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Microsoft’s New Operating System Based On Linux

microsoft loves linux

I will start by saying that bash in Windows 10 was just the beginning and that Linux is basically an integral part of the Microsoft system. But that much-talked-about and even somewhat surprising love of Microsoft to Linux has taken an even bigger step this time: a new OS.

Microsoft announced Azure Sphere OS, its first operating system based on Linux to improve the security of the Internet of Things. It is the first time in its 43 years of existence that Microsoft announces something similar, the first time in its history that a custom Linux kernel will be distributed.

What is Azure Sphere?

For Microsoft, it is the first “holistic solution to secure devices based on microcontroller units” (MCUs). These devices are the millions of objects connected to the Internet that are sold every year and that is constantly abused due to lack of security. They are the gigantic vulnerability that the Internet has become. Azure Sphere is not just a system, but a new class of MCUs that Microsoft has developed. The company is also going to license the manufacturers free of royalties so that any partner can develop and manufacture their own Azure Sphere chips.

Azure Sphere is then a new chip for things like thermostats, refrigerators, smart toys and other objects connected to the Internet. And, at the same time, it is a custom operating system built with security in mind. A system that incorporates a Linux kernel customized and optimized for the IoT.

Microsoft applying what it has learned from security working in Windows to a Linux kernel implementation.

Microsoft says that Linux kernel has been reworked with security innovations that were pioneers in Windows to create a highly secure environment. We are seeing something that many would never have imagined, Microsoft applying what they have learned from security working in Windows to a Linux kernel implementation.

Azure Sphere will also integrate cloud security services that will protect each device and will work with any cloud, including private or proprietary. Microsoft will offer the ability to update or improve device protection for up to 10 years.

There are three components:

  • Azure Sphere OS
  • Azure Sphere certified microcontrollers
  • The cloud-based security service of Azure Sphere.

This new project is the result of the company’s work to improve the security of Windows, Office and also the Xbox chips. Azure Sphere combines what they have learned with all that, and at least on paper, it sounds like a good step forward to improve the security of the Internet of things.  

Why not use Windows?

This you can answer only: what will your smart vacuum cleaner do with Windows? The same Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, has explained that his operating system simply remains too large to be used in this project. It is the versatility of Linux that makes it an ideal solution for Azure Sphere. Microsoft will continue to offer support to both the system and the chips, it’s a smart idea (ask Red Hat ) for smart objects.

The versatility of Linux makes it the ideal solution, and more so now that Microsoft has fully embraced its development

Nor does it make sense to develop something from scratch, when Linux makes all the sense in the world, and the Microsoft of 2018 does not think like the Microsoft of 2012, we do not have Ballmer labeling Linux as “cancer”, but saying that he loves it.

This is the Microsoft that is shaping part of the future of Linux, a company that has been hiring Linux kernel developers for a long time. Azure welcomed Linux some time ago, and if anything is clear with this, Microsoft is looking to make the most of its relatively new relationship with open source.

Since 2016, Microsoft is a Platinum member of the Linux Foundation, something that allowed them to sit a developer of the Azure team on the Foundation’s Board of Directors. Platinum members spend up to half a million dollars a year to finance the development of Linux. Microsoft is not the only company that collaborates in this way, so do others such as Google, Intel, and IBM. Obviously, the benefit far exceeds the investment.

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8 comments

Monz RM February 2, 2019 at 12:45 pm

Finally Windows is talking… “Undeniably, Linux Security is better”.

Reply
D Nobody March 3, 2019 at 2:33 am

No, they’re saying the Linux kernel, suitably modified, is a better solution than a desktop OS for tiny MCUs. Ironic that it’s Microsoft that understands what needs to be done to make IOT secure when Linux developers have consistently failed.

Reply
1967DS21 July 14, 2019 at 11:20 am

Through the History the MS modus operandi was:
FIGHT competition
EMBRACE competition ( see WINDOWS OS versus OS/2 or JAVA v.s. C#)
EXTEND ( see MS JAVA extensions were not compatible with original JAVA)
DUMP JAVA, OS/2

Right now the MS is EMBRACE stage regarding LINUX kernel

Reply
Jaguar September 30, 2019 at 6:44 am

I agree, but it doesn’t mean it will work.

Reply
George July 17, 2019 at 6:24 am

In short, people don’t see any wisdom in paying for an old style MS licence for say… keeping track of their wine chiller: they won’t unless there’s five figures worth of wine at risk should it fail. In someplace like Nevada, that can doom a wine collection in short order if it’s out in the garage. Linux is the only way to go for IOT, as a stripped down kernel is much easier to get at for managing single purpose devices. For the example given, logging temperatures on a rolling basis [say… 100 hours on five minute intervals] and communicating it remotely is all that matters – no hard drive controllers, hdmi/graphics ports etc exist to demand extra resources.

Reply
Wendell Anderson July 17, 2019 at 9:59 pm

Linux developers do not, nor have not ever taken a monopolistic position on the “correct way” to secure Linux kernel in IoT devices, instead leaving such tasks up to manufacturers – like Samsung, etc.

Who is to say -other than Microsoft dupes – that Microsoft’s Linux kernel security development is any better, possibly worse than such efforts of other kernel security projects.

My only hope is that the Free Software Foundation (FSF), stewards of the Linux kernel GPL licensing, will be vigilant is constantly examining Microsoft’s code to ensure compliance with the strict GPL requirements, and legally stop the company from shipping or using infringing code should it be found in violation – as is so often the case with Microsoft.

Reply
JohnnyCash September 28, 2019 at 7:41 am

…goes to show you how talentless Microsoft is. None of there software is original. If they can’t copy it then no more company. lol
I do give them credit though for being able to make money off of open source software.

Reply
Taruski September 30, 2019 at 6:41 am

Windows is cancer. Period.

Reply

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