At last Microsoft agreed Linux is Secure, Powerful and Lite weight by Introducing Microsoft Azure Sphere

  • After 43 years, this is the first day that we are announcing, and will be distributing, a custom Linux kernel,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said on stage at an event in San Francisco.
  • Microsoft on Monday announced Azure Sphere, a new technology to protect the processors that power smart appliances, connected toys, and other gadgets.
  • Azure Sphere is powered in large part by Linux, a free operating system that Microsoft once viewed as a major threat.
  • It’s the first time ever that Microsoft has made Linux part of a product offering

We’ll get to the specifics in a moment, but here’s the really notable part: To power Azure Sphere, Microsoft has developed its own, custom version of Linux – the free, open source operating system that Microsoft once considered the single biggest threat to the supremacy of its Windows software.

Nearly every consumer gadget, every household appliance, and every industrial device will be connected to the Internet. These connected devices will also become more intelligent with the ability to predict, talk, listen, and more. The companies who manufacture these devices will have an opportunity to reimagine everything and fundamentally transform their businesses with new product offerings, new customer experiences, and differentiate against competition with new business models.

All these everyday devices have in common a tiny chip, often smaller than the size of your thumbnail, called a microcontroller (MCU). The MCU functions as the brain of the device, hosting the compute, storage, memory, and an operating system right on the device. Over 9 billion of these MCU-powered devices are built and deployed every year. For perspective, that’s more devices shipping every single year than the world’s entire human population. While few of these devices are connected to the Internet today, within just a few years, this entire industry, all 9 billion or more devices per year, is on path to include connected MCUs.

Smith said that by Microsoft’s reckoning, the fact that most new gadgetry comes with a processor is cause for concern: In 2016, unsecured cameras and other appliances were harnessed by bad guys to mount a massive cyberattack that took down major websites for hours. Years later, people are still buying smart gadgets, but security hasn’t always improved.

To that end, Azure Sphere takes a combined approach, using hardware, software, and the cloud to hopefully solve this problem.

First, Microsoft has come up with a design for a new, more powerful kind of microprocessor, which it will make available to actual chip manufacturers for free.

Second, Microsoft has developed Azure Sphere OS, the Linux-based operating system that will run on those chips – Smith says that while Microsoft is a “Windows company,” a full-fledged version of its flagship operating system was too big and too unwieldy for what it had in mind.

Third, the chip/OS combo will be integrated with an Azure Sphere cloud security service, which will keep the devices up to date with security patches for 10 years or longer.

Smith says that the first Azure Sphere-powered hardware will hit the market later in 2018, with details forthcoming.

But, hey, Microsoft is making its own Linux! That’s weird, and yet, it’s been a long time coming.

Tags: Linux, Brad Smith, Microsoft, Microsoft Azure