Microsoft unveiled a new version of its consortium blockchain software offering at ethereum’s annual developer conference in Shanghai today.

Released as part of the update is its first “Quickstart Template”, a tool designed to make it easier for Project Bletchley users to spin up a consortium using a private version of the ethereum blockchain. The template, Microsoft representative said, is likely to be the first of many that automate the process using different blockchain projects.

But while the latest advancements to Bletchley may not sound like an overhaul, Microsoft Azure’s blockchain program manager said the update offers a glimpse of what will come as the project adds additional members.

Gray told CoinDesk:

“It’s like a three-week process boiled down to eight questions.”

Gray explained that users are taken through a step-by-step process whereby they select the members of the consortium, determine the number of nodes each bank will have on the network and then geographically distribute those nodes using the Azure cloud to boost resilience.

The released co-incided with the launch of a new white paper that delves deeper into Microsoft’s “cryplets” offering, a form of oracle that uses an outside data source to inform a smart contract.

Gray said that by using cryplets, financial institutions could, for example, inform a smart contract’s execution with the current LIBOR rate. However, Gray added that he sees cryplets as providing more functionality, allowing users that don’t want to share sensitive business information a way to store it off of a blockchain.

“If you have Blackrock going into a smart contract agreement with Citi, they don’t want to put their IP on the blockchain. It has access to Azure, the cryplet itself will sign transaction, and you’ll have verification that the data is authenticated,” he continued.

Middleware roadmap

In interview, Gray explained that the releases form the beginning of what he called a “middleware roadmap” that aims to explain how cryptlets work and what they can be used to create.

Should all go according to plan, Gray said he envisions the templates and cryplets as a way to engage the open-source blockchain community.

At next year’s Devcon, he said he hopes developers will attend to discuss speciality cryplet libraries.

That is coming, we’re building that today,” he added.

Enterprise institutions, he foresees, would then be able to subscribe to cryplet data services that would provide data services that would charge money in exchange for a subscription to a certain number of calls.

“You get trusted data in a dependable way because it runs in the fabric, you get resilience, we have guarantees about uptime,” he continued.

Ethereum infrastructure

Gray indicated that the project is the latest sign that Microsoft remains interesting in developing ethereum as an “infrastructure layer” for enterprise blockchain services.

While Gray acknowledged the project has to do more to prove experimental elements like proof-of-stake payment verification and sharding, he said Microsoft intends to support this effort.

Overall, Gray said he sees the public ethereum blockchain as a key component of its vision, as evidenced by its plan to enable a collaborative environment on Azure. He noted that access to quality developers remains an issue for enterprise industries, and that by fueling efforts with resources from ethereum’s developer pool, more progress could be made.

“We want to contribute to help them achieve that, but we’re providing higher level services,” he explained.

He added that Microsoft will also require the participation and interest of ethereum’s community as well should it want efforts like Bletchley to succeed, concluding:

“We need them to work with the community to improve public ethereum performance, to nudge them into enterprise.”

Images via Pete Rizzo for CoinDesk. 

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