With blockchain technology going mainstream, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is aiming to be an important player in the burgeoning market, launching its Microsoft Azure Blockchain Council.

The new effort, which the Redmond, Wash., software giant confirmed to CoinDesk is aimed at hooking up those looking for blockchain technology with the companies, including startups, that have it. Blockchain, which was first adopted by the financial industry, is a way for all sorts of businesses to nearly instantaneously make and verify transactions. It enables the creation of data structures that are used to create a digital transaction ledger that is shared via distributed network of computers. (See more: Blockchain Is IBM’s ‘Best Hope for Recovery’: UBS.)

Unblocking Blockchain

According to CoinDesk, Microsoft decided to start the Azure Blockchain Council after being inundated with requests to provide blockchain services. With the new working group, it will let its partners bid on those requests. By doing that, Microsoft gives startups access to a way to earn revenue while at the same time building blockchain services for its current clients, noted the report.  A spokesperson for the company put it like this: "It's almost like a sales tool for the partners." On top of competing for the blockchain work, members of the council will work on proofs of concept with support from Microsoft’s blockchain engineering team. The first member of the new council is Synechron, a  consulting firm that rolled out a blockchain accelerator program in 2016. Microsoft declined to comment on other members, noted CoinDesk. (See more: Oil-Rich Gulf Countries Move to Adopt Blockchain.)

This isn’t the only news Microsoft has had on the blockchain front in recent weeks. Earlier this month, it inked a deal with Israel’s largest bank to develop a platform for digital bank guarantees based on. According to a report in The Times of Israel, the deal between Microsoft and Bank Hapoalim will mark the first time a financial institution in the country is using blockchain for a distributed ledger for financial contracts. With the platform, the bank will be able to more easily sign up guarantors. Under the deal, the software giant will create a new tool that will run on Azure, its cloud computing​ platform, and will test blockchain applications. In April, Microsoft announced it was bringing blockchain to its Office suite of software via Stampery, a blockchain-based bit of software used to verify and certify types of documents. Stampery will aid in time-stamping protocols in those Office software suites that utilize the add-in.



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