Just as the cryptocurrency sector is constantly changing and evolving, the enterprise blockchain industry has been going through a fair amount of developments lately. Recently, blockchain solutions for businesses are shifting from private, closed networks to public, open systems. This has been largely made possible by the advances made in the Ethereum network, ensuring better privacy, scalability, throughput, and more for enterprise customers.
A new industry analysis report shows this shift, noting that the global blockchain technology market size is projected to reach $ 72 billion by 2026, increasing over the forecast period with market growth of 51.8% CAGR. Interestingly, the results of the report show that the blockchain market segment for public companies emerged as the leading model with the highest share in the global market in 2020.
As more corporate blockchain solutions move to public networks, it should come as no surprise that Microsoft recently announced that its Azure Blockchain Service is migrating users to alternative offerings. It’s important to note that Microsoft’s Azure Blockchain was originally created from a sandbox-like service in 2015 on Ethereum in collaboration with ConsenSys. In 2019, the solution was offered as a fully managed Blockchain-as-a-Service or BaaS.
Fast forward to 2021, and a recent blog post from Microsoft stated that Azure users must now “migrate ledger data from the Azure Blockchain service to an alternate offering.” The article also recommends that users switch to the Quorum Blockchain Service or QBS.
For context, QBS is a managed offering from ConsenSys on Azure that supports Quorum as a ledger technology. Quorum enables corporate customers to create blockchain solutions on the public Ethereum mainnet together with private networks.
Emmanuel Marchal, global sales director for blockchain software company ConsenSys, told Cointelegraph that given ConsenSys’s involvement in Quorum and the company’s long-term relationship with Microsoft, it makes sense to join ConsenSys:
“ConsenSys offers the migration from the Azure Blockchain Service to the Quorum Blockchain Service, which is offered on Azure. This has always been part of our strategic relationship to ensure that Quorum Azure customers have an enterprise-class managed blockchain service. “
Marchal noted that ConsenSys has focused on bringing novel technologies to market since it acquired Quorum from JPMorgan last year. This also includes a managed service for quorum. Based on the close relationship between ConsenSys and Microsoft, Marchal stated that “as a recommended migration strategy it makes sense to move users of the Azure Blockchain Service to QBS”.
As a result, Marchal announced that ConsenSys has been actively working with dozens of Azure Blockchain users to help them plan their migration to QBS. “The goal is a collaboration between Microsoft and ConsenSys to ensure a seamless migration from one service to another,” he said. Microsoft has announced that its Azure Blockchain service will be “retired” on September 10th and users will have to be migrated to QBS or an alternative service by then.
Is this good news for Microsoft?
While it may seem unfortunate that Microsoft’s Azure Blockchain Service is phasing out, Marchal views this shift as progress. “ConsenSys maintains the open source quorum technology. Azure Blockchain Service users who use this private technology will remain in good hands as ConsenSys continues to develop, and we are confident of this migration.”
Additionally, migrating to QBS may not have much of an impact from the perspective of Microsoft Azure Blockchain Service users – which include large enterprise customers like JPMorgan, GE Aviation, Singapore Airlines, Starbucks, and Xbox. For example, global blockchain leader at Ernst & Young (EY) Paul Brody told Cointelegraph that the Big Four’s program with Microsoft and Xbox will remain unchanged:
“Microsoft’s program to migrate software contracts for the Xbox ecosystem to Ethereum-based smart contracts continues to gain momentum, with over 300 companies now integrated.”
Azure SQL adds an immutable ledger
Coincidentally, Azure SQL – a managed cloud database provided as part of Microsoft Azure – includes a ledger function. This development was recently announced at Microsoft’s Build 2021 developer event.
According to a Microsoft blog post published on May 25, the Azure SQL Database Ledger will add tamper-evident functionality to Azure SQL databases. The post goes on to say that the Azure SQL Database Ledger will “provide a simpler solution for centralized systems where trust between the parties is required”.
It should also be noted that the Azure SQL Database ledger functionality does not require any data migration or changes to user applications. “You can enable ledger functionality for tables in your database and interact with them in the same way as you would for any other table,” the post said.
While noteworthy, Azure SQL Database sounds very similar to Oracle’s crypto-secure data offering announced in March. Juan Loaiza, executive vice president of Mission-Critical Database Technologies at Oracle, previously told Cointelegraph that Oracle has created a crypto-secure data management offering that leverages “blockchain tables” within the Oracle database. Loaiza also found this feature to be different from Oracle’s blockchain platform, which is based on Hyperledger Fabric and is widely used for supply chain management.
With this in mind, another possible corporate blockchain trend could be the integration of immutable ledgers into enterprise-class databases, as both Oracle and Microsoft have demonstrated.
Will more companies switch to public systems?
Regarding Microsoft’s migration to a solution powered by Enterprise Ethereum, Brody noted that EY sees a general trend where companies are shifting their focus to public blockchains and closing their private blockchain-centric hosting businesses. “With nearly 15,000 nodes for Bitcoin and Ethereum combined out there, everyone is viewing the much larger public business as a priority,” he said.
While this may be the current trend, it’s worth noting that some enterprise solutions continue to rely on private networks. IBM AI Apps and Blockchain General Manager Kareem Yusuf told Cointelegraph that companies continue to invest in blockchain networks and many select approved blockchains to solve complex industry challenges:
“Business collaboration and trustworthy data sharing are essential, and for many, approved networks provide the security they need. In the future, we expect public and private networks to overlap more.”