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Microsoft Takes Another Step to Make Blockchain Friendly to Mere Mortals

July 25, 2017, 1:26 PM UTC

Microsoft is taking another step to make blockchain—the distributed ledger system that underlies transactions made with cryptocurrency—more usable by everyday business customers.

Blockchain is a type of technology enabling secure transactions using cryptocurrencies like bitcoin without a third-party intermediary controlling the action. As this requires distributed computing resources, public clouds like Microsoft (MSFT) Azure, which harness the power of data centers around the world, enable the use of such technology.

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According to a blog post by Marley Gray, principal program manager for Microsoft Azure’s blockchain engineering group, the company has already made the basic cloud plumbing available for blockchain. Now, it’s time to make it easier for customers to build applications on top of that plumbing.

That’s where the company’s new Enterprise Smart Contracts come in.

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These contracts define different elements for use in blockchain applications, which then utilize various Azure components, including Azure Key Vault and Azure Active Directory. The key vault lets businesses store and manage their own encryption keys, while Azure Active Directory assures that users are who they say they are and can only access data and resources for which they are authorized.

All of that might sound overly technical, but essentially, Enterprise Smart Contracts define the sort of data structure or schema used for a transaction, the business rules (or logic) governing that transaction, who the authorized parties to a given transaction are, and the ledger or original source of the transaction amount.

As tech news site ZDnet noted, this is the latest in a series of moves by Microsoft (MSFT) to capitalize on the blockchain craze, which IBM (IBM) and other tech and financial services giants are also rushing to embrace.

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Two years ago, Microsoft unveiled its plan for Blockchain-as-a-Service. The following year, it unveiled Project Bletchley, another layer of software to enable blockchain applications. Now, Enterprise Smart Contracts tops that foundation.