycles. Customers prefer to pay for the time they actually use the equipment — so mechanical manufacturers use cloud analytics to support this sales model. The recent rash of elevator accidents in China primarily involved elevators whose manufacturers had limited labor resources for post-sales services — a common complaint of Chinese elevator manufacturers.
  • Supply chain optimization. Warehousing and distribution costs have increased significantly in tier 1 and tier 2 cities in China. Manufacturers must cut supply chain costs by using new tracking systems. Manufacturers can use real-time analysis of distribution and RFID tag data to predict and optimize the inventory and distributions. A leading apparel manufacturer implemented 80 million RFID chips to track all of the products in its 100 warehouses in China. The firm collects this data and expects the powerful and elastic analytics engine to support its supply chain optimization.
  • Customer tracking and targeting. Traditional manufacturers in China face challenges from digital service providers like Alibaba or Tencent with intimate knowledge of customers and their demands. Traditional manufacturers must analyze customer data, including data from online, mobile, and offline sources like branded retail stores to get closer to end user customers. They need to work with media and advertising agencies and demand-side platform providers with real-time cloud analytics. Admaster has already used Windows Azure Intelligent Cloud to deliver regular reports that analyze large-scale data from online and offline channels.