Microsoft Calls On Linux for Its New IoT Security Platform

Microsoft Calls On Linux for Its New IoT Security Platform
Microsoft has opted to use its own version of a Linux operating system instead of Windows 10 to drive its new Azure Sphere solution for securely connecting Internet of Things devices.

Microsoft has opted to use its own version of a Linux operating system instead of Windows 10 to drive its new Azure Sphere solution for securely connecting Internet of Things devices.

Microsoft introduced Azure Sphere last week at the RSA security conference in San Francisco.
Azure Sphere is a platform that connects microcontroller units, or MCUs, embedded in cloud-connected devices. The platform operates a new cross-over class of MCUs that incorporate real-time and application processors with built-in Microsoft security technology and connectivity.
Each chip includes custom silicon security technology that Microsoft developed. The new Azure Sphere-certified chips are based on the company's 15 years of experience with Xbox, to secure this new class of MCUs and the devices they power, according to Microsoft.
The Azure Sphere OS is a custom built version of the open source Linux operating system.
"After 43 years, this is the first day that we are announcing -- and will be distributing -- a custom Linux kernel," said Microsoft President Brad Smith.
The decision to bypass its own Windows 10 OS in favor of open source technology is a good rationale for Microsoft, said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy.

Deep Security
The Azure Sphere platform promises five times the performance of standard MCUs, according to Microsoft. It is a crossover chip that combines the benefits of ARM-based Cortex-A and Cortex-M processor cores.
The new chip includes the company's Pluton security subsystem and built-in network connectivity, along with a real-time processor, an application processor, memory, flash and more.
Microsoft's Azure Sphere is a four-layer platform with a security monitor on the deepest level. On top of that are the custom Linux kernel, on-chip connectivity services and secured application containers.
The operating system is backed by Microsoft's Azure Sphere Security Service in the cloud, which guarantees certificate-based authentication, genuine software and automated updates.


Open Source Benefits
Azure Sphere is open to additional software innovation by the open source community, according to Microsoft. It also is compatible with any cloud, not just Microsoft's Azure-branded platform. Even more, the chip design can be used by any manufacturer absolutely free.
Sphere's open source foundation "marks a significant strategic departure for Microsoft and also indicates the path that the company believes will lead it into a new era and toward still-evolving commercial opportunities," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
Rather than contorting Windows 10 into doing something probably beyond its design strengths, taking the open source route is a good rationale for Microsoft, he told LinuxInsider.
Windows was designed as a multipurpose OS capable of supporting a wide range of applications and system functions.
"By contrast, IoT devices are far more limited in terms of size, scope and functionality," he said, "so it made more sense for the company to pursue an entirely new initiative rather than trying to develop a scaled-down version of Windows."
That effort also allows Microsoft to bind Sphere closely to its Azure cloud platform, which is central to its IoT strategy
Assorted Strengths
Sphere's greatest strengths are its embedded, silicon-level security functions and the associated Azure Sphere Security Service, which rest on the robust security features Microsoft developed for Windows and Xbox solutions.
Sphere's biggest strength, in the view of Moor Insights' Moorhead, is being more than a bag of parts from many different companies. It is a full solution, including hardware, operating system and cloud security.

Apr 23, 2018 05:06

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