Intel and Microsoft partner on blockchain service
August 17, 2017
Intel and Microsoft are collaborating to deliver an enterprise blockchain service.
Microsoft has announced a framework that enables businesses to adopt blockchain technology for increased enterprise privacy and security, and named Intel as a key hardware and software development partner.
As part of this collaboration, Microsoft, Intel and other blockchain technology companies plan to build an enterprise-targeted blockchain framework – called the Coco Framework – that integrates Intel’s SGX software guard extensions to deliver improved transaction speed, scale and data confidentiality to enterprises. This should accelerate the enterprise readiness of blockchain technology, allowing developers to create flexible and more secure enterprise blockchain applications that can be easily managed by businesses.
Current blockchain protocol technology requires complicated development techniques to meet the operational and security needs of enterprises. The Coco Framework reduces this complexity, and when integrated with blockchain networks addresses critical needs for commercial adoption such as high-transaction speed, distributed governance and confidentiality.
Providing these foundational capabilities opens up more complex, real-world blockchain scenarios across industries such as financial services, supply chain and logistics, healthcare and retail, further proving blockchain's potential to transform business digitally.
"Blockchain is a transformational technology with the ability to significantly reduce the friction of doing business," said Mark Russinovich, chief technology officer of Azure at Microsoft. "Microsoft is committed to bringing blockchain to the enterprise. We have listened to the needs of our customers and the blockchain community and are bringing foundational functionality with the Coco Framework. Through an innovative combination of advanced algorithms and trusted execution environments, like Intel's SGX or Windows VSM virtual secure mode, we believe this takes the next step towards making blockchain ready for business."
Blockchain is a digital record-keeping system where digital transactions are executed, validated and recorded chronologically and publicly. Because it's decentralised and transparent, it increases the efficiency and security of financial transactions – and does so at a significantly lower cost than traditional ledgers. The technology can be used for everything from simple file sharing to complex global payment processing and has the potential to transform the way companies operate.
Intel, Microsoft and other blockchain technology companies are working together to deliver security-enhanced, scalable capabilities in blockchain services. The Coco Framework uses Intel SGX to add levels of privacy and confidentiality to blockchain transactions.
"We are thrilled to work with Microsoft to bring blockchain to the enterprise," said Rick Echevarria, vice president at Intel. "Our mutual customers are excited by the potential of blockchain. Intel is committed to accelerating the value of blockchains powered by Azure on Intel hardware, by improving the scalability, privacy and security of the solutions based on our technologies."
Intel SGX is a hardware-based security technology that can help improve blockchain services by providing a trusted execution environment (TEE) that isolates key portions of a blockchain programme. SGX consists of a set of CPU instructions and platform enhancements that create private areas in the CPU and memory that can protect code and data during execution. It helps the Coco Framework provide confidential data and accelerated transaction throughput.
The data confidentiality is achieved by encrypting sensitive blockchain data until they are opened in an SGX enclave by a permitted programme. The accelerated throughput is achieved by isolating the transaction verification process to speed network consensus.
Intel is an active participant in the blockchain revolution, participating in developing standards, actively contributing technology and providing insight. The company is actively engaged with industry leaders to improve performance, reliability and scalability of blockchain technologies.
Intel Xeon processors provide capabilities that can improve the privacy, security and scalability of distributed ledger networks. For example, the recently-announced Xeon Scalable processors include a range of hardware-based trust, key protection and crypto-acceleration features that increase blockchain security and performance.
The Coco Framework by design will be compatible with any ledger protocol and can operate in the cloud and on premises, on any operating system and hypervisor that supports a compatible TEE. Initial Coco Framework implementations will include R3 Corda, Intel Hyperledger Sawtooth, JP Morgan Quorum and Ethereum.
"The R3 Corda platform was built for enterprises," said David Rutter, CEO of R3. “We designed it with the financial industry from the ground up to solve real business problems, but we also knew it had to be deployable and manageable in today's complex IT landscape. No other distributed ledger technology platform is as interoperable or easily integrated, and partnering with Microsoft is another milestone in our mission to facilitate a world of frictionless commerce."