Tag: microsoft

Microsoft’s New Ethereum Blockchain Product Gets Rid of Mining

Software giant Microsoft has debuted a new Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) product that allows businesses across industry verticals to deploy a flexible instance of Ethereum tailored specifically for enterprise environments.

Announced on Tuesday, Ethereum Proof-of-Authority on Azure allows enterprises to build applications on an Ethereum blockchain that is not secured by a Proof-of-Work (PoW) consensus algorithm and consequently does not require mining — features that are better suited for networks in which participants do not trust one another.

PoW “works great in anonymous, open networks where cryptocurrency promotes security on the network,” said Azure Global software engineer Cody Born. “However, in private/consortium networks the underlying ether has no value.”

Born explained that, since all participants on an enterprise blockchain network are known and reputable, governance can be separated from network operation.

microsoft azure ethereum

 

Proof-of-Authority allows network administrators to engage in on-chain voting | Source: Microsoft Azure

To this end, the Proof-of-Authority product features a built-in decentralized application (DApp or dApp) called the “Governance DApp” that provides consortium members with the authority to govern the network or delegate their voting power to others. Network participants can also delegate other nodes to vote on their behalf in the event that their primary nodes go offline, ensuring that all members maintain continual consensus participation.

Network administrators, in turn, can use on-chain voting to vote on and alter network authorities in a transparent and auditable manner.

Along with Azure’s original, PoW-based Ethereum product, blockchains using this new consensus model can be deployed in as little as five minutes, providing enterprises with a “single-click” DLT solution.

To further increase the product’s usability, Microsoft integrated support for smart contracts built using Parity’s WebAssembly (Wasm) toolkit, enabling developers to write smart contracts in familiar programming languages such as C, C++, and Rust in lieu of learning Solidity, Ethereum’s primary programming language.

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Microsoft acquiring GitHub, Bitcoin Core, and other cryptocurrency repositories

Microsoft acquiring GitHub

The open source movement was first championed by Linux, for which its creator, Linus Torvalds, originally built the Git platform. GitHub is an online service built entirely around Git. In a surprising move, a company traditionally hostile to open source, Microsoft, is acquiring GitHub for $7.5 billion. Apparently, GitHub was also negotiating with Google and had previously been offered buyouts by Amazon, Tencent, and Altassian, before signing the deal with Microsoft.

Retaliatory boycott

In response, lead Bitcoin Core maintainer, Wladimir van der Laan, has called for the eventual removal of Bitcoin repository from GitHub and has already canceled his subscription and made his personal GitHub repo available on the Tor network.

And Bitcoin Core developers are not the only ones advocating for a retaliatory boycott of GitHub; there has already been a mass #movingtogitlab exodus from GitHub, only days after the announcement. As a direct result of the news, GitLab has seen a ten-fold increase in GitHub migrations since the announcement and is attempting to capitalize by temporarily offering new users a 75% discount on yearly repository fees.

GitLab is doing its best to handle the recent influx of users, but was already “painfully slow” before the news and can be expected to experience more scaling issues with an increasing user-base. Another potential alternative for migrating devs may be Keybase.

github-microsoft

Implications for Bitcoin

Another Bitcoin developer, Jimmy Song, points out that GitHub has become so pervasively used by developers because “it’s so massively, freaking convenient,” citing the code checking, testing, merging, commenting, reviewing, and issue tracking services it offers contributors. Yet despite the usefulness of the current services it provides, GitHub is by no means a vital service to Bitcoin Core or most other crypto-currency repositories.

But does the takeover compromise the security of the Bitcoin Core repository? No. Wladimir explains, “mandatory GPG commit signing prevents, say, github, from injecting code changes, undetected. They could certainly mess with reviewing though.” Bitcoin Core has long been prepared for the failure of GitHub:

And Bitcoin Core’s second most active contributor, Pieter Wuille, has stated: “While I believe we should always consider other options, and would support in the long term moving to other infrastructure, I don’t believe there is an issue here,” citing the GPG signing procedure, repository mirrors, and binary distribution via bitcoincore.org.

In the short term, Microsoft’s takeover of GitHub may pose some inconvenience for Bitcoin Core if they proceed with the boycott; however, in the long run, it will only serve to purge yet another centralized source of failure from the Bitcoin protocol stack and make the network even more decentralized and further hardened against hostile takeover.

Never forget

Likely a major contributing factor to the general strong dislike and mistrust of Microsoft by prominent open source developers remains the corporation’s prior attitude towards open source—summed up by 14 year long Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer: “Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.” To be fair, under the current leadership of Satya Nadella, Microsoft has made concerted efforts to become more friendly to open source and, ironically, is the only tech giant to accept payment in bitcoin in its online stores.

If there’s one lesson to be learned from all this, it’s that the open source movement has a very long memory. Other major corporate, governmental, and regulatory powers may be wise to stay on good terms with the open source movement, Bitcoin, and decentralized cryptocurrencies in general. As the power and influence of decentralized currencies continue to accelerate at breakneck speed, it may not be long before the present powers that be may come to regret any attempts at suppression.

When asked for comment on the situation, @Microsoft and @github did not respond:

After all, what do big corporate powers care about the opinions of humble Bitcoin advocates?

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Amazon & Microsoft’s Move to Blockchain:
Centralized Companies Into Decentralized Ecosystem

Bitcoin, and the idea of digital cash, has taken hold of the banking sector as banks and financial institutions start to experiment internally with blockchains and cryptocurrencies in order to be at the forefront of these technologies.

This, coupled with the fact that government organisations and even global leadership bodies such as the G20 are looking to regulate cryptocurrencies, again give more legitimacy and longevity to the industry.

