Microsoft Bets That Bitcoin-Style Blockchains Will Be Big Business

Earlier this week a consortium of 11 giant banks including UBS and Credit Suisse announced that they had completed their first trial run of the idea of using software inspired by the digital currency Bitcoin to move assets around more efficiently. It was also a test of what Microsoft thinks could be a significant new business opportunity. The experiment, coordinated by a company called R3 CEV using Bitcoin-inspired software called Ethereum, took place inside Microsoft’s cloud computing platform, Azure.

Many large banks have said they are investigating so-called blockchain technology (see “Banks Embrace Bitcoin’s Heart but Not Its Soul”), with Santander predicting this could save the industry $20 billion annually. Microsoft wants financial companies to host their blockchain software inside Azure. It has recently struck partnerships with several startups working on blockchain software for banks and other big corporations.

“We see a huge opportunity here,” says Marley Gray, who leads Microsoft’s project and is technology strategist for financial services at Azure. “Enterprise-scale and enterprise-grade infrastructure is going to be vitally important for this financial infrastructure that will be woven using blockchain over these next few years.”

The flurry of interest in blockchains is inspired by the

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