Microsoft introduces iot platform with custom Linux kernel and chip

Apr

17

2018

Microsoft introduces Azure Sphere, which consists of a low-cost, Microsoft-adapted MediaTek chip, an operating system based on a Linux kernel and security through software updates.

“After 43 years, this is the first day to announce and distribute a custom Linux kernel, ” Microsoft President Brad Smith said during the announcement in San Francisco, according to Business Insider. The intention is that manufacturers develop internet-of-things products and services based on Azure Sphere , according to the announcement. Microsoft starts a test with a limited group of companies. Halfway through this year, developer kits should become widely available and by the end of this year the first Azure Sphere-based products and services should be available.

The platform rests on three pillars. One is a microcontroller. According to Microsoft, there is not enough security features in existing microcontrollers, such as compartmentalization , certificate-based authentication, renewable security such as software updates and reporting. To achieve this, Microsoft and MediaTek have adapted an existing ARM Cortex-M4 chip with Wi-Fi and bluetooth, the MT7687 , and the result is named Sopris.

Microsoft Sopris MCU Azure Sphere

Among other things, an additional cpu for security, a cryptographic engine, a hardware-based rng and storage for keys have been added to the microcontroller for a complete root of trust . Microsoft is going to license the design for free, so that other chipmakers can get started.

The mcu works in combination with Sphere OS. This is an operating system based on Microsoft’s own Linux kernel, the company of which makes the code available under an open source license. Applications work in containers on the operating system for security purposes. Microsoft already has an operating system for internet-of-things, Windows IoT , but that requires considerably more powerful hardware to run smoothly.

The third pillar of the platform is Azure Sphere Security Service, an online service for authentication, software updates and security vulnerability detection.

Microsoft Azure Sphere

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