Microsoft has just announced the public preview release of Azure Blockchain Workbench, a new suite of tools that offer prebuilt networks and infrastructure to reduce application development time from months to days. By automating infrastructure setup, developers can focus on application logic, and business owners can figure out the best ways to leverage blockchain solutions.
Workbench is an end-to-end blockchain application that uses Azure Resource Manager (ARM) templates to automate ledger deployment and network construction. It promises to spin up enterprise blockchain projects within a few clicks. Workbench users can quickly:
- Associate blockchain identities with federated identity systems through Azure Active Directory for single sign-on, and for simplified consortium identity management
- Store secrets and keys securely with Azure Key Vault
- Ingest and manage the events required to trigger smart contracts using Service Bus and Event Grid
- Use the included signing, hashing and routing tools to transform messages into the format expected by the blockchain’s native API
- Synchronize on-chain data with off-chain storage and databases to more easily generate business insights from ledger data
- Easily integrate blockchain workflows with existing systems and applications using tools like Logic Apps
- Extend capabilities with a REST-based API for client development and a message-based API for system-to-system integration
Given the steep learning curve of blockchain deployment, Microsoft is aiming for streamlined solutions that will require minimal coding.
According to the announcement, “With the release of Azure Blockchain Workbench, we take another step towards making this technology more developer friendly. As we continue to learn with customers and partners, we look forward to extending its capabilities, open-sourcing more of its code and partnering with organizations to expand its usefulness.”
Microsoft may be well positioned to build an entire blockchain ecosystem and challenge several startups that are developing blockchain identity solutions such as SelfKey, Civic and lifeID, and smart contract developer platforms such as Etherparty. However, Microsoft’s slogan “Connect your blockchain to the cloud without the heavy lifting” highlights how blockchain data could become more centralized.
Tech giant Amazon also recently launched the new AWS Blockchain Templates.
“Some of the people that I talk to see blockchains as the foundation of a new monetary system and a way to facilitate international payments. Others see blockchains as a distributed ledger and immutable data source that can be applied to logistics, supply chain, land registration, crowdfunding, and other use cases. Either way, it is clear that there are a lot of intriguing possibilities and we are working to help our customers use this technology more effectively.” – Jeff Barr, Chief Evangelist for AWS
As the world’s biggest brands and corporations are moving on all fronts to embrace blockchain technology, often with heavy centralization, early adopters in the space are building decentralized applications to move away from the big data aggregation model that does not always ensure a user’s ability to own, control, manage or monetize his or her own data.
Microsoft dropped a slew of other announcements on Monday, with updates on everything from Azure IoT Edge to new integrations for GitHub developers to the Azure AI Platform.