Microsoft is adding Blockchain support in Azure as we move away from blockchain “get rich quick” scams to actual business case solutions. The challenge is that the market to support Blockchain solutions is immature with too many choices. The good news is that a few companies are stepping up to the plate and taking Blockchain very seriously.
There are a number of ways in which Azure is delivering solutions.
BIG FAT HAIRY WARNING: OK, let’s be honest, even Microsoft will be the first to admit that blockchain is a work in progress. These are the first tools that the Azure engineers are releasing and they are not perfect. Keeps your eyes on this space as it is evolving quickly.
Bare Bones Blockchain with Azure
Due to the nature of Blockchain and how it works, you will need a minimum of five servers if you want to setup your own Blockchain node. The Azure Marketplace is loaded with Blockchain Engines you can use such as Ethereum. You will also find many of the tools you can use to build nodes, services and even sample code to get up and running. Three core services you will want to run include:
- Corda: quickly build a predefined Corda Network (https://azuremarketplace.microsoft.com/en-us/marketplace/apps/corda.r3corda?tab=Overview)
- Ethereum: Microsoft is basing much of their technology in partnership with Ethereum (https://azuremarketplace.microsoft.com/en-us/marketplace/apps/microsoft-azure-blockchain.azure-blockchain-ethereum?tab=Overview)
- Hyperledger Fabric: a third network that comes with pre-built templates you can customize for your own services (https://azuremarketplace.microsoft.com/en-us/marketplace/apps/microsoft-azure-blockchain.azure-blockchain-hyperledger-fabric?tab=Overview)
There are many other services and tools in the marketplace you can leverage but be prepared to spend time building your solutions. This is early days for a solution that is inherently complicated.
Mark Russinovich, who leads the Blockchain work at MSFT, has a series of great articles and videos. Check them out here: https://channel9.msdn.com/Blogs/Seth-Juarez/An-Introduction-to-Blockchain-with-Mark-Russinovich
Working with Bletchley
Something that I like about the new Microsoft is the constant contribution to Open Source. Bletchley is one of the first tools you can use for the following:
- Modular Framework that allows you to choose which technologies from the many Blockchain tools you want to use for enterprise tools
- A new feature called “Cryptlets” adds a secure, encrypted middle tier to function as a service in the cloud linking untrusted sources together
- All Open Source
A comprehensive breakdown of Bletchley and the code is available on GitHub: https://github.com/Azure/azure-blockchain-projects/blob/master/bletchley/bletchley-whitepaper.md
More to come….
As mentioned above, the Azure engineers are just getting started with Blockchain. They have not “stuck the landing” yet. The good news is that the tools coming out are tools you can actually use.