When AWS CEO Andy Jassy told reporters at the re:invent conference last December that he had little interest in blockchain technologies, there was no reason to doubt him. Still, he left a small opening that suggested they might be in the future. That future arrived last week when the company announced it was launching a couple of new blockchain templates.

At the time, TechCrunch’s Frederic Lardinois (where I also write) wrote that Jassy was cool at best on the prospect of blockchain: “Jassy seemed anything but enthused about the prospect. In his view, there aren’t a lot of use cases of the blockchain “beyond the distributed ledger.” He also stressed that AWS doesn’t “build technology because we think it is cool,”” he wrote.

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That seemed like an odd answer to me at the time, especially when you consider that some of the other cloud players behind them in marketshare like IBM, Oracle, and Microsoft already have full-blown Blockchain-as-a-Service tools for customers. 

AWS appears to be doing something a bit more lightweight than that with its templates, taking advantage of a couple of open source blockchain frameworks: Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric and giving people a running start with a blockchain project. Here’s how they described the tool in the blog post announcing the new feature:

With AWS Blockchain Templates, you can deploy Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric frameworks using managed and certified AWS CloudFormation templates. AWS Blockchain Templates allow you to focus on building your blockchain applications instead of spending time and energy on manual setup of your blockchain network.”

Like many things Amazon does, it may throw something out there as a starting point before offering a more comprehensive service down the line.

Why blockchain?

We wrote recently how Google is thinking about blockchain, and it was surprising that they weren’t offering a product already, given the fact that AWS had appeared disinterested. Now Amazon has decided to jump into the fray, even if it seems they are starting small. 

Blockchain is not necessarily about bitcoin or financial transactions in general, it just happens to be the underlying ledger technology used by bitcoin. It has other utilities too such as providing an immutable, irrefutable record for a range of things from identity and property to diamond sourcing and food quality. The idea is to be able to use that record to streamline workflows and provide a digital audit trail. This could come in handy for just about anything of value.

Cloud companies are probably interested in it because it’s an early area of what could be a potentially huge market. By providing a blockchain software development service, the companies can also take advantage of offering the underlying infrastructure services that run the blockchain applications, which could prove even more lucrative. As we’ve seen, it’s certainly caught the attention of the cloud companies, and it’s clear why. 

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Photo: Davidstankiewicz on Wikimedia Commons.

Posted by Ron Miller

Ron Miller is a freelance technology reporter and blogger. He is contributing editor at EContent Magazine and enterprise reporter at TechCrunch.

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