Microsoft Unveils Platform for Minting Enterprise-Ready Crypto Tokens

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Microsoft wants building blockchain tokens in the cloud to be as easy as plugging in a printer.

So says Marley‌ ‌Gray, principal architect at ‌Microsoft, following the announcement Monday of the Azure Blockchain Tokens platform.

Just like printers were once a pain to set up – with a mishmash of printer types and their respective device-specific drivers – Gray says enterprise-oriented crypto tokens currently suffer from the same pitfalls.

“You can go and buy a printer or any type of device [now] and just plug it in and it works,” Gray told CoinDesk. “It’s the same analogy here for tokens and that is what we are building in Azure.”  

Announced at the Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando, Fla., the platform allows businesses to choose from a growing set of token-building templates that conform to the Token Taxonomy Initiative (TTI) – a standards push and enterprise consortium spearheaded by Gray. 

So far there have been a number of TTI-compliant tokens built for uses like loyalty rewards, or to incentivize software teams to meet stated goals, as well as traditional financial instruments like letters of credit in trade finance. 

The TTI has already gone further than other enterprise plays in getting different and competing blockchain factions – from IBM to R3 to ethereum variants – under one roof.

“We are creating a platform in the cloud where any token within the TTI framework can snap into place,” Gray said. “So you can build applications where you want to use tokens with, for example, Dynamics, SAP, applications in the [Microsoft] Office suite or some other business automation process.”

Token taxonomy

The Azure Blockchain Tokens platform is being released alongside a host of example tokens.

They range from a Hyperledger Fabric FabToken built by IBM to Santander’s BOND token to a REWARD token from Intel and ConsenSys and many more. 

A spokeswoman for the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA), which is where Gray kicked off the token taxonomy, said that while these examples are not yet in commercial production, all the specs are there to download. A tech team can basically say, “I want one of these,” the spokeswoman said.

Gray, who is also the chair of the TTI, was keen to point out that Azure Blockchain Tokens is not just “a Microsoft thing.”

“It is definitely not,” he said. “This includes IBM, R3, Digital Asset. We are partners with them all.”

So how does interoperability work among the giants of Web 2.0?

It’s obviously the case that the IBM Blockchain Platform, for example, runs on IBM Cloud. However, Gray said there should be “portability” of these token types across clouds and networks, depending on whatever infrastructure people need.

He concluded:   

“The industry has suffered from an IBM versus Microsoft thing, Hyperledger versus ethereum, and so on. We are trying to break down those barriers.”

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