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InfoQ Homepage News Azure Sphere, a Secure IoT Platform, Reaches General Availability

Azure Sphere, a Secure IoT Platform, Reaches General Availability

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In a recent blog post, Microsoft announced the general availability (GA) of Azure Sphere, an end-to-end IoT Security Platform. The Azure Sphere platform focuses on three key areas including microcontroller units (MCUs), a secure operating system (OS), which is based upon Linux, and providing cloud security services including software updates and detecting emerging threats.

Azure Sphere originated out of Microsoft Research, under the name of Project Sopris back in March 2017. Therefore, reaching GA is an important milestone for Microsoft customers. Halina McMaster, principal group program manager at Microsoft, explains:

Our mission is to empower every organization on the planet to connect and create secured and trustworthy IoT devices. General availability is an important milestone for our team and for our customers, demonstrating that we are ready to fulfill our promise at scale. For Azure Sphere, this marks a few specific points in our development. First, our software and hardware have completed rigorous quality and security reviews. Second, our security service is ready to support organizations of any size. And third, our operations and security processes are in place and ready for scale.

At the core of Azure Sphere is secured MCUs that have been built with security and connectivity in-mind. To achieve building this ecosystem, Microsoft has established a certification program that manufacturers participate in to have their chips included in the platform. This includes the MediaTek 3620 chip that has built-in WiFi and an Arm Cortex-A7 processor.

In addition to hardware, Microsoft is also focusing on providing a secure operating system that includes application containers, on-chip cloud services and a security pico-visor. The operating system is a custom version of the Linux kernel, but optimized for IoT and is open-source.

When it comes to IoT, security is naturally a concern for customers. McMaster explains how Microsoft approaches security inside of Azure Sphere:

The challenges of IoT device security that keep us up at night lead to the features and capabilities that give our customers peace of mind. It’s ambitious and demanding work. To realize the defense-in-depth approach, we had to integrate multiple distinct technologies and their related engineering disciplines. Our team can’t think about any component in isolation. Instead, we work from a unified view of interoperability and dependencies that brings together our silicon, operating system, SDK, security services, and developer experience. Having a clear mission gives us a shared focus to strategize and collaborate across teams and technologies.

To address IoT security concerns, Microsoft believes in a multi-pronged strategy that includes the following properties: using hardware root of trust, defense-in-depth, over-the-air software updates, certificate-based brokering of trust, a trusted computing base, dynamic compartments and failure reporting.

Image source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iiDF26HNh-Y

Microsoft has identified many industries taking advantage of IoT and Azure Sphere. These industries include manufacturing, retail, agriculture, energy and city development. For additional information, please refer to their IoT in Action webinar series.

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  • 7 Properties

    by Andy Clark /

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    I can recommend reading the 7 Properties of Highly Secure Systems, around which the Azure Sphere was designed - www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/wp-content/upl...

  • Dev Kits

    by Andy Clark /

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    There are some great dev kits for the Azure Sphere from Seeed and AVNet. Be aware you'll need an Azure account to use these, once you register them with a tenant they are bound to that and will get software updates from Microsoft. You can develop for this platform using Visual Studio or more recently VSCode on Mac, Windows and Linux.

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