Microsoft unveils superfast and secure blockchain service for companies

Microsoft has announced a first-of-its-kind blockchain service for companies that can handle more than 1,600 transactions per second – much faster than current networks.

The Coco Framework is easier to use than other blockchain products, making the technology widely available to firms in a range of sectors, including financial services, supply chain and logistics, healthcare and retail. It is also very secure, so companies can keep data safe and confidential.

JP Morgan Chase, the global bank, technology group Intel and database specialists R3 have agreed to start using the Coco Framework in conjunction with their own blockchain ledger platforms.

How does Blockchain work? (credit: PwC)
How does blockchain work? (credit: PwC)

“Blockchain is a transformational technology with the ability to significantly reduce the friction of doing business,” said Mark Russinovich, Chief Technology Officer of Azure at Microsoft. “Microsoft is committed to bringing blockchain to the enterprise. We have listened to the needs of our customers and the blockchain community and are bringing foundational functionality with the Coco Framework. Through an innovative combination of advanced algorithms and trusted execution environments, like Intel’s Software Guard Extensions or Windows Virtual Secure Mode, we believe this takes the next step toward making blockchain ready for business.”

Blockchain is a database that can be added to but not modified, making it very secure, while each entry, or block, is linked to the previous one, so they are also quick and easy to use. It is historically known as a core part of the digital currency bitcoin but can be used for any transaction, so has the potential to revolutionise most sectors.

Current blockchain technology needs complicated development to meet the operational and security needs of companies. Coco Framework simplifies those, and adds “high transaction speed, distributed governance” – so network members can vote on terms and conditions – and “confidentiality”, Microsoft said in a blog post.

The Coco Framework is compatible with any ledger protocol and can operate in the cloud and on-premise, on any operating system and hypervisor that supports a compatible trusted execution environment.

It also sits on Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform, so benefits from the security and efficiency embedded in that product, too.

“We are thrilled to work with Microsoft to bring blockchain to the enterprise,” said Rick Echevarria, Vice-President of Software and Services Group and General Manager of the Platforms Security Division at Intel. “Our mutual customers are excited by the potential of blockchain. Intel is committed to accelerating the value of blockchains powered by Azure on Intel hardware, by improving the scalability, privacy and security of the solutions based on our technologies.”

Microsoft will launch the framework on GitHub in 2018 as an open source project and will work with customers and partners, as well as the blockchain technical and business communities, to continue advancing foundational blockchain technology.

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Microsoft told the Blockchain Expo in London earlier this year that the cloud is the best way to use the technology and it is working on an ecosystem to support it, codenamed Project Bletchley. The platform aims to provide openness, privacy, security, scale, flexibility and members-only blockchains.

Project Bletchley is “blockchain 3.0 while most people are in blockchain 2.0″, Microsoft Cloud Architect Thomas Conte said at the conference. He pointed to Microsoft’s use of “cryptlets” – secure software that interacts with the blockchain – in its development of a trusted marketplace for smart contracts, which no one can alter after deployment, and Azure Key Vault, which allows people to encrypt passwords.

For further information on the Coco Framework, including a whitepaper and technical demo, visit: www.aka.ms/cocoframework.