Bitcoins underlying blockchain technology is a potential disruptor to the way core businesses have been working. This is the reason why it has been catching everyone’s attention, especially those involved in the financial services industry. The blockchain technology is in fact driving most innovation by FinTech companies in the present time. Start-ups to well-established companies are involved or interested in putting the blockchain technology to use and benefiting from it in some way or the other.
Among many projects working around the blockchain technology is Microsoft Corporation’s (MSFT) Azure Blockchain as a Service program. It’s been a little less than three months since the news about the partnership between ConsenSys and Microsoft to deliver enterprise businesses Ethereum Blockchain-as-a-Service (E BaaS) on Microsoft Azure first came out.
The flagship offering that included BlockApps Strato (technology to build industry-specific blockchain applications) and < ether.camp > (blockchain explorer) was released on November 10, 2015 in London. The Microsoft Azure Blockchain as a Service program has been constantly in news since then and has attracted many to join it as partners.
Ethereum is like the bitcoin protocol. While the Bitcoin (BTC) is a cryptographic token in the bitcoin protocol, ether (ETH) is for Ethereum protocol. “Ethereum is a decentralized blockchain protocol that executes smart contracts: applications that run exactly as programmed without any possibility of downtime, censorship, fraud or third party interference.” Ethereum allows Microsoft’s customers to innovate and provide new services and thus enables Smart Contracts and distributed applications to be built, potentially cutting out the middleman in many industry scenarios.
According to John Lilic, who handles ConsenSys Enterprise activities, (as told to International Business Times), “the aim is to build blockchain solutions for business partners, and this could be something that doesn't necessary touch their core internal systems.” He further said, "We can deploy a private blockchain; the foundational elements that businesses need from the technology side. Then as we build out a prototype, we can together go through that discovery process and teach them along the way. And in doing so they now have a blockchain. They can now interact with it and build upon it and expand it in the future.”
The “Ethereum Blockchain as a Service” provided by Microsoft Azure and ConsenSys via the Azure cloud platform allows customers, partners and developers to experiment, learn, and play, at a low cost and fast speed. Developers, customers or businesses everywhere can create private, semi-private, public and consortium blockchain networks with a single click on the Azure’s cloud platform, thereby enabling them to distribute blockchain products.
Thus the collaboration presents Azure as a great development, testing, acceptance and production environment for blockchain applications. Those involved in innovating with different blockchain technologies can use the “fail fast and cheap” ecosystem to mix and match technologies in a Dev-Test sandbox as per Marley Gray, Director, Technology Strategy US Financial Services.
As reported by Microsoft Azure, the response to the Azure BaaS offering for partners and customers has been compelling. In addition to the partners like ConsenSys and Ripple, there has been an addition of new members like Eris, CoinPrism (OpenChain) and Factom as announced on December 15, 2015.
In the New Year 2016, there has been addition of four new partners for the Azure Blockchain as a Service program. They are BitPay, a leader in Bitcoin payments, providing Bitcoin payment processing and local currency payouts to over 65,000 businesses worldwide. Then there is Manifold Technology. Manifold has a patent-pending Manifold Liquidity Platform (MLP) which is a powerful, private Blockchain, capable of unprecedented transaction speed and throughput. Another partner is LibraTax which is the reporting, accounting, audit, and integration layer for Blockchain technology and digital assets that is built for the future of digitized ownership and trading. A leading digital currency and Blockchain platform Emercoin has also joined the project.
While suggesting that Ethereum enables Smart Contracts and Distributed Applications (ĐApps) to be built, potentially cutting out the middleman in many industry scenarios streamlining processes like settlement, Marley Gray’s blog read, “but that is just scratching the surface of what can be done when you mix the cryptographic security and reliability of the Blockchain with a Turing complete programming language included in Ethereum, we can’t really image what our customers and partners will build.” The BaaS or Blockchain as a Service program is providing a chance to many to come forward to explore and experiment with the blockchain technology. The potential that blockchain essentially holds is driving great innovation.