Why Microsoft is Interested in Blockchains
Nov 18, 2015
Consensys brings Ethereum’s blockchain to the enterprise
Microsoft has partnered with a blockchain production studio, Consensys, on a suite of products and tools referred to as Blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS). The collection, based on the Ethereum blockchain platform and provided on Microsoft’s Azure cloud, launched on the 10th of November. Microsoft and Consensys’ collaboration includes an Ethereum development stack called BlockApps Strato, and Ether.Camp, a development and search tool designed for blockchain exploration.
Consensys’ studio is an incubator for blockchain startups in a model which it calls “Spoke Ventures”. Consensys’ Enterprise venture is one of many projects growing up around the Ethereum blockchain, a promising alternative to Bitcoin for the development of applications other than value transfer, Bitcoin’s speciality. With a full programming language and other technical improvements, it supports generalised and cross-vertical distributed applications.
BlockApps Strato enables the production of scalable enterprise blockchain solutions on Ethereum. The ability to deploy on a public, private or hybrid network, and the extended capabilities of Ethereum’s smart contracts and its programming language make fertile soil for innovation. Ether.Camp, the other component immediately available in the Microsoft partnership, is a blockchain explorer with a browser-based Integrated Development Environment (IDE). It supports search across public and private Ethereum blockchains as well as collaborative editing of Ethereum code across the web.
Blockchains are the next wave of enterprise IT
Blockchains are a technological development on a similar scale to cloud computing. With the downwards pressure on its PC business, Microsoft has found success in the cloud over the past few years with its Azure platform. Its expertise there, and with development tools and platforms, has led it to see tools and middleware as a natural step towards a foothold in the early blockchain market. Developer tools and middleware are fundamental to blockchain adoption. Platform effects are the strongest draw of open source technology like Ethereum.
Microsoft is sending out a strong signal to the market in support of blockchains’ potential. The partnership lends weight to the claims of both Consensys and Ethereum. The brand name and Azure provision opens enterprises to the possibilities of blockchains without friction. Microsoft also helps to spark Ethereum interest amongst more developers and investors, the key foundations of this open-source technology’s success.
The blockchain value proposition for businesses
Blockchains aren’t all about hyper-libertarian goals, disintermediating value chains and removing third parties. Blockchains provide a powerful stack of tools for enterprise environments. The use of blockchains can increase agility, reduce risk and lower costs while ensuring perfect coordination between users and endpoints.
They represent a paradigm shift in security, creating networks that remove central points of failure, many traditional security risks and increase interoperability of systems through transparency.
Blockchains’, and by extension Ethereum’s reach is expanding at a rapid pace. Interest in blockchains, fuelled further by media coverage, has led to its exploration by a growing number of companies. Microsoft’s support only adds to the upwards trend.
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