Microsoft invokes codebreaker Turing for blockchain initiative

Microsoft is launching a new project that aims make it easier for businesses across a wide range of industries to build consortiums that better take advantage of blockchain technology.

‘Project Bletchley’ takes its name from Bletchley Park where British computing scientist Alan Turing and his team famously helped break the German Enigma code during World War II.

The initiative builds on the Microsoft Azure Blockchain launched last November, which already hosts a wide range of open-source tools developed by companies such as Tendermint, Augur and more. Azure enables users to build and experiment in a “sandbox” environment to identify use cases and see how well prototypes function.

Announcing Project Bletchley, Microsoft’s director of business development and strategy, Marley Gray, said that it “addresses common themes we’re hearing from early adopters of blockchain across industries,” including:

• Platform openness is a requirement.
• Features like identity, key management, privacy, security, operations management and interoperability need to be integrated.
• Performance, scale, support and stability are crucial.
• Consortium blockchains, which are members-only, permissioned networks for consortium members to execute contracts, are ideal.

“Since launching Microsoft Azure Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) last November, we’ve been working side-by-side with businesses and partners to understand core industry scenarios, and to develop the technologies and ecosystem that will bring blockchain to enterprises, governments and people successfully,” Gray added.

“We’ve learned a lot about essential platform principles, features and capabilities that will enable enterprises to adopt blockchain. To address this, we’re introducing Project Bletchley, which outlines Microsoft’s vision for an open, modular blockchain fabric powered by Azure, and highlights new elements we believe are key in enterprise blockchain architecture.”

Several consortiums have already been formed to test blockchain technology, the most high-profile including banking consortium R3CEV, the Post-Trade Distributed Ledger Group (PTDL) and Dubai’s Global Blockchain Council (GBC).

Gray stressed the need for a technology that could continue to support such collaborations.
Project Bletchley will be open to multiple blockchain protocols, providing support to unspent transaction output (UTXO) protocols such as Hyperledger, and account-based protocols like Ethereum, with others added as they are developed.

In a white paper that is also published today, Gray describes what he termed an ‘Enterprise Consortium Node’: “A modular framework will allow consortiums to pick the best of breed components and build their distributed applications regardless of the detail underneath.”

As part of the Project Bletchley announcement, Microsoft also introduced what it calls two “new” concepts: blockchain middleware and cryptlets.

“Blockchain middleware will provide core services functioning in the cloud, like identity and operations management, in addition to data and intelligence services like analytics and machine learning,” said Gray.

“Cryptlets, a new building block of blockchain technology, will enable secure interoperation and communication between Microsoft Azure, ecosystem middleware and customer technologies.

“Cryptlets function when additional information is needed to execute a transaction or contract, such as date and time. They will become a critical component of sophisticated blockchain systems, enabling all technology to work together in a secure, scalable way.”

Further information about Project Bletchley will be released at Microsoft’s World Wide Partner Conference from July 12-16 in Toronto, Canada. Pilots of the service are expected to be ready later this summer.


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