Microsoft Launches Blockchain Fabric to Help Enterprises Form Consortia
Microsoft today unveiled a new project designed to make it easier for businesses across a wide range of industries to build consortiums that better take advantage of blockchain technology.
Since a distributed ledger technology is only as powerful as the number people or companies that use it, Microsoft intends this new suite of tools to help build those networks.
To date, a number of blockchain consortiums have been formed to test the technology, with the most notable including banking consortium R3CEV, the Post-Trade Distributed Ledger Group (PTDL) and Dubai's Global Blockchain Council (GBC). In statements, Microsoft’s director of business development and strategy, Marley Gray, spoke to the need for a technology that could continue to support such collaboration.
Gray said in a statement:
"Project Bletchley is a vision for Microsoft to deliver Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) that is open and flexible for all platforms, partners and customers."
The project will be open to multiple blockchain protocols, providing support to unspent transaction output (UTXO) protocols such as Hyperledger, and account-based protocols like Ethereum, with others added as they are developed.
Rooted in Azure
Named after Bletchley Park where Alan Turing famously helped break the German Enigma code during World War II, Gray says that Project Bletchley is a response to working with the existing members of Microsoft’s Blockchain-as-a-Service platform on Azure.
Launched last November, that platform now hosts a wide range of open-source tools built by Tendermint, Augur and more, and lets users build and experiment in a “sandbox” environment to identify use cases and see how well prototypes function.
Microsoft built Project Bletchley as an "open, modular blockchain fabric" interacting with identity and key management, the ability to rapidly scale, and to help construct "members-only, permissioned" consortium blockchains, which Gray says have been deemed "ideal" by early adopters across industries.
In a white paper also published today, Gray described what he termed an “Enterprise Consortium Node”:
"A modular framework will allow consortiums to pick the best of breed components and build their distributed applications regardless of the detail underneath."
Blockchain middleware and cryptlets
As part of the Project Bletchley announcement, Microsoft also introduced what it calls two “new” concepts: blockchain middleware and cryptlets.
"Blockchain middleware will provide core services functioning in the cloud, like identity and operations management," wrote Gray. "In addition to data and intelligence services like analytics and machine learning."
The blockchain middleware is designed to help users take advantage of the increased security of blockchain and its immutable record of transactions, while at the same time delivering business intelligence in the form of reports required by regulators and others.
Cryptlets, on the other hand, only come into play when blockchain users need additional transaction information such as date and time in order to execute a contract.
"Cryptlets, a new building block of blockchain technology, will enable secure interoperation and communication between Microsoft Azure, ecosystem middleware and customer technologies," wrote Gray.
The entire white paper is available here and more information about Project Bletchley will be disclosed at Microsoft's World Wide Partner Conference from 12th to 16th July in Toronto, Canada. Pilots of the service are expected to be ready later this summer.
Image via Project Bletchley white paper
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