Technology

Trying out Microsoft Azure Sphere

30th September 2019

Recently Microsoft released it's new Azure Sphere device, the MT3620. Focused on security, it's an interesting micro-controller in the space. Offered as a starter kit, only paying the postage on a device worth around $75 - Microsoft is clearly trying to get a foothold in the sector with enthusiasts. It offers enterprise grade security by default, using their Azure cloud with a separate core for handling it, as well as device authentication and over-the-air updates. All things IoT devices desperately need to adopt.

Coming from Arduino and Raspberry Pi, initial impressions weren't great, it's not exactly user-friendly. First off, it only supports Windows with Visual Studio (I ran a virtual machine). Secondly, the supporting documentation is misleading and difficult to digest, which seems like the most important factor for trying to on-board tinkerers with varied knowledge. Maybe I'm just not the target audience for this device, but for the amount they discounted it to get people registered, you'd think they would make getting started a little clearer. Another frustrated user but it succinctly:

"It's a time sink of cosmic proportions, nobody will give you back the weeks you will waste to unsuccessfully get a grasp of what this is supposed to do."

In the end I got through the registration and claiming process and ran the Hello World of micro-controllers, the blink LED program and left it at that. Maybe I'll come back to it when the documentation is improved or there's better support for it. Some of the hardware still isn't supported for development, such as I2C and power consumption controls while the two M4 subsystem cores aren't available for general use yet.