Microsoft planning blockchain-as-a-service for Azure apps

By Lain Thomson for the Register 

Microsoft might not be keen on Bitcoin, but it’s cock-a-hoop about the backend blockchain the currency uses and has given the first details of Project Bletchley, a plan to add the tech into Azure services via some new middleware.

“Project Bletchley is a vision for Microsoft to deliver Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) that is open and flexible for all platforms, partners and customers,” said Marley Gray, director of bizdev and strategy for cloud and enterprise at Redmond.

“We’re thrilled to be on this journey with the blockchain community, and are looking forward to helping transform the way we think about and do business today.”

The blockchain system, invented by the still-elusive Satoshi Nakamoto, records the movement of an asset and distributes the information in a nearly-tamper-proof digital ledger.

Cryptographically protected linkages allow the public or private groups to constantly update the ledger, and clear or block transactions based on preapproved rules and the records of prior transactions.

Introduced in 2009, blockchains have proved almost impervious to falsification, and in April Microsoft did a trial run – helping a consortium of banks add the technology to their systems. The financial sector would welcome a chance to get rid of the cost of clearing houses, and blockchains could do just that.

Under Project Bletchley, Microsoft plans to extend that to other areas of business, and allow Azure to sell a lot more processing and business information services as well. In a white paper, Gray outlined the plan.

Microsoft wants to add a layer of middleware to enable blockchain transactions over the cloud, as a business intelligence pitch. Its code will be able to analyze data from the blockchain as an API or Platform-as-a-Service.

The other additions are cryptlets, which come in two forms: utility and contract. The vast majority are utility cryptlets that handle date and time logging, crypto functions, and external data access.

The contract cryptlets act as ambassadors to the outside cloud world, and carry more information but tougher protections. Parties need to prove an interest with cryptographic keys to gain access, but this allows shared silos of data using Azure/Azure Stack, AWS, Google, or private clouds.

This isn’t the first time outlaw technology has been subsumed by big business, and it won’t be the last – because it works sometimes. Whether Microsoft can tame blockchain to its will remains to be seen, but Redmond seems all-in on this one. ®

First appeared at the Register