To bring more security to the Internet of Things, Microsoft is taking a bang over the Azure Sphere end-to-end security solution, bringing its own microcontrollers and a new Linux-based IoT operating system.

As part of a live security briefing on the sidelines of the RSA conference, Microsoft announced a solution that combines its Azure-based cloud services with IoT devices. Azure Sphere is designed to enable manufacturers to build secure, Internet-connected devices based on microcontrollers (MCUs) for smart home and industrial 4.0 applications. According to Microsoft, the declared aim is to ensure operational security for the IoT devices over a lifespan of ten years.

The solution consists of three components: First, a Microsoft-developed, Azure Sphere-certified set of MCUs (Micro Controller Units), the core of all networked devices – combining real-time and application processors with integrated Microsoft security technology and connectivity. The MCUs support seven critical hardware features that Microsoft says are a necessary foundation for building secure systems. These include support for non-fake hardware-protected encryption keys, the ability to update system software, and hardware-based partitioning between software components.

 

The second component of the solution is the Azure Sphere OS operating system, which was specially developed for secure IoT applications. This, according to Microsoft has a customized Linux kernel with ” Windows- inspired” security features and should provide a secure platform base, which is also suitable for smaller systems. “Of course, we are the Windows Company,” Chief Justice Brad Smith said during the webcast of Microsoft’s plan on its own Linux distribution – after 43 years. “But we realized that the best solution for a computer of this size – say in a toy – cannot be a full version of Windows.”

Last but not least, Azure Sphere includes the Azure Sphere Security Service cloud service to protect networked devices. The service is designed to detect security issues by detecting failures and errors on devices, as well as acting as a source of software updates and ensuring secure communication between devices and the cloud.

Devices are expected by the end of 2018. The first AzureSphere chip, MediaTek MT3620, is expected to be available during the 2018 calendar year. Developer kits will be deployed in mid-2018.

Unclear, however, is the future of Windows IoT Core: The hardened and stripped-down Windows version was only completed last year and so far designed for corresponding scenarios.