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

October 08, 2020 // By Nick Flaherty
The three waves of IoT
Toolchains are at the heart of a deal between ARM and Microsoft to link IoT silicon to the cloud.

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

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