This article first appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of The Record.
We all know that payment systems based on a blockchain (secure ledgers of broad bits of information shared by everyone in public and private distributed networks) can fuel business growth for startups and established corporations alike with direct payment of digital currencies. But that’s just the beginning. Distributed ledgers can handle much more than payments – they can become a platform for smart digital contracts that apply across industries and revolutionise how businesses and people transact with one another in fundamental ways.
But how can businesses easily access blockchains? Microsoft makes it quick for companies of any size to benefit from the collaborative economy with its new Azure Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) programme. The open, hyperscale Microsoft Azure platform supports an ever-growing number of distributed ledger technologies that address specific business and technical requirements for security, performance, and operational processes. In short, Azure BaaS provides a rapid, low-cost, low-risk platform for enterprises to collaborate by experimenting with new business processes and contracts to streamline everything from supply chains to trading in capital markets.
The blockchain ecosystem is already proving to be transformative for banks. In 2015, financial innovation firm R3 established a consortium partnership with the world’s leading banks to provide distributed ledger technologies to economies worldwide. R3 now has partnerships with 42 financial institutions, who see blockchains as the underpinning for transformative new services.
Using Azure BaaS with multiple blockchain partners such as smart contract platforms Ethereum, Eris and Tendermint, R3 created a peer-to-peer distributed ledger that connects many of the consortium’s leading banks including Barclays, Credit Suisse, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Citi, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo. In a first test of the distributed ledger, the banks simultaneously simulated financial transactions.
And in its third experiment, R3 tested multiple cloud vendors as well, including IBM Bluemix, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft Azure with five different blockchain platforms. Microsoft Azure emerged from the tests as the preferred cloud provider for R3 and its consortium because of its flexible, open, and comprehensive set of enterprise-grade services including Internet of Things (IoT), advanced analytics and machine-learning algorithms, security features, and developer tools.
These are just a few of the potential benefits of this exciting new ecosystem, with many more to come.
Marley Gray is Microsoft’s director of business development and strategy for cloud and enterprise
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