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Microsoft ended up fielding a preview of Azure BaaS , but lately had not done much to update the service. Morgan, Singapore Airlines, Starbucks and Xbox as customers. Microsoft's documentation suggests users start migrating to an alternative now. Users also could opt to self-manage their blockhains using VMs.
I asked Microsoft for official word as to why the company decided to shut down Azure Blockchain. No response so far. Microsoft has a rich history of working with partners with the shared goals of innovating and delivering solutions to our customers. As industry dynamics have changed, we made the decision to shift our focus from a product-oriented offering to a partner-oriented solution.
It is also a force to reckon with in the cloud storage business. Its cloud storage platform, Azure, lets developers connect and integrate a wide range of tools and services at one place. Quick explanation of Ethereum Ethereum is the world's most popular blockchain-based technology for apps called dApps and games. It is the first blockchain in the world with the capability of processing code.
Among other cryptocurrencies, Ethereum is the one that most developers use as a backbone for their projects. Quick explanation of Starbucks Starbucks is the world's largest coffee chain with 24, cafes in 74 countries, with a clear focus on social responsibility and providing high-quality coffee and non-alcoholic drinks. This proves that the company understands the power of blockchain technology and wants to be among its leading investors when it reaches the masses. Microsoft released the kit as an extension of its already very powerful Visual Studio code.
Visual Studio is a must for any serious developer because it offers tons of possibilities for coders of many programming languages, plus features to interact with databases and build advanced predictive analytics features. Now, with the integration of the Ethereum blockchain, developers can integrate blockchain with all the other features Azure offers.
The main strength of Ethereum compared to the other cryptocurrencies lies in its power of smart contracts and "code is law" plus its first mover advantage of processing capabilities on the blockchain. This has made Ethereum the by far, most popular blockchain for developers of blockchain apps dApps and games. A major drawback in the use of Ethereum for programming activities used to be the fact that developers of Solidity the programming language developed by Ethereum had to build every single feature running on Ethereum from scratch, making the work tedious and slow.
Now that the blockchain technology has gained a high level of popularity among programmers, programming on Ethereum has become easier and faster. Now Ethereum developers can let Azure take a big part of the processing plus connect their dApps to the already vast and growing number of features Azure offers.
Sure, there have been Solidity and other Blockchain technology extensions for Visual Studio Code published by others in the community, however now there is also an official set of tools published by Microsoft. This proves even further the investment and dedication that Microsoft is putting forth towards the use of Blockchain ledger technologies in the Enterprise, or even on the public blockchain networks.
Microsoft is also showing us its future plans for GitHub the world's number one platform for hackers and code development. I believe the aim is to make GitHub the go-to place for hobbyist, companies, hackers and pretty much everyone interested in free code projects. We also see that Microsoft is encouraging all sorts of open source project, even paying its own staff to develop on the Ethereum blockchain. This may seems like wasteful thing to do for companies such as Google GOOG , Amazon AMZN and Microsoft, but if we look deeper into the solution offerings they provide I have written extensively about Microsoft's products here , we can see that Microsoft no longer fights open source code, it actually encourages it in every single way.
Some even claim Amazon steals open source code " The crusade against open-source abuse ," TechCrunch. Great business for Microsoft, which nowadays sees open source code as an important part of business life and does everything in its power to help open source projects by providing services for open source to integrate with, such as Azure. Microsoft's core business in the future will be Azure and not Office or Windows, and the company knows it.
Instead of fighting open source like its competitors, the company helps open source project succeeds and become more powerful, and if an open source project could start to compete with Google, Facebook FB , Amazon or Oracle in the future with features build in GitHub and Azure, so much the better. This is why it is a wonderful bet on open source features for Microsoft, as it seems to be saying to itself, "Do not make open source coders angry.
Help them and their community instead, and they will start using your features instead of your competitors' whom they will be unhappy with. Its ability to be able to process code has made it the best blockchain tool for the largest ecosystem of cryptocurrency projects and solutions.
In fact, according to Forbes list, 50 big companies building blockchain solutions use Ethereum. As I wrote above, Microsoft now officially supports building of smart contracts in Solidity on its wildly popular Visual Studio Code editor. Microsoft is not the only one that has noticed the endless opportunities attached with Ethereum.
