Google Expands Blockchain Push With Digital Asset Tie-Up

July 23, 2018, 3:00 PM UTC

Google is increasingly betting that blockchain technology, which creates a permanent ledger across multiple computers, will be key to competing with Amazon and Microsoft in cloud services. To that end, Google and the New York-based startup Digital Asset announced a partnership on Monday to bring blockchain to Google Cloud.

“We’re partnering with Google Cloud to provide developers with a full stack solution so they can unleash the potential for web-paced innovation in blockchain,” said Blythe Masters, CEO of Digital Asset, in a statement.

The crux of the partnership involves Digital Asset providing Google access to a software development kit (SDK) that will let the company’s developers experiment with a smart contract programming language known as DAML.

Digital Asset unveiled DAML, which stands for Digital Asset Modeling Language, in March as a simplified way for companies to build blockchain applications, including smart contracts, for a variety of purposes.

In an interview with Fortune, Masters said companies can use DAML to create blockchain-based payment and other financial services for their partners and contractors, but that the range of possibilities is much broader.

“The solutions are agnostic as to both asset class and industry,” she said, citing health care records and media royalties as other examples where DAML’s smart contract tools will be helpful.

Masters is a well-known figure in the financial world, who ran the commodities desk at JP Morgan before leaving to build Digital Asset. The startup, which competes with R3 and others vying to supply blockchain services to the corporate world, has gained attention for a partnership with the Australian Securities Exchange that aspires to put stocks on the blockchain.

Google’s move to partner with Digital Asset follows reports in May that the search giant sees blockchain as a crucial ingredient in its cloud strategy. According to Bloomberg, Google Cloud has already embarked on a series of investments and acquisitions to build up its blockchain capabilities.

The arrangement with Digital Asset is notable because, according to Masters, it amounts to a licensing deal rather than an acquisition or an ownership position in the startup.

Masters told Fortune the company has “extensive connections” with Google through its employees, and pointed to the recent addition to its board of AG Gangadhar, a high profile engineer and former Google executive.

“We are delighted to innovate with Digital Asset in the distributed ledger space,” Leonard Law, head of Financial Services Platform at Google Cloud, said in a statement. “DLT has great potential to benefit customers not just in the financial services industry, but across many industries, and we’re excited to bring these developer tools to Google Cloud.”

Google’s tie-up with Digital Asset is also notable because the startup’s code is proprietary. The search giant typically opts to build with open source code, but Masters says making SDKs available will serve to make its blockchain-building tools easy to use and accessible.

The partnership comes at a time when cloud services are an increasingly important part of tech giants’ revenues and business strategies. Amazon Web Services remains the clear leader in the sector, followed by Microsoft while Google Cloud is in third place with about 6% of market share.