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Microsoft and Intel just made it easier for your data-center customers to use blockchain.

Late last week Microsoft introduced what it calls the Coco Framework. It’s an enterprise blockchain framework that integrates Intel’s Software Guard Extensions (SGX) for greater security and confidentiality.  

Blockchain is probably best known as the decentralized technology behind Bitcoin. It’s a framework that eliminates network middlemen (such as banks) by enlisting all the computers on a network to assure data integrity.

But setting up a blockchain can be complex, and Microsoft’s new Coco Framework aims to reduce that complexity. It offers capabilities for business needs such as high-speed transactions, distributed governance and confidentiality.

Also, the Coco Framework is compatible with any ledger protocol, Microsoft says. It can operate either in the cloud or on premises, on any operating system, and with any compatible hypervisor.

“Microsoft is committed to bringing blockchain to the enterprise,” writes Mark Russinovich, CTO of Microsoft Azure, in a recent blog post. “Our mission is to help companies thrive in this new era of secure multiparty computation by delivering open, scalable platforms and services that any company — from ledger startups to retailers to health providers to global banks — can use to improved shared business processes.”

Intel SGX inside

Intel is committed to blockchain, too, and its SGX helps the Coco Framework bolster privacy and confidentiality in blockchain transactions.

If you’re not familiar with Intel SGX, it’s a hardware-based security technology. More specifically, SGX is an Intel architecture extension designed to increase the security of application code and data, protecting them from disclosure or modification. To do this, SGX uses a set of CPU instructions and platform enhancements to create private areas in both the CPU and memory that protect code and data during execution.

In the Coco Framework, data confidentiality is achieved by encrypting sensitive blockchain data until it is opened in an Intel SGX enclave by a permitted program. In other words, sensitive data can be kept encrypted until it’s needed.

Throughput is accelerated, Intel says, by isolating the transaction-verification process to speed network consensus. In a typical blockchain, a “leader node” creates and verifies new block transactions, then requests other nodes on the network to re-verify the block. That can take time.

By contrast, the Coco Framework with Intel SGX skips this re-verification step. Instead, after creating and verifying the new block, the leader node posts the block to the blockchain and certifies that the transaction has been verified.

Do you have customers who are curious about blockchain, but worried about its complexity? Point them (and yourself) to these additional resources:

> Announcing the Coco Framework for enterprise blockchain networks: blog post by Mark Russinovich of Microsoft

> Microsoft announces Coco Framework (press release)

> Intel Technology Security Enterprise Blockchains (infographic PDF)

> Intel SGX Developer Zone

> Collaboring with Microsoft to strengthen enteprise blockchains: blog post by Ricardo Echevarria of Intel


Blog Category: 
Cloud and Data Centers