Clearly, Ethereum is quickly establishing itself as a global leader in enterprise-level blockchain technology, and will be very hard to stop at this point. It is powered by Quorum, an enterprise-focused version of Ethereum. More than banks now use the JPM coin. The company also described other initiatives it is working on at the Microsoft Build developer conference. The aim is to bring greater financial possibilities for coffee farmers and let users and customers track their coffee back to its source.
This is a perfect use case for Ethereum, because it is fully transparent, with thousands of individual nodes verifying the transactions. Everyone can freely track each transaction being made on Ethereum via Etherscan. This is all part of Starbucks' " bean to cup " program with the intention of gathering real time information about the supply chain and supporting farmers.
Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks, said: Over the next two years, we will look to demonstrate how technology and innovative data platforms can give coffee farmers even more financial empowerment. Starbucks is actively strengthening its brand by helping farmers get a fairer share of their work and also making the crypto community like the brand more. Starbucks said it worked with more than , coffee bean farms last year. The company promised to open source the pilot program and share what it learns.
What open source platform is by far the largest in the world if not Microsoft-owned GitHub? Potential issues for investors The risk it poses for Microsoft Microsoft is taking a big bet on open source. Many open source projects aim to compete with or even disrupt existing tech. Thus, Microsoft may end up helping other projects take slices of its own business.
More on Ethereum In the Ethereum blockchain, the block time is fixed at 14 or 15 seconds which is faster than the 10 minutes of Bitcoin. Transactions are quicker because of the Ghost protocol. This was launched in to reduce or prevent speedy block-time blockchains affected by an increasing number of useless blocks. Some of these are spread to the network and validated by nodes as correct but sooner or later eliminated.
This protocol also resolves the issue of centralization bias. The economic model of Ethereum is a bit different from Bitcoin which prevents rewards divided in two every four years. On the other hand, Ethereum discharges the same amount of Ether annually infinitely. It maintains a distinct technique for costing of transactions. This depends on complexity of computations, usage of bandwidth and storage requirements. Transactions of Bitcoin compete with one another in the same way.
Availability of Platform Ethereum will be made available to banks as well as insurance firms that currently use the Azure platform of Microsoft. Four financial conglomerates have also enrolled in this service. Said technology allows corporations to develop their smart contracts or blockchains which routinely performs terms of agreements within 20 minutes even if there is no previous experience.
The primary benefit of Ethereum includes its flexibility. It can also be customized according to needs of clients which mean they can innovate and provide new services along with DAPPS or Distributed Applications. The official endorsement made by Microsoft is an indication that the up-and-coming ecosystem is a force to reckon with. Given these developments, Ethereum has achieved a reliable status in one of the most promising disciplines of information technology. This is big-scale enterprise cloud computing by way of this alliance with one of the major players in said sector.
Peer-to-Peer network — Users can connect their PCs to form a network for exchanging data without the need for central servers. Algorithm for consensus formation — Said algorithm is more efficient than Bitcoin. Turing complete virtual machine — The virtual machine functions as software and run as abstraction layer on top of the basic hardware. These are the four foundations of decentralized app technologies that will enable the smart contracts.
These contracts or computer protocols possess user interface that may be implemented as mobile apps, web pages or standard apps. These make traditional contracts obsolete for specific transaction purposes. Microsoft 1-Click Ethereum Exclusive Network This platform has unveiled its quick-starting template specifically for an Ethereum blockchain consortium network. It makes the infrastructure and protocol very simple so anyone can set up a private protocol from the portal of Azure without difficulty.
Microsoft Azure spells out that there are multiple possibilities for the public Ethereum network. Yet, it also visualizes privatized enterprise software solutions. There is no sole authorized structure for the network but the template offers mock-up architecture so users can start right away.
Figure 3 illustrates the platform architecture. First, I need to access Azure portal portal. Ethereum Consortium The Ethereum Consortium template deploys an Ethereum multi-member network, consisting of a set of mining nodes and transaction nodes. Provisioning can take up to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the network, at which point I can configure additional Ethereum accounts and get started with smart contract and dApp development through the administrator Web page.
The provisioning process guides you through five steps to enter the necessary configuration settings for provisioning the Ethereum ledger in Azure: Step 1: Configure basic settings, which include a Resource prefix for naming all the generated Azure resources provisioned in the assigned Resource group, authentication credentials as admin of all the deployed virtual machines and the Azure region of deployment. Step 2: Address network size and performance.
