Microsoft unveils “Project Bletchley” secure blockchain framework

Microsoft has unveiled details of its “Project Bletchley” service that will use blockchain to ensure that transaction history remain impervious to forgery.

Blockchain is the technology that underpins Bitcoin transactions, beloved of ransomware criminals. In this instance, the technology can be used to protect the fidelity of any type of transaction.

This is potentially of interest to organisations involved in banking and other financial institutions.

The Azure Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) last launched November, but Project Bletchley is pitched as “Microsoft's vision for an open, modular blockchain fabric powered by Azure, and highlights new elements we believe are key in enterprise blockchain architecture.”

“In Project Bletchley, Azure provides the fabric for blockchain, serving as the cloud platform where distributed applications are built and delivered,” said Marley Gray, Microsoft's director of business development and strategy of the Cloud and Enterprise division.

The firm said that in time, the service will also include features such as  identity, key management, privacy, security, operations management and interoperability.

Project Bletchley is made of 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.

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,” said Gray.

Ben Newton, associate partner at Citihub Consulting said that one of the disadvantages of banking on Microsoft as an infrastructure player is their uneven track record in open standards.

“The open document format battle over the past ten years outlines the resistance Microsoft has had in adopting open standards. We need to ask ourselves these questions: Is there a risk that Microsoft will corrupt it's blockchain platform like it did with the interoperability of ODF? Is there a risk that Microsoft's blockchain middleware and cryptlets will encourage vendor lock in?” he said. “While the blockchain is advancing at such a rapid speed, I feel that it would be best to start with an independent view.”

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