Microsoft, Intel unveil blockchain service

Microsoft, Intel unveil blockchain service

While the Coco Framework will work with any ledger technology, R3, Intel, and JP Morgan are planning to support it off the bat with their respective ledgers, Microsoft said. Providing these foundational capabilities opens up more complex, real-world blockchain scenarios across industries - like financial services, supply chain and logistics, healthcare and retail - further proving blockchain's potential to digitally transform business.

Blockchain was originally part of the Bitcoin cryptocurrency and was designed for public use with anonymous, untrusted actors and full transaction transparency.

IBM released a commercial blockchain product in March of this year, but enterprise computing vendors have been taking baby steps toward adopting this technology.

Microsoft has announced that it is working with Intel and other blockchain leaders on a new framework geared towards bringing the technology to the enterprise. These safeguards, while necessary to ensure the integrity of public blockchain networks, require tradeoffs in terms of key enterprise requirements such as scalability and confidentiality.

With Coco, nodes are declared and controlled, and standard blockchain protocols are used alongside trusted execution environments, cryptography, and distributed systems, the post said. The company now supports various blockchain efforts including Ethereum and the Linux Foundation's Hyperledger project.

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"As enterprises look to apply blockchain technology to meet their business needs, they've come to realize that many existing blockchain protocols fail to meet key enterprise requirements such as performance, confidentiality, governance, and required processing power". This works by creating a separate, secure environment within which elements of the blockchain service can be contained. For example, an enterprise that wants to use a blockchain to manage its relationships with suppliers might want one or two companies to be able to view all the transactions on a network while limiting other participants to viewing a subset of those deals.

By design, Coco is open and compatible with any blockchain protocol.

"Microsoft's Coco Framework represents a breakthrough in achieving highly scalable, confidential, permissioned Ethereum or other blockchain networks that will be an important construct in the emerging world of variously interconnected blockchain systems". By using that shared trust, it's possible to bypass transaction verification operations like those required by the current open source version of Ethereum. While Coco started as a collaboration between Azure and Microsoft Research, it has benefitted from the input of dozens of customers and partners already. Coco is compatible with any ledger protocol which can be run anywhere from in the cloud or on premises, and on any operating system and hypervisor that supports a compatible trusted environment.

Coco's source code will be available to the open source community in 2018.

That's been a major hurdle to enterprise adoption of distributed ledgers in the past.