Microsoft Announces Azure Sphere – Powered by Linux
You may think that you’ve entered an alternate reality when you hear that Microsoft says they’re going to release their own Linux kernel. Microsoft and Linux were once considered to be fierce enemies as Microsoft viewed Linux as the number one competitor to the Windows OS.
However, Microsoft realized that their Windows operating system was much too large to exist on small microprocessors for everyday things like cameras, smartphones, and all the little things that include onboard processors nowadays. So, Microsoft decided to make its first venture into this arena by creating its own version of Linux; combining it with new proprietary microprocessor architecture and linking it to Microsoft Azure running in the cloud.
IoT or the “Internet of Things” is a new term used to describe the ever-increasing world of small gadgets that are connected to the internet. Microsoft Azure Sphere OS is a scaled down Linux based operating system that is mainly concerned with providing security to these gadgets. These new smart gadgets will soon hit the market powered by Azure Sphere chips that will run the new OS. They will be connected to Microsoft Azure in the Cloud, automatically update their programming and apply new security patches to prevent hackers from attacking all of the small technology devices that we have grown to depend on every day.
What’s Included in Microsoft Azure Sphere?
A secured MCU (Microcontroller Unit) is the first component in Microsoft’s “from the silicon to the cloud” security approach. The chip will have built-in Microsoft security, and the new Pluton Security System will serve to create a hardware trust, store private encryption keys and manage cryptographic services. This chip will combine two different types of Cortex controllers (A and M) to take advantage of the most attractive characteristics of each. The chip will also have built-in Internet connectivity to keep the OS up to date.
The next tool will be the Linux based Secured OS. The OS will utilize secured application containers to compartmentalize code blocks making it more agile, robust and secure. The OS’s custom Linux kernel will enable more silicon diversity and promote innovation. It will also include an onboard security monitor to guard its integrity and act as a gatekeeper to manage access to critical resources.
The third and last piece of the puzzle will be cloud-based security. This new security service will be tasked with renewing and updating security patches, identifying possible new threats, and promoting trust between devices, the cloud, and other endpoints. It will employ certificate-based authentication for all of its communications which will verify the device’s authenticity and ensure that it’s running genuine software. It will also be able to respond to threats through automatic security updates. Software updates will also be easily deployed to Azure Sphere powered devices.
Azure Sphere is the first design that starts in the silicon and extends to the cloud resulting in security to protect all of our modern devices. No one ever thought they would see the pairing of Microsoft and Linux, but this matchup is a perfect fit. Some devices are already running the new Azure Sphere MCU’s and the list is growing every day. In the coming years, the world will be more connected and hopefully safer than ever before because of Azure Sphere.
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