In a recent blog post, Microsoft announced the availability of Azure Sphere – a secure IoT platform – for the public.
The Azure Sphere platform focuses on three specific areas, which include microcontroller units, secure OS and cloud security services. The OS is Linux-based and the cloud security services include software updates to detect emerging threats.
Azure Sphere was the product of Microsoft Research and was developed under the name of Project Sopris. In March 2017, the product was finalized and is now finally being released to the public.
Microsoft Program Manager Halina McMaster said,
Our mission is to empower every organization on the planet to connect and create secure and trustworthy devices.
She outlined how the rigorous software and hardware testing for Azure Sphere had finally reached completion. It had finally achieved tight-knit security reviews. Its security service was also ready to support organizations of any size. In addition, the operations and security processes, which have been put in place, have been deemed ready to upscale.
The heart of the Azure Sphere platform, however, is its MCUs (Microcontroller Units), which have been built with security and connectivity in mind.
This living ecosystem has been achieved through a certification program that manufacturers have participated in. Their chips have been included in this platform, including the MediaTek 3620 chip and the Arm Cortex-A7 processor.
Keeping aside the hardware, Microsoft has also focused on the provision of a secure operating system. This is a Linux-based OS that the application containers and on-chip cloud services run on. It also includes a security pico-visor. The OS is a custom version of Linux that has been optimized for an IoT platform and is open source as well.
The reason for the continuous security updates and the emphasis on security is due to customer concerns. Many customers are apprehensive of IoT since it involves connecting so many devices. In other words, there is so much data to play around with without having a concern for security.
The challenges that Azure Sphere is presently facing center on ensuring customers’ peace of mind. Multiple distinct technologies and their engineering applications had to be integrated to achieve this.
According to McMaster, the team couldn’t think of components in isolation. Instead, an approach of unified interoperability had to be taken so that the hardware and software would work together. Hence, all the security services, chips, operating systems, and SDK would complement each other.
Microsoft believes in using multiple strategies to tackle security concerns in IoT. These include using hardware root of trust, defense-in-depth, and online software updates. They’ve also implemented certificate-based trust brokering and a trusted computing base. The software also includes many dynamic compartments and failure reporting, which helps reduce errors.
If you’re interested in starting an IoT project, contact us and we’ll connect you to a technology partner that can help you.