Apart from causing a stir in financial technology (FinTech) circles, blockchain is also piquing the interest of IT giants on the lookout for the next big things.
Best known as the technology behind the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, blockchain enables the creation of tamper-resistant distributed ledgers. Technology startups, e-commerce companies and even some major banks are pursuing blockchain-based technologies in the hopes of creating next-generation financial transaction and trading platforms that securely speed the movement of money, and in many instances, cut out the middle man. Blockchain can also help usher in smart contracts that can kick off a series of automated actions as conditions are met.
Add Microsoft to the list of official blockchain supporters. The Redmond, Wash., tech heavyweight announced May 4 that it had joined the Chamber of Digital Commerce, a trade group promoting the use of blockchain and digital asset technologies.
"Through education, advocacy and working closely with policymakers, regulatory agencies and industry, our goal is to develop a pro-growth legal environment that fosters innovation, jobs and investment," states the association's Website. The chamber's membership includes LedgerX, USAA and an early Bitcoin backer, Overstock.
By joining the trade group, Microsoft is throwing its weight behind efforts to help make blockchain mainstream in the financial industry and beyond.
"The Digital Chamber provides a vital and needed voice as regulatory frameworks develop," Marley Gray, director of business development and strategy at Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise division, said in a statement. "By bringing together companies at the forefront of the industry to share their experiences and plans, the Digital Chamber will help provide input into important public debates about the uses of distributed ledger technology and how to enable it to flourish while protecting the public."
The goal of building a secure blockchain ecosystem that safeguards transactions and the assets that they embody against fraud is one shared by IBM.
Recently, Big Blue announced a new security framework for running blockchain networks. A collection of IBM cloud services can be used to create auditable blockchain environments, complete with compliance- and forensics-friendly log data. During the IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference in February, the company announced a raft of new solutions and consulting services to speed the adoption of secure blockchain technologies among enterprises.
Microsoft also announced that several new partners have joined its own cloud-based Azure Blockchain-as-a-Service platform, said Gray. Newcomers include Bitswift, Blitz, Blocknet, Gamecredits, Jambucks, OKcash, Shadow, Storj and Vcash.
Microsoft and IBM aren't the only big cloud providers that have their sights set on the burgeoning blockchain market.
On May 1, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the Digital Currency Group (DCG), a blockchain-focused investment firm, announced a new partnership. Together, they will offer enterprises wishing to conduct tests involving DCG's portfolio of blockchain technology startups access to AWS cloud services and technical resources.
"Today in financial services, distributed ledger technology is at the forefront of any discussion related to innovation," Scott Mullins, head of worldwide financial services business development at AWS, said in a statement. "AWS is working with financial institutions and blockchain providers to spur innovation and facilitate frictionless experimentation."