Microsoft this week continued its push into IoT by acquiring Express Logic, a real-time operating system (RTOS) provider for IoT and devices at the edge powered by microcontroller units. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Express Logic’s ThreadX RTOS, supporting software, and team have joined Microsoft effective immediately.
Founded in 1996, the San Diego-based company has reached more than 6.2 billion embedded and IoT deployments to date, making it one of the most deployed RTOS in the world, according to Microsoft, citing data by VDC Research.
“This widespread popularity is driven by demand for technology to support resource constrained environments, especially those that require safety and security,” Sam George, director of Azure IoT, wrote in a blog post announcing the deal. “Manufacturers building products across a range of categories — from low capacity sensors like light bulbs and temperature gauges to air conditioners, medical devices, and network appliances — leverage the size, safety, and security benefits of Express Logic solutions to achieve faster time to market.”
By adding ThreadX to its Azure IoT Hub, Microsoft now has a direct competitor to Amazon FreeRTOS, an open-source platform that Amazon took stewardship of in 2016. The move, which pits the two largest cloud providers against each other in the RTOS space, also emboldens growth around free and low-cost operating systems that are expected to comprise nearly 40% of the market by 2021, according to VDC.
Microsoft’s acquisition of Express Logic also makes further good on a promise it made last year to invest $5 billion in IoT and intelligent edge by 2022. Gartner predicts at least 20 billion internet-connected devices will be online by 2020.
“With this acquisition, we will unlock access to billions of new connected endpoints, grow the number of devices that can seamlessly connect to Azure and enable new intelligent capabilities,” George explained. “Our goal is to make Express Logic’s ThreadX RTOS available as an option for real time processing requirements on an Azure Sphere device and also enable ThreadX-powered devices to connect to Azure IoT Edge devices when the IoT solution calls for edge computing capabilities.”
Samuel Hale, analyst and head of IoT platform testing at MachNation, described RTOS as a mechanism that is especially useful for mission-critical devices like pacemakers and car airbags where an auction must occur quickly and without fail. “Microsoft will incorporate the ability to manage these new RTOS-equipped devices using the device management capabilities of Microsoft Azure IoT” within 12 to 18 months, he wrote.
“The significant growth of the IoT provides exciting new opportunities for our customers and the embedded market overall. Now, as part of Microsoft, we believe our customers will be even better positioned to unlock exciting new capabilities of the IoT,” Express Logic CEO William Lamie wrote in a blog post. “We look forward to continuing our efforts to help simplify embedded IoT development.”