Microsoft and ARM partner for end-to-end IoT links to Azure

Microsoft and ARM partner for end-to-end IoT links to Azure

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Toolchains are at the heart of a deal between ARM and Microsoft to link IoT silicon to the cloud.
By Nick Flaherty

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Microsoft and chip IP developer ARM have partnered to develop an end-to-end toolchain and and ‘Azure-Ready Silicon’ certification programme for devices that connect to the Azure cloud.

Microsoft has long wanted a seamless way to connect devices at the edge of the network and in the Internet of Things (IoT) to its Azure cloud service. That was one of the reasons for buying the ThreadX real time operating system (RTOS) software and creating AzureRTOS. Now it is acknowledging that it needs tighter links to the silicon, and has teamed up with ARM to achieve that.

Arch competitor Amazon has been doing the same thing with the support for FreeRTOS and connecting directly to ARM microcontrollers. 

However, Microsoft’s own surveys  AI developer surveys indicate that the main reason developers do not try new silicon options is the cost of learning a new toolchain. “Developers tell us that it can take more than a year for new silicon to be properly supported with the right optimizations in toolchains. In addition, we hear that many of the available toolchains lack a robust end-to-end experience, requiring developers to stitch together solutions, experimenting along the way,” said Moe Tanabian, Vice President and General Manager for Azure Edge Devices at Microsoft.

Suddenly toolchains are key to a very big business. Estimates for the AI inferencing silicon market at the network edge are as high as $51.6 billion by 2025 with 70+ specialty AI companies working on a wide variety of chip-related technologies. Having a wide range of silicon all with the reliable tools chains ecosystem leads to innovation, heathy competition, and a choice of solutions across the value chain for developers, device makers, and end customers. ARM partners have shipped over 70bn devices over the last 15 years, with 30bn into the IoT.

“Microsoft and Arm are collaborating to deploy an integrated Azure-based toolchain targeting Arm-based silicon and delivering a unified and streamlined AI experience for developers,” he said. “Edge AI workloads and devices need specialized silicon. We see that the adoption of AI will span multiple time-horizons realized in three progressive stages: Connected, Intelligent, and Autonomous.”

The partnership is aimed at AI-enabled devices like intelligent computer-vision-enabled cameras, connected vehicles, AI gateways and intelligent appliances across the IoT.

With more IoT devices connected to the cloud, the demand for dashboards to manage and monitor these devices remotely has become a normal course of business, he says. “As we progress further into the intelligent horizon, being ready for devices that provide a flood of insights can provide enterprises with significant economic and competitive advantages. These Intelligent devices will disrupt value chains as they become the sensors, monitors and communicators. The autonomous horizon is almost upon us and will be the most disruptive with data-driven workflows executed between machines with little to no human interaction required.”

“We are also working to address two significant challenges we hear from others in the ecosystem,” said Tanabian.

These challenges are finding the right devices to meet a customer’s needs, and finding the right audience for their devices and solutions, hence the recently launched Azure Certified Device programme. This will lead to an Azure-Ready Silicon programme, where the chips will have to have certain specification of security, connectivity and compute power.

“Our collaboration with Arm to facilitate an end-to-end AI toolchain to simplify development is an important part of this strategy, and we’re very excited to continue tackling these AI and Intelligent Edge challenges together with them,” he said.

www.microsoft.com

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