With Coco Framework, Microsoft Wants to Become the RedHat of the Blockchain

Did you see what I did with that title, right? ;) Well, if the blockchain is the new Linux, Microsoft (as weird as that sounds) is certainly trying to become the RedHat of the new ecosystem. The newest addition to the Redmond giant blockchain stack is another step in that direction.

The interest around blockchain technologies continues raising but its adoption in enterprise environments remains limited. Aspects such as governance, access control, transaction throughput are still very constrained in blockchain platforms that target the enterprise. To some extent, the evolution of blockchain enterprise runtimes hasn’t really kept pace with the rapid raise of the blockchain application development stacks. Furthermore, the increasing number and fragmentation of blockchain technologies makes incredibly difficult for enterprises to implement a consistent runtime. Now Microsoft wants to fill that gap.

Coco framework is Microsoft’s latest addition to its blockchain suite of technologies. Functionally, Coco framework attempts to simplify the deployment and operationalization of blockchain applications. Interestingly enough, Coco framework is not another blockchain ledger. Instead, the new platform focuses on providing a consistent runtime compatible with a variety of blockchain protocols and application development stacks such as R3 Corda, J.P Morgan Quorum or Intel’s Hyperledger Sawtooth.

Functionally, the Coco Framework introduces the notion of a trusted execution environment (TEE) that can run and scale blockchain applications. Coco Framework’s TEE leverages tools such as Intel’s Software Guard Extensions and Windows Server Virtual Secure Mode which ensure secured , trusted connections between endpoints. the “implicit” trust in the environment allows application running on TEEs to avoid performing the costly proof-of-work algorithms common in blockchain infrastructures. As a result, applications running on Coco Framework have seen tremendous improvements in transaction processing capacity. For instance, Microsoft reported that their initial pilot of Ethereum and Coco Framework is able to process about 1600 transactions per second.

In addition to performance throughput, the Coco Framework improves blockchain stacks with several enterprise-ready capabilities such as governance and access control improves blockchain stacks with several enterprise-ready capabilities such as governance and access control. With only a few modifications to the Ethereum protocol, Coco introduces access control policies that help to govern aspects such as transaction visibility and confidentiality. In some context, the Coco Framework can be seen as an access control and governance layer on top of blockchain platforms such as etheruem.

Microsoft is planning to open source the Coco framework in early 2018. The current work is focused on optimizing the stack to work with different blockchain platforms such as corda, Hyperledger or Quorum.

I have to confess I have mixed feelings about the Coco Framework. The new additions in areas such as runtime governance, consistency, transaction throughput, access control are certainly a must-have in order to streamline the adoption of blokchain technologies in the enterprise. However, bypassing the proof-of-work protocol can diminish some of the benefits of blockchain technologies in several scenarios. We will have to see how the Coco Framework evolves but we can all agree that the technology represents another interesting blockchain innovation by Microsoft that has been quietly building one of the most complete enterprise blockchain offerings in the market.

CEO of IntoTheBlock, Chief Scientist at Invector Labs, I write The Sequence Newsletter, Guest lecturer at Columbia University, Angel Investor, Author, Speaker.

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