Microsoft has released an open, cloud-based blockchain-as-a-service platform in the hopes it will entice enterprise and government customers to adopt the distributed transaction ledger technology.
Known as Project Bletchley, the initiative is Microsoft's attempt at building a modular blockchain fabric that runs in its Azure cloud platform.
Microsoft made its first foray into creating an open source distributed ledger based on the technology underpinning Bitcoin last November, when it partnered with developer ConsenSys for the Ethereum enterprise blockchain-as-a-service offering via the Azure cloud.
Blockchain or distributed ledgers "address a substantial latent pain that exist across industries" when applied to use cases other than the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, Microsoft's director of BizDev and strategy for cloud and enterprise Marley Gray said.
"Existing inter-company transactions carry enormous costs in process, procedure and crosschecking of records to come to settlement on what could turn out to be a trivial exercise using blockchain technology," she said.
"In short, blockchain or distributed ledger technologies can provide the next wave of innovation that streamlines the way business operates, the same way the web did, giving birth to a new collaborative economy."
The Azure-based BaaS will support a range of protocols such as the simple unspent transaction output (UTXO)-based HyperLedger and the more advanced Ethereum that uses smart contracts that act like ledgers of itself within the distributed ledger.
Two new concepts - blockchain middleware and cryptlets - are introduced with Project Bletchley, Gray said.
Microsoft sees blockchain middleware as providing core services in the cloud, such as identity and operations management, data analytics and machine learning.
Cryptlets connect and securely interoperate between Azure, blockchain middleware and customer technologies, and Gray said they will become critical components of sophisticated blockchain systems.
In Australia, the country's major banks and national stock exchange are looking at ways to adopt blockchain to build secure, more efficient and inexpensive distributed transaction ledger systems.