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Microsoft’s New Operating System Based On 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?

microsoft 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?

microsoft loves linux

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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13 Comments Text
    • 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.

  • 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)

    Right now the MS is EMBRACE stage regarding LINUX kernel

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • …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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • I like the article. But, more so, I have to laugh at the comments. Say what you will, be as cancerous in your belief systems as you like… but… Looking at it from a pragmatic and realistic point of view, and thumbing one’s nose at ideologies, commercial software – especially closed source – is significantly better than “free open sourced software.” And, I say this as a Linux user.

    Presenting Exhibit #1: Google PlayStore – The sheer number of knock-off, one-off, and metoo apps on there is amazing. The quality of the apps, especially the glut of schlock in the metoo category is so far into the subpar category, that it’s not even worth using.

    Exhibit #2: It wasn’t until 2020 that Linux is a viable competitor to MS Windows. Why? because it lacked the comprehensive package to be universally functional. That is why most Developers didn’t support it. The underlying cause? 1) Linus Torvalds’ cancerous opinion of anything commercial, ESPECIALLY Microsoft. His meltdowns are legendary, that even non-linux users know of them. His fanboi’s have adopted his belief system, and are the antithesis of progress. Bill Gates was an ass, don’t get me wrong… but the “it must be free, and regulated by the open license GPLGBTQCOMMIEWTF+ license” is why only Foundations develop professional grade Linux software, and the rest is spare time programmers doing their best. With software, you really do get what you pay for. And people need to figure that out. It’s like artwork, you can give 30 cents and get an imposter, or you can spend a reasonable amount and get a viable, tested product. Sorry ‘bois if you are offended by the truth.
    Side Note: I find it hilarious, That everyone goes toxic linix-inity on Microsoft, but embraces Apple like long lost brothers. Bill Gates did to Steve Jobs, what Linus Torvalds tried doing to Bill Gates. Out of the three, Gates was the most successful. Jobs was the most angry/asshole-ish, and Torvalds the most whiny.

    Exhibit #3: Software in General – Linux versus Windows, or Free Open Source vs Paid for Software. As someone that fondly remembers shareware, BBS’s and a whole slew of lost tech/ideas… I always tried to grab at least shareware games if I couldn’t afford the paid for versions. At least, with them I knew that they would work and perform as intended. I’m not at all knocking Indie Devs; quite the contrary. I’m knocking the belief that you have to make everything free, and the “I shouldn’t have to pay you for your time and energy, it should be free for the betterment of all mankind” mentality. Realistic question for those people — how is the developer supposed to eat? where are they supposed to live, buy a computer, pay for education/books/classes/etc., pay for power and utilities, while making your free software? Now, put yourself into those shoes… Do your day job — FOR FREE. AND, Put up with some entitled asshat screaming at you through forums, email, and social media outlets demanding that you do it better, make these changes (and in the process, redo all of your work, to prevent a casacading bug, to make said changes — or face their wrath and scathing remarks)… How likely are you to make a quality piece of artwork, or hell, even do your job? Imagine working fast food, and having to deal with that “one customer” (ya’ll know who they are) and… the icing to that cake? Not even getting paid for it. Now, make that “one customer” EVERY CUSTOMER. You have more stress than a stock trader on wall st. all because of the toxic “Free, Open Source Everything” mentality. I know that I have walked off of projects when that twatwaffle starts screaming that my work and time are worthless, and it “should be FREE!!!” Because that same twatwaffle is the jerk demanding that they get paid a “living wage.” Think about this, the next time you get something for free, and leave a review… Be it an article like this one, or software… or, any other piece of creative work.

    Exhibit #4: Video Games – Free vs Paid. Video games are the most time-intensive, demanding and costly forms of software to make. And, gamers understand this. That’s why, most of them are more than willing to shell out 50-90 bucks on a game with out thinking “But it should be FREEEEEEE!!!!!” Realistically, it takes 100 man-years to make a complete AAA game from the ground up. That includes artwork, 3d models, effects, sound tracks, sound effects, etc., in addition to the programming of the clients, the setting up of servers (because everyone wants multiplayer!) Indie developers don’t usually do AAA games unless they are super well connected with a solid network of like minded individuals. (Look at the credits of the game that you play next time, and see just how many people contributed.) Now, look at the free game? how well does it compare to a AAA title? Does that free game have decent graphics? Characters that interact with you? An orchestral sound track? what about special effects? Odds are, graphics barely pass a decent, the sounds (music, fx, etc.) are in other games that you have played, the AI for npc’s sucks… etc. And, it’s full of ads. Like, watch this ad and get something free, while we spam you with banners and nag you to buy our no ads option, and toss up interstitial ads at the worst possible moment. Oh, and that option is only for the pro version, buy it now! and you want to go into that zone? here: paywall. Buy the DLC now! Thank you, NO. I’d rather just buy the dang game, get everything included, and not be nickled-and-dimed-to-death for 10x the amount that a real game costs. I’ve spent less on 10 years of World Of Warcraft (Subscriptions and Expansions, on top of the base game) than I have for any free to play game, like… Angry Birds. (Insert your favorite F2P game that you’ve spent money on.) And for those that vehemently refuse to spend money on games, how is that SCUMMV? game working out for ya? tired of 3 screens in your game yet? tired of the PCX/ 320×200 vga graphics yet? How fun is it to look things up in the manual? Wait, my bad, it doesn’t have a manual.
    I could go on, but… wall of text, yo. TD;LR – You get what you pay for, because what get is done with someone else’s time and energy. The same time and energy that could be spent doing something else, like… spending time with their kids / SO’s, going to the movies, hanging out and connecting with real people and not some digital persona on the internet… that is most likely some 10 yr old trolling for the hell of it.

    Specs: I’m 48, have been developing software since I was 8 yrs old, and I am fluent in ~10 different programming languages, though I primarily stick to 3 languages. I seriously dislike Windows, because Microsoft knows about long standing bugs, and instead of fixing them, they make new fonts to push their crappy “metro” interface.

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