Microsoft has formed a "strategic partnership" with the R3 banking consortium to develop, test and deploy blockchain technologies.
Microsoft officials announced the new arrangement on April 4, the first day of the company's Envision 2016 business-decisionmaker conference in New Orleans. Envision is focused on the digital transformation of existing businesses using Microsoft technologies.
Blockchain is the technology that underpins the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. But it has 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.
In 2015, R3 created a partnership connecting leading banks worldwide to provide distributed ledger technologies. R3 now has 42 financial institution partners who are looking to blockchains as the underlying infrastructure for new services. R3 created a peer-to-peer distributed ledger that connects many of the consortium's banking partners to use "smart contract platforms" Ethereum, Eris and Tendermint.
Microsoft, for its part, will support R3's blockchain labs.
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.
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.I
n 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.