Microsoft's nascent cloud-based Azure Blockchain-as-a-Service offering is gaining steam, according to Marley Gray, director of technology strategy for Microsoft U.S. Financial Services. "This week we have seen the C++ Ethereum client and CryptoSwap demo added by ConsenSys as well as the OpenChain implementation by CoinPrism to the staging marketplace," stated Gray in a company announcement.
Tech and banking giants alike are turning their attention to blockchain, the transaction tracking and verification technology that powers Bitcoin's distributed ledger, in a bid to build secure, next-generation financial services systems. Last month, the Linux Foundation, along with a who's who of big-name IT and financial firms, including Accenture, Cisco, IBM, Intel, J.P. Morgan and several others, announced the formation of the Open Ledger Project to advance blockchain technology.
"Distributed ledgers are poised to transform a wide range of industries, from banking and shipping to the Internet of things, among others," Jim Zemlin, executive director at the Linux Foundation, said in a Dec. 17 statement. "As with any early-stage, highly complex technology that demonstrates the ability to change the way we live our lives and conduct business, blockchain demands a cross-industry, open-source collaboration to advance the technology for all."
Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director of IBM Research, remarked that a "broad, cross-industry and open-source approach is critical to advance the potential for blockchain and make it mainstream. Even beyond building out standards, creating common code will allow organizations to focus on creating industry-specific applications that enhance the value of this technology."
Microsoft's own efforts to popularize the technology are attracting supporters.
Four new partners have signed up to the company's Blockchain-as-a-Service program. They include BitPay, which Gray described as the "leader in Bitcoin payments, providing Bitcoin payment processing and local currency payouts to over 65,000 businesses worldwide." Also on board are Manifold Technology, whose private blockchain, called the Manifold Liquidity Platform, powers its high-speed rewards and customer loyalty software.
They are joined by Emercoin, an enterprise-focused digital currency platform, and LibraTax, makers of a "reporting, accounting, audit and integration layer for Blockchain technology and digital assets that is built for the future of digitized ownership and trading," added Gray.
For developers, Gray announced the availability of the C++ Ethereum Stack, an Azure Resource Manager template for the deployment of an Ethereum client on Ubuntu virtual machines. Azure's fledgling Azure Blockchain-as-a-Service offering is powered by Ethereum, a framework for building blockchain-based applications. Microsoft also published a YouTube video to demonstrate a successful blockchain CryptoSwap implementation on the service.
In another sign that the technology is headed into the mainstream, blockchain-based offerings will soon feature more prominently in the main Azure marketplace, revealed Gray. "We are looking forward to adding our new partner offerings into the marketplace as we transition into the Azure Portal over the next several weeks."