The latest wave of adoption is now coming from corporations who, traditionally have come to be successful thanks to their centralized domination over different aspects of the market. Microsoft, in the world of computing, are legendary in driving the world to be digital; then there is Amazon, the pioneers of e-commerce.

These companies are in some manner getting forced towards blockchain technology as it has become apparent that this is the future, and even though it goes against their centralized values, they simply cannot miss out.

Microsoft’s entry

Microsoft has always been one of the biggest companies to give Bitcoin its dues. Back in Dec. 2014, content on the Windows and Xbox stores could be bought in Bitcoin, and this was at a time where Bitcoin’s mainstream adoption and appeal was minimal.

This of course was merely a nod towards alternative payment methods, and Microsoft being flexible to its customers wants and needs. However since then, and since blockchain has grown, Microsoft has been pushing to be in front of the innovative queue.

Microsoft has obviously identified the power of blockchain and its far reaching potential for disruptive applications in the world of enterprise business. The company is now developing blockchain applications – which are not that flashy as some of the solutions put forward by startups, but equally practical.

Microsoft is also looking to build platforms on which businesses can grow their blockchain applications upon, such as the Confidential Consortium (Coco) Framework, an Ethereum-based protocol, which falls under Microsoft Azure, the company’s cloud computing arm.

They have also announced that they are looking into plans to integrate blockchain-based decentralized IDs (DIDs) into its Microsoft Authenticator app.

The latest from the computing giant is that Azure has released its blockchain app creation service, Azure Blockchain Workbench, on May 7. Workbench aims to allow businesses looking to create bespoke blockchain apps to speed up the development process by automating infrastructure setup.

Amazon’s own efforts

Both Microsoft and Amazon have similar origins with their founders – Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos – being driven men with revolutionary ideas. Therefore it is unsurprising to see these two companies pushing to be on the forefront of a new technological wave.

Gates may be spouting some pretty negative things about Bitcoin, and Bezos may be under siege to accept the digital currency on Amazon, but despite what the two founders think of the cryptocurrency space, it is becoming clear that the future is conquering the companies.

Amazon revolutionized the e-commerce space, and is looking to at least be near to top of the pecking order when blockchain technology truly takes a hold. Just like in banking, there is a rush to get blockchain figured out and usable before the rest of the competition gets to market.

Amazon are already in a battle with IBM and Oracle with its own “blockchain-as-a-service” offering. The blockchain framework for Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric, which is allowing users to build and manage their own Blockchain-powered decentralized applications, is being developed in different forms by all three.

Essentially, users would be able to create their own blockchain applications via the Amazon Web Services (AWS) CloudFormation Templates tool to avoid time-consuming manual setups of their blockchain network.

Oracle and others also entering the space

Oracle, the world’s second-largest software company, also recently unveiled blockchain products, and will be releasing them over the next two months. Again, it was a similar cloud service built on the open-source Hyperledger Fabric project like Microsoft, and equally similar to IBM’s blockchain service, announced a year ago.

Major companies are also jumping on the blockchain bandwagon in different easy, shapes and forms. Huawei is loading its phones with a built-in Bitcoin wallet;  Samsung revealed that it will use blockchain for managing its global supply chain; Spanish banking group BBVA became the first global bank to issue a loan on a blockchain, and use-cases continue to grow around the world.

Oracle and others also entering the space

Why the blockchain drive?

It was not long ago that people were calling Bitcoin a fad, a scam, and something that will not last for long. Those voices have been silenced somewhat as even banks, one of the biggest detractors of cryptocurrencies, are realising that they need to be on the forefront of this emerging technology.

The excitement is spreading, and it is creating an arms race even outside banks and the finance sector. Blockchain technology, while intrinsically attached to cryptocurrencies, also has many applications for other sectors. These applications are being explored, and evaluated.

Companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Samsung, Huawei and others, all realize that with all these possibilities, it would be blind to not dive in, and quick.

AWS vice president Jeff Barr explained in a post:

“Some of the people that I talk to see blockchains as the foundation of a new monetary system and a way to facilitate international payments. Others see blockchains as a distributed ledger and immutable data source that can be applied to logistics, supply chain, land registration, crowdfunding and other use cases,. Either way, it’s clear that there are a lot of intriguing possibilities and we are working to help our customers use this technology more effectively.”

Neil Patel, advisor to Kind Ads, a decentralized ad-network that consults companies such as Amazon and Microsoft, reiterates that these major corporations almost have no choice but to embrace blockchain technology as it is being regarded quite openly as the future of technology. Patel told Cointelegraph:

“Microsoft and Amazon have no choice but to focus on blockchain because it is the future. If they don’t, they know that it will hurt their growth in the cloud computing space. Just look at Facebook, they see the value in blockchain so much that they moved around their executive team to put the ex president of PayPal on blockchain projects.”

Patel’s example above makes mention of how David Marcus, the former president of PayPal and the Facebook executive who has been running the company’s Messenger app, is now assembling a team to explore blockchain technology for the social media platform.

Contradicting ideas

Bitcoin, blockchain and cryptocurrencies in general all continue to split opinions. However, the voices in the detracting camps are becoming quieter, especially if they are just single voices.

Jamie Dimon, the head of JP Morgan, called Bitcoin a fraud and spouted much vitriol about cryptocurrencies – and yet, JP Morgan is building its own blockchain, Quorum. The Head of Microsoft is in a similar situation as he says he would bet on Bitcoin collapsing while his company pushes to be a blockchain leader.

Many of these older viewpoints about how things were done, the centralized control of a sector and the move to monopolize a service, still reside in the likes of Gates and Dimon, but on the company floor, it is a different story.

Blockchain technology is being touted as the future, and it is not just empty words. The amount of money, time and effort being put into blockchain-based research and development by banks and corporations prove there is something more to it than a passing fad.

Images courtesy of Cointelegraph

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