As IBM begins stumping to make blockchain technology part of its apps and services, Microsoft, likewise, is beefing up efforts to push blockchain as an Azure cloud service.
Blockchain is the technology that underpins the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. But it has far more uses beyond that. A blockchain is a shared ledger that can store the complete transaction history of not just cryptocurrency but other kinds of records. As such, it's of interest to many enterprises, especially those in banking and finance.
(There are many other potential enterprise uses for blockchain technology in copyright and IP, digital contract management, employment records and more, as ZDNet's Dion Hinchcliffe noted last year.)
Microsoft's initial foray into Azure Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) came late last year with an offering on the Etherum Platform with ConsenSys. Now there are packaged BaaS offerings in the Azure marketplace (Go Ethereum on Ubuntu and a VM running BLockApps STRATO).
More recently, Microsoft has fielded a C++ Ethereum client and is working on an Ethereum on Windows Server offering. according to company officials. Microsoft also has worked with Ripple, a cryptographic ledger software vendor, and proof-of-concept work with 11 banks including UBS and Credit Suisse around blockchain.
In late January 2016, Microsoft made available a preview of a lab environment in Azure's DevTest Labs so that Blockchain-related services and partners can decouple the Blockchain technology from virtual machines.
Microsoft's short-term goal for the Azure BaaS is to make available a certified blockchain marketplace by this spring. In the interim, the focus is to add blockchain partners of all kinds, rather than trying to pick a limited number of potential winners.