Microsoft introduces Azure Sphere for securing IoT devices

AI cloud to rule global business trends Microsoft India MD

Sashikumar Sreedharan Microsoft India's managing director for enterprise commercial business

Azure Sphere certified microcontrollers (MCUs): A new cross-over class of MCUs that combines both real-time and application processors with built-in Microsoft security technology and connectivity.

"Why use Linux? "With Azure Sphere, Microsoft is addressing an entirely new class of IoT devices, the MCU", Rob Lefferts, Microsoft's partner director for Windows enterprise and security told me at the event".

Azure Sphere has three components.

The Sopris team said it was working silicon partner MediaTek to revise one of their controllers - the the Wi-Fi-enabled MT7687 - to create a prototype of a highly secure microcontroller.

Azure Sphere is less likely to appeal to companies that make affordable connected gadgets with thin profit margins, such as baby monitors or toys, where consumers are more price sensitive, said Saniye Alaybeyi, a research director for Gartner Inc.

Microsoft announced an "Azure Sphere" architecture for high-end microcontrollers that run a Linux-based Azure Sphere OS and include end-to-end Microsoft security technologies and a cloud service.

Microcontrollers are an important piece of the hardware ecosystem that power billions of devices. Microsoft is including a new security subsystem in these secured multicontrollers that it calls "Pluton."

The first Azure Sphere chip will be the MediaTek MT3620. Microsoft calls it a "crossover MCU" that has the versatility and processing power of ARM's Cortex A-series designs, with the small size and low overheads more typical of the Cortex M-series.

In recent years, we've seen Microsoft has increasingly softened its long-time anti-Linux stance by adding Linux support to its Azure service and targeting Windows 10 IoT at the Raspberry Pi, among other experiments. But the company is still crowing about this being the first day that it's distributing a custom Linux kernel.

Azure Sphere OS: This OS is purpose-built to offer unequalled security and agility. The global market for microcontroller chips that can connect to the web-roughly one-eighth of the overall microcontroller-chip business-hit $2.2 billion a year ago, said Tom Hackenberg, a principal analyst with the research firm, IHS Markit Ltd.

Azure Sphere is in private preview as of today, Microsoft official said and dev kits will be available by mid-year. Microsoft expects the first wave of Azure Sphere-powered devices to be "on shelves" by the end of calendar 2018, they said. For years, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took turns deriding Linux and open source while warning about the threat they posed to the tech industry. This capability is meant to build on top of its Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection service by providing new investigation and remediation capabilities.

And Microsoft is making an interface for its Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph available to customers and developers, officials said.

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