Microsoft ‘doubling down’ on blockchain

Launches Azure Blockchain Service

Microsoft has unveiled Azure Blockchain Service, which the company’s head of corporate communications, Frank Shaw, said “simplifies the formation, management, and governance of consortium blockchain networks, allowing businesses to focus on workflow, logic, and app development.”

The company is “doubling down” on its investment in blockchain tools, Shaw said.

“Azure Blockchain Service deploys a fully managed consortium network in a few simple clicks and offers built-in governance for common management tasks such as adding new members, setting permissions, and authenticating user applications,” Shaw told a press briefing ahead of Microsoft’s Build developer conference.

JP Morgan’s Ethereum-based platform, Quorum, is the first ledger available in Azure's Blockchain Service.

“Because it’s built on the popular Ethereum protocol, which has the world’s largest blockchain developer community, Quorum is a natural choice,” Azure CTO Mark Russinovich wrote in a blog entry.

“It integrates with a rich set of open-source tools while also supporting confidential transactions—something our enterprise customers require. Quorum customers like Starbucks, Louis Vuitton, and our own Xbox Finance team can now use Azure Blockchain Service to quickly expand their networks with lower costs, shifting their focus from infrastructure management to application development and business logic.”

Last year Microsoft announced Azure Blockchain Workbench, which it promised would help “reduce application development time from months to days”.

Today the company released an extension for VS Code, which Russinovich wrote would allow developers “to create and compile Ethereum smart contracts, deploy them to either the public chain or a consortium network in Azure Blockchain Service, and manage their code using Azure DevOps.”

Amazon Web Services earlier this week announced the general availability of Amazon Managed Blockchain: A fully managed blockchain service that will eventually support multiple frameworks.

At launch, it supports Hyperledger Fabric. Ethereum support is coming later this year, according to AWS.

“Customers want to use blockchain frameworks like Hyperledger Fabric and Ethereum to create blockchain networks so they can conduct business quickly, with an immutable record of transactions, but without the need for a centralized authority. However, they find these frameworks difficult to install, configure, and manage,” said Rahul Pathak, general manager, Amazon Managed Blockchain at AWS, in a statement.

“Amazon Managed Blockchain takes care of provisioning nodes, setting up the network, managing certificates and security, and scaling the network. Customers can now get a functioning blockchain network set up quickly and easily, so they can focus on application development instead of keeping a blockchain network up and running.”

Earlier this year IBM announced the availability from Australian data centres of its blockchain platform. IBM Blockchain Platform is built on Hyperledger Fabric.

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