You may want to specify the number of members in the consortium up to 12 , the number of mining nodes per member mining nodes record transactions within a blockchain network , storage replication locally redundant or geo-redundant and performance. You can also set the number of load-balanced transaction nodes, which represents the point of interaction of users or applications with the deployed blockchain. Step 3: This step is specific to Ethereum nodes.
I can specify the Ethereum Network ID, a unique value that identifies the network and will be used by nodes to peer with each other. Also, I can specify how the first block, called Genesis, will be generated, either automatically by the platform or manually by providing my own JSON file.
Figure 4 anticipates the Azure resources to be deployed in the provisioning of the Ethereum ledger, along with a snippet of the template file. Figure 4 Resource Template File for Ethereum Consortium Multi-Node Ledger This template file can be used to automate deployment of similar resources in the future, using a combination of. NET or PowerShell scripts.
The C code in Figure 5 describes the DeploymentHelper class generated by the template for automating the deployment of the identified Azure resources. You need to reference the following packages to run the code: Microsoft. Authorization Microsoft. To create a new resource group, please enter a location. In less than 20 minutes, you have a fully functional blockchain ledger up and running.
SSH Info: You need credentials to sign into the blockchain environments and configure parameters, like most typically for unlocking the Coinbase account and start mining new blocks. Coinbase is my digital wallet, which contains my signature keys used to hash a block, and my Ether, the cryptocurrency of Ethereum, earned as part of the mining process.
When deploying a new Ethereum Consortium ledger in Azure, this account is initially locked, so I need to unlock it before I can publish smart contracts. With the help of SSH, I connect to a transaction node of the Ethereum Consortium network and unlock the Coinbase account, like so: geth attach -- opens the Geth console personal. By default, this action unlocks the Coinbase account for 5 minutes.
You can change the duration using a different signature of the unlockAccount method, as shown here: eth. Once the Coinbase account is unlocked, this represents time zero, when the network starts. After this point, nodes can accept transactions. Transactions could be in the form of creation of accounts, movement of ether, creation of smart contracts, or any change to the state of the blockchain.
Then, at a periodic time configured for the network, the network mines the next block. This block is a hash calculated by combining hashes of the transactions executed between the last block and now, plus the hash from the previous block and a nonce—a sequence of bits in a block that can be adjusted in order to try to satisfy the proof-of-work condition.
This is the essence of mining. The block is then accepted by the network by consensus, and so you have the first two blocks in your chain, and so on. Developing Smart Contracts It would take a whole book to go through the details of developing smart contracts in Ethereum. In this article, I want to offer pointers to start with and understand the landscape of technologies and frameworks in use.
To write and deploy smart contracts in Ethereum, you can use any of the development environments available in Azure, or access a completely external browser-based IDE like Ether Camp ether. In terms of programming languages, Solidity solidity. An ABI is the interface to call functions in a smart contract and get data back from an Ethereum node.
Obtain the function signature on the smart contract to be invoked. Make the call to the smart contract. The code snippet in Figure 7 shows a few very basic steps, using the NEthereum library. GetContract ballot. GetContract abi, ballot. GetAccountPassphrase agreement. SendRequestAsync ballot. OriginatorAccount, ballot. SendTransactionAsync ballot. When a vote is cast, the voted flag on the voter the message sender is set to true to prevent double voting, and the proposal counter is increased, considering a weight for the vote itself.
Figure 8 shows the code for this. I use Ethereum Remix for development of smart contracts in Solidity, which provides a Web-based IDE for development, testing and deployment. Coming soon, the Microsoft Confidential Consortium Coco Framework is an open source system that enables high-scale, confidential blockchain networks that meet all key enterprise requirements for confidentiality, governance and performance, and at the same time provide a means to accelerate production enterprise adoption of blockchain technology.
Coco bit. Rather, it provides a trusted foundation with which existing blockchain protocols such as Ethereum, Quorum, Corda and others can be integrated to deliver complete, enterprise-ready ledger solutions. Coco is designed to be open and compatible with any blockchain protocol. Figure 9 shows the Coco Framework architecture. Finally, a word on Azure Blockchain Workbench, which is the primary mechanism for enterprise customers getting started with blockchain.
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