Microsoft builds on Azure Blockchain as a Service with Project Bletchley

Microsoft is filling out its blockchain-as-a-service vision with a new middleware and 'cryptlet' components meant to appeal to business users.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft initially launched Azure Blockchain as a Service in November 2015. Since then, Microsoft has been working with businesses and partners to get their feedback on the missing pieces needed before enterprises can and will adopt blockchain applications.

Credit: Microsoft

On June 15, Microsoft took the wraps off its plan to address some of these issues with what it's calling Project Bletchley. Bletchley is Microsoft's "vision for an open, modular blockchain fabric powered by Azure."

Blockchain is the technology that underpins the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. But it has uses beyond that. A blockchain is a shared, distributed 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.

Credit: Microsoft

Bletchley includes two new concepts: Blockchain middleware and cryptlets.

According to a new Microsoft whitepaper on Project Bletchley, blockchain middleware will provide core cloud services like identity and operations management, plus intelligence services like analytics and machine learning. (So, yes, a bunch of the Azure services Microsoft sells to customers today, plus, seemingly, comparable offerings from other third-party providers.)

And cryptlets, which the Softies are describing as "a new building block of blockchain technology," will provide interop and communication between Azure and other public/private clouds, ecosystem middleware and other customer technologies.

In its overview of Bletchley," Microsoft execs note that "open source technologies will serve as the building blocks for this ecosystem. Supporting open standards for protocol level implementations of Peer-2-Peer/networking, consensus, database and virtual machines are key in establishing trust within the larger ecosystem and accelerates innovation." The fuzzy architectural diagram from Microsoft embedded in this post above makes it look as though Azure (not other clouds) is a requirement for Bletchley, however.

Microsoft execs plan to provide more details on Bletchley at the company's Worldwide Partner Conference in mid-July in Toronto, according to the white paper.

(For anyone not familiar with Bletchley, the codename seems to be a reference to Bletchley Park, the central site for Britain's codebreakers during World War II.)

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