Many enterprises are are starting to take the concepts offered by blockchains quite seriously; however, the very nature of a blockchain, which can be classified as a distributed ledger, can make it very difficult to provision in an enterprise. After all, blockchains count on being distributed across multiple systems and networks to maintain their ledgers, meaning that most businesses must reach out beyond the edge of their networks to achieve that level of distribution.
The concept of a distributed ledger fits perfectly into the services ideology of an MSP, where the required management of networks, connectivity and distributed systems has become second nature. MSPs have the infrastructure expertise, access to cloud services, and the power of hyperclouds at their disposal to make blockchains a reality and bring forth concepts such as a blockchain as a service (BaaS). One of those hypercloud vendors, Microsoft Azure, seeks to grease the wheels of BaaS and has introduced a toolkit that the company claims makes blockchain development a simple matter of point and click.
The Azure Blockchain Workbench is positioned as a tool for rapid blockchain development. Microsoft says the new offering will consist of a new set of tools for developers who work with distributed ledger technology and will be available via the Azure Marketplace. Workbench is "the scaffolding for an end-to-end blockchain application" which can be easily built "with just a few simple clicks," Microsoft says, a new platform that will allow the development of blockchain applications within days compared to months.
“Workbench gets customers started quickly by automating infrastructure setup, so developers can focus on application logic, and business owners can focus on defining and validating their use cases,” said. Matthew Kerner, general manager, Microsoft Azure.
For MSPs, the primary benefit comes in the form of how workbench automates the necessary deployment of distributed ledgers and network construction. That automation reduces the need for MSPs to address infrastructure and maintenance-related overhead. What’s more, Workbench also takes care of the integration between the blockchain and Azure services.
While that bodes well for MSPs partnering offering Azure-based services, Microsoft isn't the only player looking to push the BaaS ideology. Another path to BaaS comes in the form of Hyperledger Cello, which is a Linux Foundation Project offering that includes a blockchain module toolkit. While Cello is still in the incubation phase, it still offers the necessary components to bring BaaS to fruition.
The proposed simplicity offered by the Azure Blockchain Workbench might prove hard to resist for those MSPs looking to create blockchain-based services almost immediately. The real question becomes, what types of services will MSPs envision? Currently, blockchain is touted as a way to better track materials, contracts, processes, fund transfers and numerous use cases that require an incorruptible ledger. One thing is certain: Blockchain will prove to be a technology that MSPs can leverage in one form or another.