Project Bletchley, the Ethereum-based consortium blockchain technology that Microsoft announced back in June, is now available, the company said this week.
Bletchley v1 slashes the time it takes to deploy a consortium Ethereum network, according to Marley Gray, principal program manager at Microsoft Azure Blockchain Engineering. "It reduces the estimated three-week process of setting up a globally distributed multi-node consortium Ethereum network down to 8 questions and 5-8 minutes," he wrote in a blog post. "Not only does Bletchley v1 automate the setup of the network infrastructure but it sets up a portal for rapidly getting started developing applications on Ethereum."
The ability to set up and run consortium blockchains is a major step toward creating scalable, next-generation enterprise applications that harness blockchain, the distributed ledger technology used in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
The Ethereum Foundation describes the consortium blockchains as blockchains "where the consensus process is controlled by a pre-selected set of nodes; for example, one might imagine a consortium of 15 financial institutions, each of which operates a node and of which 10 must sign every block in order for the block to be valid." Consortium blockchain networks can be public, restricted to participants or partially decentralized.
Currently, Bletchley v1 is meant to help developers come to grips with private multinode consortium networks. Microsoft plans on rapidly growing this part of its Azure blockchain-as-a-service ecosystem by integrating with the company's other cloud-based services.
"We are 'releasing early and releasing often' to provide you with the latest updates quickly and to get your feedback throughout the development of the service," said Christine Avanessians, senior program manager at Microsoft Azure, in a Sept. 20 announcement. "Keep an eye out for further updates including support for additional Microsoft services, like Azure Active Directory and Key Vault, and other blockchain protocols."
Microsoft isn't the only major technology company to hear blockchain's siren call.
This summer, IBM launched a secure, cloud-based blockchain service using the company's LinuxONE systems featuring firmware protection that prevents system administrators and even root users from accessing blockchain data. In August, the company unveiled its new Industry Platforms unit focused on blockchain. "The Industry Platforms business will bring clients radically optimized processes and marketplaces that leverage Watson, IBM Cloud, IBM Systems, blockchain, deep domain expertise and ecosystems of partners and developers," said IBM CEO Ginni Rometty in a memo to employees.
Over at Azure Big Compute, a suite of cloud-based batch processing and high-performance computing (HPC) offerings, Microsoft announced the release of Batch Shipyard version 1.0.0.
The toolkit enables users to quickly deploy batch-style, Dockerized workloads on compute pools running in the Azure Batch job scheduling and compute management service, according to Microsoft Software Engineer Fred Park. It's "ideal for parametric sweeps, Deep Learning training with NVIDIA GPUs, and simulations using MPI [Message Passing Interface] and InfiniBand," wrote Park in a Sept. 22 blog post.