Three years ago, Microsoft Azure was the first to bring blockchain to the cloud. Now it’s connecting the technology to everything. According to Matt Kerner, the general manager of Microsoft Azure, The software builds bridges between its blockchain services and other, widely used infrastructure and platforms, such as Office 365 Outlook, SharePoint Online, Salesforce, Dynamics 365 CRM Online, SAP, and even Twitter. The idea is to allow Microsoft customers to port their data from these platforms into the cloud, and from there onto a blockchain.
The potential to mine data for all sorts of insights then becomes limitless, the company reckons. Hence, the company is integrating tools such as Microsoft Flow and Logic Apps. These offers hundreds of connectors to thousands of applications – into Azure Block Chain Workbench. It is a service launched in May. This makes the creation of blockchain apps easier. Workbench currently has there Proof of Authority configured as the consensus protocol.
It’s all a part of the evolution of Big Data, Kerner explained.
Microsoft Is Connecting Its Major Products to Block Chain
Prior to the blockchain, he pointed out; cloud computing enabled departments within the same company to break out of their data silos and collaborate on heterogeneous data sets, increasing smarts through 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 told.
Stepping back, many arguments came that data is now the most valuable naturally occurring resource on the planet. As the race to prove the best data analytics intensifies, firms are springing up whose sole purpose is to structure and format data to run AI algorithms on. But with enterprise blockchain, you get the structured and formatted data part was thrown in for free, as Kerner said many Azure customers were discovering.
“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 said. Looking ahead, Kerner said bringing vast amounts of unstructured and soloed data into a context where it could be leveraged and even shared would drive exponential change. He said: “Even the fiercest of competitors can onboard and mutually derive benefit from that system and find new revenue streams.”
Taking on IBM:
A good example of Azure connecting and balancing components in a large and complex production environment is Insurwave. This simplifies maritime insurance for shipping hauls carried by Maersk. The platform was built using R3’s Corda platform with help from EY and Guard time and is now in commercial production with insurers such as Willis Towers Watson, XL Catlin, and MS Amlin.
Insurwave which tracks cargos and adjusts insurance premiums in real time, collates all sorts of data, everything from an Internet of Things (IoT) sensors monitoring temperature, to whether the ship is going to hit a storm or enter a war zone or an area heavily populated with pirates. Once this data is shared on the blockchain, Power BI, a Microsoft business analytics tool, can be used to gain insights about shipping hauls, Kerner said.