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Azure introduces a new blockchain proof of concept framework for developers


By Marc Mercuri Director, Applied Innovation, Microsoft Digital.






Microsoft is laser-focused on enabling and accelerating enterprise adoption of blockchain technologies. Our blockchain offerings are well known for providing the ability to rapidly and consistently deploy blockchain infrastructure.

However, as our customers and partners began to build their distributed applications, they identified the application layer as an area where Microsoft could take even greater steps to reduce the time and cost associated with blockchain Proof of Concept (PoC) projects.

More time on smart contracts, less time on “scaffolding”

When our customers and partners estimate the time and costs for developing a blockchain PoC, they often find that it can take 8-12 weeks and cost as much as $300,000. Besides being time consuming and expensive, this is a huge missed opportunity. Quickly understanding the viability of a PoC can accelerate a business’s understanding of blockchain and save the time and cost associated with a less impactful project.

Microsoft identified that most of the time in these PoC projects was spent developing code and building capabilities that surrounded the blockchain, often referred to as “scaffolding.” That scaffolding typically required building a responsive web client, writing and deploying a gateway API, implementing support for off-chain storage in technologies such as SQL DB, building out reporting and analytics, and integrating identity and key vault services into the solution.

Lower costs and faster time to value with a PoC Framework

We realized there were a common set of challenges related to PoC development that we could address by creating a type of “Proof of Concept Framework” that would dramatically reduce the amount of time needed to build a blockchain PoC.

The framework provides code assets and ARM template driven deployment for all the scaffolding needed for blockchain PoCs, including the blockchain network, a gateway API, a responsive web application, Azure Active Directory integration, Azure Key Vault integration, SQL DB that is configured and collecting on-chain data, and a set of supporting code and services such as a Hashing Service and a Signing Service. The framework uses Azure’s Event Hubs at its core, which provides the ability to readily add new capabilities such as sending raw data to Azure Data Lake or providing transaction data to Azure Search.

The framework also makes it possible to create the web application without writing any code. It uses meta-data provided for smart contracts to dynamically deliver a contextual user experience for participants. Since the framework populates SQL DB as an off-chain store, it enables an organization to leverage existing skills and tools to light up additional capabilities such as APIs, reporting with PowerBI, chat bots, Azure Data Factory, R, and machine learning.

With the framework, customers and partners can focus on creating truly innovative applications that demonstrate the potential of blockchain, and spend less time and resources on integration tasks that required to get even a basic PoC up and running.

At the Consensus Conference in New York, we’re looking forward to the opportunity to demonstrate the framework for the first time, and to connect with customers and partners to discuss how it can help significantly accelerate blockchain PoC development.

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Friday, May 19th 2017
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