The Promise and Challenge of Blockchain
Few inventions have so shaken the development world as the blockchain. Using vast, distributed networks to swiftly track and verify data holds revolutionary potential for the industry. Unfortunately, some issues have presented challenges for the widespread adoption of blockchain technology. First, the blockchain was invented specifically to address the needs of digital currencies such as Bitcoin, and blockchain systems have largely been designed with little consideration for features that would benefit developers outside that field. Second, the blockchain is simply too new to have received the kind of in-depth iteration and development attention to make it more broadly useful to developers.
Solving the Blockchain Problem
Microsoft intends to address both issues head-on with its new product, the Azure Blockchain Development Kit. Of particular importance is the ability to easily authenticate “off chain” elements. Blockchain technology typically focuses solely on numerical data that is being tracked and managed within the chain, while enterprise offerings often need to incorporate supporting materials, such as multimedia resources, that cannot be calculated and may need to be widely distributed. This kind of data is challenging to manage with blockchain solutions. Microsoft’s answer is to incorporate a series of Logic Apps that enable the hashing of files and metadata. This hashing allows these forms of data to be converted into a format that can be compared against a saved, “on chain” reference, ensuring that even non-numerical data can be validated at every step.
The Azure Blockchain Development Kit is built on Microsoft’s serverless technologies and can integrate not only with the wider Microsoft ecosystem, but with many leading third-party SaaS offerings. By utilizing the decades of experience that have been channeled into Azure, Microsoft makes it easier to bring the tools that developers are already familiar with into the comparatively uncharted waters of the blockchain. They have even published a white paper on how to deploy the blockchain in DevOps projects.
An Eye on the Future
While the fortunes of cryptocurrencies have fluctuated, the blockchain technology that was created to manage them has proven to be a potent new tool in developers’ arsenals. Microsoft’s new kit represents a significant step forward for bringing ease-of-use and versatility to blockchain solutions, and is assuredly just one step in a broader trend. Is the blockchain something you are interested in? Is Microsoft’s approach what you’re looking for? Let us know in the comments below.