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Microsoft announces Coco Framework to smooth blockchain adoption

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Microsoft wants to make it easier for enterprises to adopt blockchain technology, and it revealed a new tool today that’s supposed to aid in that process. Called the Coco Framework, it’s supposed to solve some of the major issues companies run into when deploying blockchain tech.

The framework isn’t a distributed ledger itself, but it’s designed to replace and augment parts of other blockchain software like Ethereum in order to accelerate transaction throughput, allow access controls for transactions and help organizations manage governance. Those three key features came about from conversations with enterprises about what they needed in order to implement blockchain technology, according to Mark Russinovich, the CTO of Microsoft Azure.

Microsoft will be releasing the Coco Framework in 2018 for free as an open source project hosted on GitHub. It’s designed to run in any cloud or on-premises environment that supports a compatible trusted execution environment like Intel’s Software Guard Extensions and Windows Server’s Virtual Secure Mode. Russinovich said that releasing the framework for free was part of Microsoft’s push to help businesses innovate.

The Coco Framework needs a trusted execution environment, because it uses shared trust between machines running modified blockchain software to avoid the need for transaction verification. By using that shared trust, it’s possible to avoid the need for transaction verification operations like those required by the current open source version of Ethereum.

With that in place, it’s possible for blockchains using the framework to see much higher transaction throughput — up to 1,600 a second.

One of the other key enterprise blockchain problems that the framework aims to solve is that of access controls for transactions. For example, an enterprise that wanted to use a blockchain to manage its relationships with suppliers might want one or two companies to be able to view all the transactions on a network, while other participants are only able to view a subset of those deals.

That’s been a major hurdle to enterprise adoption of distributed ledgers in the past. Russinovich said the framework would allow for arbitrary complexity in access controls, so companies could personalize who can see what to their hearts’ content.

Modifying a piece of blockchain software to work with the Coco Framework isn’t a trivial exercise, but it’s also not absurdly complicated. Russinovich said that it took a single developer about two months to integrate the framework with Ethereum for a prototype that Microsoft showed off today. In theory, organizations should only need to set up the framework once.

The company already has big names lined up to adopt the Coco Framework. J.P. Morgan Quorum, R3 Corda, Intel Hyperledger Sawtooth, and Ethereum are all slated to implement it.

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