Time to get on the ‘chain? Microsoft launches blockchain SDK

A blockchain SDK could be 'the first step' for SMEs to realize the tech's potential.
21 November 2018

The enterprise software leader has launched an off-the-shelf blockchain solution. Source: Shutterstock

For many SMEs, the concept of transitioning elements of business workflow to the blockchain may still seem somewhat of an abstract concept, if not one reserved for global banks and shipping conglomerates with a hefty budget for ‘experimental’ tech.

However, in a new update to its Azure cloud platform— more specifically, its Azure Blockchain Workbench— Microsoft has released a blockchain development kit, aimed at allowing businesses swift and “serverless” access to the benefits of the technology for their own individual use cases.

The software giant’s hope is that, for many, this could be “the first step” to realizing the technology’s potential, allowing developers to set up distributed ledgers and build applications in days, rather than months.

Microsoft says its technology— which allows enterprises to create shared, secure, decentralized and immutable ledgers of data— has already been used in ‘democratizing’ supply-chain financing in Nigeria, and in the farm-to-fork tracking of British crops.

Core to the software developer kit (SDK), users will be able to integrate blockchain workflows with existing systems and applications using Microsoft Flow and Logic Apps.

“This kit extends the capabilities of our blockchain developer templates and Azure Blockchain Workbench, which incorporates Azure services for key management, off-chain identity and data, monitoring, and messaging APIs into a reference architecture that can be used to rapidly build blockchain-based applications,” said Marc Mercuri, principal program managers for Microsoft’s blockchain engineering team.

From launch, the blockchain SDK will focus on allowing businesses to create connected interfaces for everything from mobile clients, IoT, SMS and voice systems; integrate ‘off-chain’ data, software and media, such as Microsoft Office documents, video and CAD files; and the deploy smart contracts and blockchain business networks.

In launching its blockchain SDK, Microsoft is looking to tap into an ever-growing portion of enterprises that are realizing the competitive advantages that blockchain technology can bring, beyond, of course, the mere bluff and bluster.

For many businesses, opting out entirely will become less of a viable choice. Earlier this year, for example, US retail giant Walmart made a bold move to require all of its leafy greens providers to put their supply chains on blockchain.

European supermarket Carrefour is taking a similar tack, planning to gradually deploy a blockchain ledger across its fresh product lines in the next few years.

If and when the technology truly takes flight, the virtues of efficiency, transparency and security will swiftly be taken for granted. Meeting expectations of clients and those on the inside of the business will rely on quick-fix solutions, and Microsoft— alongside competitors such as Amazon, Google, and IBM, who have already launched similar business-focused, off-the-shelf products— knows this all too well.