Microsoft Linking Blockchain to its Products
Expect blockchain to be integrated in all Microsoft products soon.
Microsoft is somewhat discreet on its blockchain initiatives but its general manager of Microsoft Azure, Matt Kerner, has spilled the tea. He said the technology giant has been establishing connections between its blockchain services and its major infrastructure and platforms to allow customers port their data from these platforms into the cloud, and eventually onto the blockchain technology.
These products cover Office 365 Outlook, SharePoint Online, Salesforce, Dynamics 365 CRM Online, SAP, and Twitter. Essentially, Microsoft is incorporating tools like Microsoft Flow and Logic Apps into Azure Blockchain Workbench, a service unveiled in May to make the development of blockchain applications easier.
Microsoft explained the distributed ledger technology (DLT), in a cloud environment such as Azure, collates data from several companies in a standardized format at scale. The firm stipulated the DLT’s potential to mine data becomes limitless.
Kerner pointed out the latest move is part of the evolution of Big Data. Before the introduction of blockchain, cloud computing enabled documents to break out of their data silos and work together on heterogeneous data sets; thus, bolstering smarts via machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI).
“Blockchain empowers the next step – enabling a single, authentic data set shared across counterparties. This is already improving the way transactions happen. We believe the same will be true with data analytics,” Kerner said.
With enterprise blockchain, Kerner said many customers get the structured and formatted data part thrown in free of charge. “What blockchain is doing is creating a multi-party business process that is moving out of email, phone calls, spreadsheets and into a single system with a single view on the data that all of the participants can rely upon and trust,” he added.
“Even the fiercest of competitors can onboard and mutually derive benefit from that system and find new revenue streams,” he added.
Azure’s project is akin to Insurwave which simplifies maritime insurance for shipping hauls delivered by Maersk. The platform, designed using R3’s Corda platform, with assistance from EY and Guardtime, is now commercially produced with insurers including MS Amlin, Willis Towers Watson, and XL Catlin.
Insurwave tracks cargos and modifies insurance premiums up-to-date, gathers all kinds of data from internet of things (IoT) sensors monitoring temperature, to whether the ship is going to encounter a storm, or get into a war zone or an area hugely populated with pirates. Kerner explained that once these details are shared on the blockchain, Microsoft’s business analytics tool, Power BI, can be utilized to gain insights on shipping hauls.
Aside from the one-click Corda capability, the integration of Corda into modules within the Azure marketplace is an advantage. “This enables Corda to plug into a number of different capabilities including Azure SQL, active directory for identity access management and key vault for key management, Ricardo Correia, managing director and head of partner management at R3, said.
Correia mentioned that Microsoft is gaining ground in supply chain probably with lower fanfare. “It’s in their interest given they too have very large supply chains with a number of their product offerings,” he added.
Kerner said that all entities are scrambling to create a consortium outside the Azure arena. “It’s got to be open. Any meaningful consortium is going to have members who have different choices that they have made around their cloud provider and who they choose to work with,” he said.