Microsoft is renowned the world over for enabling the PC revolution. They have, arguably, changed the landscape of business and daily lives by bringing computers to an affordability level that they are now ubiquitous. The company has for decades been working towards lowering barriers to development with tools and integrated offerings. They have now released a serverless blockchain-powered development kit, as announced yesterday on the 15th of November.
This initial release of the Azure Blockchain Development Kit looks to extend the capabilities of the blockchain developer templates and Azure Blockchain Workbench. The end goal, being able to afford a reference architecture that can be deployed to quickly build blockchain-based applications while incorporating off-chain identity and data, monitoring, and messaging APIs.
What Is The Main Focus
The announcement details the core focus on 3 primary aspects, these are: connecting interfaces, integrating data and systems, and deploying smart contracts and blockchain networks. Mike Ward, the Head of Product Management said,
“We are committed to ensuring developers can deploy CorDapps quickly, securely and easily. The Azure Blockchain Development Kit will give our enterprise customers tools to integrate with the applications, software, and devices that people use every day like Outlook, Alexa, SMS, and web UX. The blockchain is moving out of the labs and into everyday business applications.”
Only a solution that enables differing user interfaces to integrate with the blockchain can be a viable end to end blockchain solution. To this end, multiple factors come into play. Therefore different use cases for a vast variety of solutions have been factored in. For examples, SMS and voice interfaces, Mobile client devices, Bots and assistants and Web clients. These can be utilized in conjunction with each other, seamlessly. With these interfaces, individuals and organisations will be able to connect to a blockchain.
Integrating Data And Systems
To enable a suitable end to end blockchain solution, smart contracts are needed in order to facilitate multi-party processes. These require integration with data, software, and media that live “off chain”. Microsoft has identified a few areas for integration. Documents and Media don't usually belong in any chain but are often involved in business processes. Logic Apps will be used to enable the hashing of files and file related metadata, while also including smart contracts for files and a file registry to store those hashes on a chain.
Further, the importance of smart contract interactions is elevated by the fact that enterprise integration is messy. Thus there are hundreds of connectors available in Logic Apps and Flow. Microsoft's new kit includes workbench integration cases for Legacy applications and protocols, data, Software as a Service (SaaS), registries and Logic App Connectors for Blockchain
Deploying Smart Contracts And Blockchain Networks
As more people become aware of the blockchain technology and its possibilities, businesses have been looking to get more information about smart contracts and blockchain projects. There are fundamental questions in relation to business logic, data schema, unit testing and debugging that is all pervasive. This has been recognized and addressed as well. In a blog post, Microsft says “While there are some nuances to the approach, the good news is that just like other types of solution development, this model can readily be addressed in a DevOps model.” They have introduced “DevOps for Blockchain Smart Contracts,” a whitepaper that details using the development kit for blockchain-based apps in a multitude of scenarios.
Earlier in the year, Azure had introduced a proof-of-authority (PoA) algorithm on its Ethereum (ETH) blockchain product, as a way to help develop decentralized applications (DApps)
A Platform For The Future
The Azure Blockchain Development Kit, the multinational hopes, will be a great stride forward in enabling development of ” end to end blockchain applications accessible, fast, and affordable to anyone with an idea.” With Microsoft's increasing interest and investment compounded with the wealth of knowledge they bring, this should be a robust platform for developers
Solutions such as these are encouraging for any industry let alone a budding one. It is another example of the expanding influence of the cryptosphere and is encouraging to see an industry leader looking to associate, listen and look for solutions to help build the future.