In a press release on May 2nd, 2019, Microsoft announced that it would be starting a fully managed blockchain service. Microsoft’s blockchain service will enable users to build blockchain applications on a predefined network.
The service “simplifies the formation, management, and governance of consortium blockchain networks.” – Frank Shaw (Head of corporate communications, Microsoft)
Microsoft’s Azure Blockchain Workbench is designed to create Blockchain applications easily. Following the release, the blockchain manager app will also help users to take advantage of the security offered by Microsoft’s ledger present in the application.
In May 2018, Microsoft released its blockchain application creation service Azure Blockchain Workbench which was designed to automate the various aspects of blockchain related work which later went on to help in providing readily available infrastructure for Microsoft’s new Blockchain Manager Application.
Features of Microsoft Blockchain Manager Application:
- Creating blockchain applications: With Microsoft Blockchain Manager Application, a user can define application by writing smart contract codes and setting up support services.
- Managing users and applications: It provides REST APIs and web app for managing the users and the application. In this, the admins can manage, control, and assign different roles to the users.
- Integrating the blockchain with applications: In this, the user can integrate APIs with the existing system. These APIs provides an interface to allow users to replace or use multiple ledger technologies, database offering, and storage.
- Deploying a Blockchain network: It simplifies the setup with an Azure resource manager template. This template also helps to deploy all components which are needed to run a consortium. It also supports Ethereum.
- Using Active Directory: It replaces Blockchain identity with Azure Directory identity, which makes it simpler to build enterprise applications.
Microsoft Blockchain Manager Application Architecture
Microsoft Blockchain Manager Application makes it easy to develop blockchain applications by providing solutions using many azure components. It can also be deployed using a solution template which allows a user to pick several modules which are currently present and when it is deployed, it provides access to Android apps, iOS apps, and web-based apps.
Authentication and Identity: Blockchain Workbench creates new user accounts for on-chain identities with other identities which are stored in Azure active directory. This helps in authenticating the process, i.e., secure login to client APIs.
After Blockchain Workbench’s deployment, the user can interact with workbench via REST-based client API, client applications, or Messaging API, but these interactions must be authenticated via Azure AD or some credentials.
Azure AD is used to manage all the users who are present and have access to blockchain workbench.
Client applications: Microsoft Blockchain Manager Application also provides the user automatically generated client applications for Android, iOS, and web which can be used to test, validate, and view blockchain applications.
The users of client applications are authenticated via Azure AD. The user experience helps to create smart contracts. In web-based applications the authorized users can access admin console if the user is present in Azure AD’s Admin group which has some functionalities:
- Deploying smart contracts provided by Microsoft
- Deploying and uploading their own smart contracts
- Assigning user access to the smart contracts
Gateway service API: REST-based gateway service API is also included in Microsoft Blockchain Manager Application. This API generates and delivers messages to a broker.
Developers can also access this gateway to integrate or build new blockchain solutions without relying on such workbench client apps.
Messaging the Broker: The broker acts as a mediator and has to perform specific tasks. Messages are sent to broker for incoming messages which are sent by developers to connect with workbench. Messages are also sent to brokers for downstream consumers. There are two types of event consumers, first, which is triggered by blockchain events and other is used to capture metadata for events.
Distributed ledger consumer: It is based on a technology named (Distributed ledger technology). It contains metadata which will be written to the blockchain. The consumer then pushes the data to transaction signer, builder, and router.
Database Consumer: The database consumer pushes the data from the service bus to the SQL database.
Storage consumer: The storage consumer pushes data from service bus to Azure storage or any other storage which is present there.
Monitoring: Microsoft Blockchain Manager Application provides application logging to the users using Azure Monitor and Application Insights. These insights are used to store all the information from the workbench and also includes warnings, errors, and information about the operations performed, which can be used by developers to debug the issues.
With the release of Microsoft Blockchain Manager Application, it is now easy for the developers to develop blockchain applications which will be hosted on the cloud and also manage consortium policies. Amazon Web Services and IBM has already started their blockchain services. Let’s see how Microsoft faces the competition in the market and what all future updates Microsoft provides on the blockchain.
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