16-02-2016, 14:34 #1
[EN] Microsoft continues its blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) push
Microsoft is beefing up efforts to turn blockchain shared database technology into an Azure cloud service.
Mary Jo Foley
February 16, 2016
A blockchain is a shared database 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 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.
16-02-2016, 14:39 #2
IBM stumps for enterprise blockchain technologies, apps
Big Blue is aiming to make blockchain technology, which has been associated with Bitcoin, more business friendly.
February 16, 2016
IBM is aiming to make blockchain technology business friendly enough to be used for multiple transactions and use cases.
Blockchain is widely associated with Bitcoin, an alternative currency. In a nutshell, a blockchain logs all transactions on a Bitcoin network. These transactions are stored in blocks that update a balance and data such as payments, confirmations and orders. The argument is that blockchain technologies are immune from tampering and there's actual supply and demand backing a currency like Bitcoin.
Here's an example of how blockchain would work in an enterprise as a ledger.
For IBM, the attraction of blockchain tools is simple. Many transactions are conducted on IBM's mainframes and if it can use blockchain on its developer and cloud services the company can garner more sales. IBM also sees blockchain as a way to manage business contracts and automate agreements.
Among the key items in IBM's blockchain-as-a-service move:
- IBM contributed 44,000 lines of code to the Linux Foundation's Hyper Ledger Project, which aims to create secure ledgers for any transaction. Hyper Ledger has a series of big-name premier partners including ANZ, ABN-Amro, IBM, Intel, JP Morgan, Red Hat, VMware and Wells Fargo to name a few.
- IBM's Bluemix platform will allow developers to create digital assets, conduct transactions privately and manage blockchain networks. Blockchain applications can be deployed on IBM's z System mainframe. APIs will be available at each step of a transaction. Code samples are on Github.
- Internet of things end points such as devices, RFID tags and scans can be linked to blockchain networks.
- IBM will open design and development centers in London, New York, Singapore and Tokyo--the primary financial hubs--to experiment with blockchain apps. IBM's services unit will offer blockchain consulting and design services.
According to the company, Big Blue will work with a series of financial services groups including to the London Stock Exchange.
18-02-2016, 07:02 #3
IBM and Microsoft Will Let You Roll Your Own BlockchainCade Metz
They call it the Hyperledger. And it can be yours.
In late December, several big-name companies from across both the tech and financial industries—including IBM, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, and the London Stock Exchange—unveiled a new open source software project based on the blockchain, the global online ledger that underpins the bitcoin digital currency. The project aims to build blockchain-like software that can more efficiently, reliably, and openly track the exchange of financial assets, including stocks, bonds, futures, houses, and car titles. And considering the names involved—particularly the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation, or DTCC, which oversees Wall Street’s stock settlement system—it’s an enormously significant undertaking.
Unlike the blockchain itself, the Hyperledger software isn’t battle-tested. In fact, it’s still being built. But on Tuesday, IBM unveiled a new cloud computing service that lets anyone kick the proverbial tires on this fledgling technology. “Anyone who signs up can use it,” says Arvind Krishna, the IBM Research director who is perhaps the man most responsible for the creation of the Hyperledger project, explains that although you’ll have to pay to spin up the software on a large number of IBM cloud machines, the service is free for use on a few computers.
Last year, researchers under Krishna began building an alternative to the blockchain. And after Krishna and others helped bootstrap the Hyperledger project—which operates under the aegis of the not-for-profit Linux Foundation—IBM donated its code to this open source effort. Others have donated additional code, but it appears that IBM’s contribution will serve as the foundation of the project.
With its new cloud service, IBM aims to give businesses and developers a means of testing and, eventually, deploying this blockchain-like software for real-world tasks. Using cryptographic algorithms running across a vast network of independent machines, the blockchain can potentially oversee the exchange of any digital asset. With bitcoin, the blockchain oversees the exchange of currency. But it could also bring a new level of efficiency and transparency to the stock market. That’s why the DTCC’s involvement is so important, since it provides the system that ultimately transfers stock ownership from one shareholder to another.
As with other blockchain advocates, IBM sees the open online ledger as a transparent way to track and trade ownership of houses, cars, and so many other assets. Microsoft is another tech giant that’s also getting behind the idea with its own cloud service based on the blockchain concept. In the fall, Microsoft unveiled a service that revolves around a blockchain alternative called Ethereum, and it plans on building a similar service using yet another alternative called Ripple. Microsoft claims that developers can start using the software in less than 20 minutes.
But these cloud services represent just a small part of the blockchain movement. Nasdaq OMX, the company that oversees the Nasdaq stock exchange, is building a private stock market service based on the blockchain, while online retailer Overstock.com has received SEC approval to offer public stock on the blockchain via a service it calls TØ. For Marley Gray, who oversees Microsoft’s blockchain work, this movement is a way to completely reinvent how financial markets operate. “[Bitcoin] proved that this thing works—that it scales, that it’s secure,” he says.
It’s true—so true that even the big Wall Street players are embracing this idea. But it’s an open question how far they’ll take the blockchain, considering that it could overturn their businesses. The DTCC drives stock settlement, for instance; if taken to its logical extreme, the blockchain could replace the DTCC. Plus, such organizations will be slowed by good old industry inertia. DTCC chief technical architect (Robert Palatnick calls the idea of the whole industry using a single system to oversee the stock market “aspirational.”)
But Krishna has no doubts that the financial industry will embrace this technology in big ways—it has no choice.
“Ideas can be very powerful. Once an idea gets out there—at least in today’s world—you’re not going to stop it from propagating,” he says. “Those that embrace it with speed and conviction will be better placed for whatever disruption follows—as opposed to being disrupted.”
21-02-2016, 08:01 #4
Can IBM bring Bitcoin's blockchain technology to mainstream business?...
So, the big question becomes whether or not IBM's involvement will have any impact on the blockchain as a business technology.
First, let's look at the current state of the technology. For starters, the one well-established blockchain implementation, Bitcoin, is proven but limited in scope and scalability. Banks have been exploring the technology for more than a year or so, and many of the world's largest banks have joined the R3 Blockchain Consortium to look into uses of the technology. Still, Gartner analyst Ray Valdes said it does add some weight to the project to have IBM behind it.
"It is one more indicator that blockchain fever has struck in full force across a wide swath of the banking and financial services industry, but also now expanding the scope to other verticals," Valdes said.
The next question becomes what can IBM do for blockchain that hasn't already been done. So far, many of the blockchain initiatives have been vertically focused, but Valdes said that he thinks what IBM and the Hyperledger Project are doing is trying to expand interest in the technology, creating a "horizontal fabric rather than a vertical technology."
In terms of the different pieces of the announcement, the Hyperledger Project is the core value. Cuomo said that an open standards approach was critical to wide adoption of blockchain. However, the other announcements are complementary initiatives, which Valdes said won't really show their true value until the core technology project matures.
Of course, blockchain isn't out of the woods yet. There are a few challenges that could prove to be an issue to its growth. One major potential issue is the impact from government or regulatory efforts in the space, Valdes said.
But, we aren't to that point just yet. The technology is still being developed and it has a long way to go.
"This is the year of proofs of concept, it's not yet the year of systems in production," Valdes said.