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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.

11 comments

Monz RM February 2, 2019 at 12:45 pm

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

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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.

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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

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Jaguar September 30, 2019 at 6:44 am

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Taruski September 30, 2019 at 6:41 am

Windows is cancer. Period.

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Norm M. March 5, 2020 at 10:14 pm

Hey let’s face it. Micro$oft is a business. And as most top-tier money hungry entities, it will use whatever is at hand to make more money and have dominance in the industry. M$ has been courting Linux for years. It was only a matter of time before they saw a reason to adopt what Linux has been doing right from the very start.

Linux is not perfect. No OS is. They each have their strengths and weaknesses. But Windows has been nothing but a pain in my ass since I first laid eyes on Windows 3.1 and it never seemed to get that much better. I made a living repairing computers since 1981 when I worked at D.E.C. Windows was like a joke when I first saw it and remained that way in my mind ever since. It wasn’t until I started using Linux (about 15 years ago now) that I realized there could be a stable, secure and decent way to compute on a PC.

Rest assured that Micro$oft will still find some way to botch whatever OS they decide to create out of the ashes of Linux. It’s not like these people are stupid. They aren’t , I’m sure of that. But there’s something about their internal politics and design mentality that allows makes it way more difficult to work with and always gobbles tons of RAM to get the job done. Oh well, not skin off my butt. As long as I have a choice of operating systems, and Linux coders aren’t forced by U.S. government decree to write code to please the State , I’ll stick with Linux. (I wouldn’t be using this lowly Acer One netbook to write this comment using Win7 Starter that it came with. Instead, my installation of MX-Linus using LXDE on this machine gets things done without all the typical M$ interruptions and lag.) Using an OS like “Windoze” on this under-powered Intel Atom CPU was done just to please the sheeple in the marketplace. Linux should have had much more market domination but since it’s “free”, it’s hard to put the advertising bucks behind the product to convince consumers it’s a great OS.

Let’s leave it up to Micro$oft to spend the advertising dollars and probably even claim they invented Linux (chances are they’ll just call it something new and modify it enough so they don’t get sued by Linus Torvalds). I expect nothing but the worst behaviour from Microsoft, and I don’t believe for a second that the departure of Gates and Ballmer will ever make up for the abusive we Linux users had to endure from these two cretins.

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ianken51 April 19, 2020 at 8:56 pm

So it’s a “holistic solution to secure devices based on microcontroller units” eh? So just exactly does that mean in vernacular English?

Pretty much it seems Micro$oft is saying Windows 10 (and all previous versions by definition) is basically insecure and they need a “natively secure” OS environment that ain’t Windows. ERGO LINUX because it’s free.

Now Micro$oft will start to Whiteant Linux from the inside. There will be Micro$soft enhancements using exclusive MS only Copyrighted code or ideas. And before you know it Micro$oft will have perverted Linux.

DON’T TRUST MICRO$OFT. Different tune but same lyrics!

Reply
Jorin August 27, 2020 at 4:00 am

Note, it says nothing about making people’s lives better. After all, how does being constantly monitored improve our lives? As always, MS is most interested in helping businesses succeed.

Reply

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