Azure Blockchain Services is integrated with Azure and with Microsoft’s developer tools
Microsoft has launched a fully managed cloud service for blockchain networks, in a move the company said was aimed at companies building business applications on top of the distributed ledger technology.
Ahead of its Build developer conference, Microsoft also launched AI tools and a developer version of the HoloLens 2 augmented reality (AR) headset.
Azure Blockchain Services supports the formation, management and governance of consortium blockchain networks, Microsoft said.
It is integrated with Azure Active Directory and includes tools for adding new members, setting permissions and monitoring network health and activity.
The first supported ledger technology is J.P. Morgan’s Quorum, based on the popular Ethereum protocol.
“Quorum is a natural choice,” said Azure chief technology officer Mark Russinovich in a statement. “It integrates with a rich set of open-source tools while also supporting confidential transactions – something our enterprise customers require.”
Microsoft also launched an extension to Visual Studio Code to help developers create Ethereum-based smart contracts, compile them and deploy them on the public chain or on a consortium network.
Users can manage the code through Azure DevOps, Microsoft said, adding that the tools are linked to the Logic Apps and Flow workflow integration services and with Azure Functions for event-driven development.
Microsoft said blockchain has already been used in major corporate tools, such as one it developed with Starbucks to track coffee from farms to outlets.
IBM and Amazon Web Services are notable blockchain competitors, with AWS opening a managed blockchain service of its own last week.
Other new tools include one that allows AI intelligence models to be developed without writing code, and then trained using a business owner’s data stored on Azure.
Microsoft also released a recommendation engine for retailers that can be integrated with existing recommendation tools and a developer edition of HoloLens 2 that costs $3,500 (£2,656) and is aimed at business uses including training and complex repairs.