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Public Cloud Providers Expand Blockchain ServicesPublic Cloud Providers Expand Blockchain Services

AWS, Azure and Google Cloud make it easier for customers to access the technology.

Jeffrey Burt

May 3, 2019

5 Min Read

Public cloud providers are ramping up their blockchain services to give partners and end users managed cloud services they can build application on top of with the goal of better establishing trust in transactions.

AWS officials at the re:Invent show late last year unveiled plans for the blockchain managed service and this week made the Amazon Managed Blockchain offering generally available. Days later, Azure officials, who had been building out some blockchain capabilities in the Microsoft public cloud, launched Azure Blockchain Services to enable users to create and manage blockchain networks.

In addition, Google Cloud Platform, which last year announced partnerships with Digital Asset and BlockApps — two companies that build apps and tools for blockchain deployments — is now also partnering with the open-source Qtum Chain Foundation to bring its blockchain developer tools to the public cloud.

The services offerings from AWS, Azure and Google Cloud embrace a technology that is designed to give businesses involved in multiparty digital transactions a way to create a record of a transaction that can’t be changed and doesn’t need a third-party authority to establish trust. While blockchain is an important technology for a range of industries like financial services, retail and logistics to establish trust in transactions, its first primary use was in the sketchy world of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, creating an initial wariness about it among some businesses.

Azure is using the open-source Ethereum blockchain protocol for its service. AWS is leveraging the Hyperledger Fabric open-source blockchain framework and will add Ethereum in the future. Officials with both said giving partners and customers a managed blockchain service is important in a rapidly digitizing global business world.

Azure's Mark Russinovich

Azure’s Mark Russinovich

“Business processes touch multiple organizations and great sums are spent managing workflows that cross trust boundaries,” Azure CTO Mark Russinovich wrote in a blog post. “As digital transformation expands beyond the walls of one company and into processes shared with suppliers, partners, and customers, the importance of trust grows with it. Microsoft’s goal is to help companies thrive in this new era of secure multiparty computation.”

AWS' Jeff Barr

AWS’s Jeff Barr

Jeff Barr, chief evangelist for AWS, wrote in a blog post that some companies can build up that trust over time with their partners over the course of multiple successful transactions. However, often that time to establish trust isn’t available, which is where blockchain helps.

“The parties must find a way to successfully complete the transaction in the absence of trust,” Barr wrote. “Today, emerging blockchain technologies such as Hyperledger Fabric and Ethereum fill this important need, allowing parties to come to consensus regarding the validity of a proposed transaction and create…

…an unalterable digital record (commonly known as a ledger) of each transaction in the absence of trust.”

Moor Insights' Patrick Moorhead

Moor Insights’ Patrick Moorhead

Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, said it was interesting that with its blockchain service, AWS will eventually support both Hyperledger and Ethereum.

“There will be two ways to look at this,” Moorhead told Channel Futures. “The customer won’t have to choose. Amazon will be offering both.”

The multiple choices also are another indication that AWS is making a substantial investment in blockchain, he said.

Blockchain works by creating a ledger that stores transactional records in which the data itself can’t be changed. Instead, the distributed ledger records changes in the transactional record so that any changes can be tracked as part of a chain. The data is encrypted. Blockchain technology not only can be used for business deals, but for any transaction between multiple parties where keeping track of changes and protecting the data is key, Moorhead said. He pointed to drug making in the pharmaceutical industry. Enabling the various players involved in the complex process of developing a drug to see every step in the process and trust they data they’re viewing is critical, he said.

Qtum's Miguel Palencia

Qtum’s Miguel Palencia

Qtum CIO Miguel Palencia said in a blog post that partnering with Google Cloud will make using blockchain technology simpler and more intuitive.

“Where launching a node was once an intensive and complex process, Qtum’s new developer suite introduces helpful shortcuts and tools to make it faster and easier,” Palencia wrote. “With a more accessible technology, we hope to open up and expand the Qtum community to include people with a broader range of experience — from experts to the everyday user.”

The public cloud providers have been building out their blockchain capabilities over the past several years. IBM Cloud offers a broad blockchain platform available as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering. Azure has been partnering with open-source communities around Ethereum, Hyperledger and R3 Corda since 2015 to make those technologies available in the cloud and over the past year has been getting its Confidential Consortium Framework ready for public release.

The Azure framework uses SGX and VMS trusted execution environments that can be integrated into ledgers for greater security, Azure’s Russinovich said. The source code for the first version is available on Github.

AWS CEO Andy Jassy reportedly resisted embracing blockchain initially, but at re:Invent the company unveiled Amazon Managed Blockchain and Quantum Ledger Database, a fully managed database for ledgers used in blockchain transactions, tracking every data change and keeping a complete and verifiable history of the changes.

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