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In a rapidly globalizing digital world, business processes touch multiple organizations and great sums are spent managing workflows that cross trust boundaries. As digital transformation expands beyond the walls of one company and into processes shared with suppliers, partners, and customers, the importance of trust grows with it. Microsoft’s goal is to help companies thrive in this new era of secure multi-party computation by delivering open, scalable platforms, and services that any company from game publishers and grain processors, to payments ISVs and global shippers can use to digitally transform the processes they share with others.

Azure Blockchain Service: The foundation for blockchain applications in the cloud

Azure Blockchain Service is a fully-managed blockchain service that simplifies the formation, management, and governance of consortium blockchain networks so businesses can focus on workflow logic and application development. Today, we’re excited to announce that the public preview is now available.

With a few simple clicks, users can create and deploy a permissioned blockchain network and manage consortium policies using an intuitive interface in the Azure portal. Built-in governance enables developers to add new members, set permissions, monitor network health and activity, and execute governed, private interactions through integrations with Azure Active Directory.

This week, we also announced an exciting partnership with J.P. Morgan to make Quorum the first ledger available in Azure Blockchain Service. Because it’s built on the popular Ethereum protocol, which has the world’s largest blockchain developer community, Quorum is a natural choice. It integrates with a rich set of open-source tools while also supporting confidential transactions, something our enterprise customers require. Quorum customers like Starbucks, Louis Vuitton, and our own Xbox Finance team can now use Azure Blockchain Service to quickly expand their networks with lower costs, shifting their focus from infrastructure management to application development and business logic.

“We are incredibly proud of the success Quorum has had over the last four years as organizations around the world use Quorum to solve complex business and societal problems. We are delighted to partner alongside Microsoft as we continue to strengthen Quorum and expand capabilities and services on the platform.”

— Umar Farooq, Global Head of Blockchain at J.P. Morgan

We’re excited to offer customers an enterprise-grade Ethereum stack with Quorum, and look forward to adding new capabilities to Azure Blockchain Service in the coming months, including digital token management, improved application integration, and support for R3’s Corda Enterprise.

An application-driven approach

The ledger is just the foundation for new applications. After configuring the underlying blockchain network with Azure Blockchain Service, you need to codify your business logic using smart contracts. Until now, this has been cumbersome, requiring multiple command-line tools and limited developer IDE integration. Today we are releasing an extension for VS Code to address these issues. This extension allows you to create and compile Ethereum smart contracts, deploy them to either the public chain or a consortium network in Azure Blockchain Service, and manage their code using Azure DevOps.

Once your network is created and smart contract state machines are deployed, you must build an application in order for consortium participants to share business logic and data represented by the smart contracts. A key challenge has been integrating these applications with smart contracts so they either respond to smart contract updates or execute smart contract transactions. This connects business processes managed in other systems such as databases, CRM, and ERP systems with the ledger. Our new Azure Blockchain Dev Kit makes this easier than ever with connectors and templates for Logic Apps and Flow as well as integrations with serverless tools like Azure Functions.

You can learn more about how to build your first network, code your smart contracts, and interact with the ledger in the latest episodes of the web series Block Talk.

Embracing open communities

Over the past year, we have been preparing our Confidential Consortium Framework (CCF) for public release. CCF uses trusted execution environments (TEEs) such as SGX and VSM to enable ledgers that integrate with it to execute confidential transactions with the throughput and latency of a centralized database. Confidentiality and high performance are key requirements of our enterprise customers. We’re excited to announce that we have finished the first version of CCF, integrated with Quorum, and have made the source code available on Github.

Microsoft believes that the best way to bring blockchain to our customers is by partnering with the diverse and talented open source communities that are driving blockchain innovation today. We began this journey in 2015, partnering with the growing communities around Ethereum, R3 Corda, and Hyperledger to make those technologies available in Azure. Instead of building our own ledger, or creating a ledger alternative, we have worked to make open source technology developers love and work better with Azure. All of the tooling released this week allows developers to work against both consortium networks in Azure Blockchain Service and with public Ethereum.

“Microsoft has embraced the open community of blockchain developers and has brought the best of their cloud development tooling to the developers building the next wave of decentralized applications. With Azure Blockchain Service and Ethereum integrations for tools like VS Code, Microsoft is demonstrating its commitment to open blockchain development.”

— Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum

Next steps

Learn more about Azure Blockchain Service and get started today:

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