Azure IoT Central architecture (preview features)

Note

You're currently viewing the IoT Central documentation for application templates that use preview features. To view the documentation for application templates that use generally available features, go to What is Azure IoT Central?.

This article provides an overview of the Microsoft Azure IoT Central architecture.

Top-level architecture

Devices

Devices exchange data with your Azure IoT Central application. A device can:

  • Send measurements such as telemetry.
  • Synchronize settings with your application.

In Azure IoT Central, the data that a device can exchange with your application is specified in a device template. For more information about device templates, see Metadata management.

To learn more about how devices connect to your Azure IoT Central application, see Device connectivity.

Azure IoT Edge devices

As well as devices created using the Azure IoT SDKs, you can also connect Azure IoT Edge devices to an IoT Central application. IoT Edge lets you run cloud intelligence and custom logic directly on IoT devices managed by IoT Central. The IoT Edge runtime enables you to:

  • Install and update workloads on the device.
  • Maintain IoT Edge security standards on the device.
  • Ensure that IoT Edge modules are always running.
  • Report module health to the cloud for remote monitoring.
  • Manage communication between downstream leaf devices and an IoT Edge device, between modules on an IoT Edge device, and between an IoT Edge device and the cloud.

Azure IoT Central with Azure IoT Edge

IoT Central enables the following capabilities to for IoT Edge devices:

  • Device templates to describe the capabilities of an IoT Edge device, such as:

    • Deployment manifest upload capability, which helps you manage a manifest for a fleet of devices.
    • Modules that run on the IoT Edge device.
    • The telemetry each module sends.
    • The properties each module reports.
    • The commands each module responds to.
    • The relationships between an IoT Edge gateway device capability model and downstream device capability model.
    • Cloud properties that aren't stored on the IoT Edge device.
    • Customizations, dashboards, and forms that are part of your IoT Central application.

    For more information, see the Create an IoT Edge device template tutorial.

  • The ability to provision IoT Edge devices at scale using Azure IoT device provisioning service

  • Rules and actions.

  • Custom dashboards and analytics.

  • Continuous data export of telemetry from IoT Edge devices.

IoT Edge device types

IoT Central classifies IoT Edge device types as follows:

  • Leaf devices. An IoT Edge device can have downstream leaf devices, but these devices aren't provisioned in IoT Central.
  • Gateway devices with downstream devices. Both gateway device and downstream devices are provisioned in IoT Central

IoT Central with IoT Edge Overview

IoT Edge patterns

IoT Central supports the following IoT Edge device patterns:

IoT Edge as leaf device

IoT Edge as leaf device

The IoT Edge device is provisioned in IoT Central and any downstream devices and their telemetry is represented as coming from the IoT Edge device. Downstream devices connected to the IoT Edge device aren't provisioned in IoT Central.

IoT Edge gateway device connected to downstream devices with identity

IoT Edge with downstream device identity

The IoT Edge device is provisioned in IoT Central along with the downstream devices connected to the IoT Edge device. Runtime support for provisioning downstream devices through the gateway isn't currently supported.

IoT Edge gateway device connected to downstream devices with identity provided by the IoT Edge gateway

IoT Edge with downstream device without identity

The IoT Edge device is provisioned in IoT Central along with the downstream devices connected to the IoT Edge device. Runtime support of gateway providing identity to downstream devices and provisioning of downstream devices isn't currently supported. If you bring your own identity translation module, IoT Central can support this pattern.

Cloud gateway

Azure IoT Central uses Azure IoT Hub as a cloud gateway that enables device connectivity. IoT Hub enables:

  • Data ingestion at scale in the cloud.
  • Device management.
  • Secure device connectivity.

To learn more about IoT Hub, see Azure IoT Hub.

To learn more about device connectivity in Azure IoT Central, see Device connectivity.

Data stores

Azure IoT Central stores application data in the cloud. Application data stored includes:

  • Device templates.
  • Device identities.
  • Device metadata.
  • User and role data.

Azure IoT Central uses a time series store for the measurement data sent from your devices. Time series data from devices used by the analytics service.

Analytics

The analytics service is responsible for generating the custom reporting data that the application displays. An operator can customize the analytics displayed in the application. The analytics service is built on top of Azure Time Series Insights and processes the measurement data sent from your devices.

Rules and actions

Rules and actions work closely together to automate tasks within the application. A builder can define rules based on device telemetry such as the temperature exceeding a defined threshold. Azure IoT Central uses a stream processor to determine when the rule conditions are met. When a rule condition is met, it triggers an action defined by the builder. For example, an action can send an email to notify an engineer that the temperature in a device is too high.

Metadata management

In an Azure IoT Central application, device templates define the behavior and capability of types of device. For example, a refrigerator device template specifies the telemetry a refrigerator sends to your application.

Template architecture

In an IoT Central Preview application device template:

  • Device capability models specify the capabilities of a device such as the telemetry it sends, the properties that define the device state, and the commands the device responds to. Device capabilities are organized into one or more interfaces. For more information about device capability models, see the IoT Plug and Play documentation.
  • Cloud properties specify the properties IoT Central stores for a device. These properties are only stored in IoT Central and are never sent to a device.
  • Views specify the dashboards and forms the builder creates to let the operator monitor and manage the devices.
  • Customizations let the builder override some of the definitions in the device capability model to make them more relevant to the IoT Central application.

An application can have one or more simulated and real devices based on each device template.

Data export

In an Azure IoT Central application, you can continuously export your data to your own Azure Event Hubs and Azure Service Bus instances. You can also periodically export your data to your Azure Blob storage account. IoT Central can export measurements, devices, and device templates.

Batch device updates

In an Azure IoT Central application, you can create and run jobs to manage connected devices. These jobs let you do bulk updates to device properties or settings, or run commands. For example, you can create a job to increase the fan speed for multiple refrigerated vending machines.

Role-based access control (RBAC)

An administrator can define access rules for an Azure IoT Central application using the predefined roles. An administrator can assign users to roles that determine what areas of the application the user has access to.

Security

Security features within Azure IoT Central include:

  • Data is encrypted in transit and at rest.
  • Authentication is provided either by Azure Active Directory or Microsoft Account. Two-factor authentication is supported.
  • Full tenant isolation.
  • Device level security.

UI shell

The UI shell is a modern, responsive, HTML5 browser-based application. An administrator can customize the UI of the application by applying custom themes and modifying the help links to point to your own custom help resources. To learn more about UI customization, see Customize the Azure IoT Central UI article.

An operator can create personalized application dashboards. You can have several dashboards that display different data and switch between them.

Next steps

Now that you've learned about the architecture of Azure IoT Central, the suggested next step is to learn about device connectivity in Azure IoT Central.