Before blockchain revolutionizes banking, health care records management and countless transaction-based businesses, enterprises first have to jump aboard. With Project Bletchley, Microsoft aims to accomplish just that.
Project Bletchley is not a new blockchain stack, but rather the software giant's architectural approach to creating a so-called "Enterprise Consortium Blockchain Ecosystem," Microsoft said. In short, it aims to address the openness, scalability, interoperability, privacy, security and manageability requirements that may be keeping businesses on the sidelines.
Blockchain, best known as the technical foundation of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, is a distributed database technology used to create transparent, decentralized digital ledgers. It provides a transparent and secure method of transacting business that is considered tamper-proof.
Microsoft's global cloud already addresses the scalability and security concerns, according to Marley Gray, director of business development and strategy for Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise. His company's early work in establishing a cloud-based blockchain-as-a-service platform already supports a variety of blockchain protocols, including Ethereum and Hyperledger, he added.
Project Bletchley goes a step further by introducing two new concepts, namely blockchain middleware and cryptlets.
"Blockchain middleware will provide core services functioning in the cloud, like identity and operations management, in addition to data and intelligence services like analytics and machine learning," explained Gray in a June 15 announcement. "These technologies will ensure the secure, immutable operation that blockchain provides, [and] at the same time, deliver the business intelligence and reporting capabilities business leaders and regulators demand."
The middleware will be compatible with existing Azure services, including the company's Active Directory identity management service and Key Vault, the company's cloud-based alternative to on-premises hardware security module (HSM) appliances.
Meanwhile, cryplets "will enable secure interoperation and communication between Microsoft Azure, ecosystem middleware and customer technologies," continued Gray. "Cryptlets function when additional information is needed to execute a transaction or contract, such as date and time. They will become a critical component of sophisticated blockchain systems, enabling all technology to work together in a secure, scalable way."
Microsoft, which published an in-depth white paper on Project Bletchley on GitHub, plans to disclose more details during the company's upcoming Worldwide Partner Conference next month in Toronto.
Blockchain is making big waves in some IT circles, particularly in the financial technology (FinTech) industry.
Last month, a study from Pegasystems, Cognizant and Marketforce revealed that 60 percent of the world's financial retailers with some knowledge of the technology consider blockchain a game-changer. More than half (53 percent) of the 500 financial services and insurance executives surveyed said that blockchain will have a disruptive effect on the clearing and settlement markets.
"There's no longer room to be complacent about such a potentially significant source of disruption," Graham Lloyd, director and financial services industry principal at Pegasystems, said in a May 25 statement. "Banks and insurers must prepare themselves for the day when they might have to manage blockchain-stored customer data—whether it be their personal information, details of their assets or even real-time data from virtual currencies."