BTC Inc
by Christopher Tozzi, Aug 02, 2018

Digital Asset Helps Drive Google Cloud’s Belated Blockchain Foray


Cloud

Understanding the value of blockchain-based software is easy. But creating software that interacts with the blockchain is typically pretty hard because, in contrast to the world of traditional programming, the blockchain developer ecosystem offers few ready-made tools to help programmers write blockchain-based applications. 

Digital Asset, a financial technology company focused on distributed ledger advancement, hopes to change that through a new partnership with Google Cloud. The two organizations have announced a collaboration that will make blockchain software development tools available in Google Cloud, with the goal of reducing the technical barriers standing between the idea for the next great blockchain-based application and its implementation.

Blockchain Programming as a Service 

Digital Asset’s specialty is providing a platform that financial institutions can use to interact and share data via a blockchain. The company runs its own distributed ledger and it also provides a special programming language, DAML, which is designed for writing agreements that can be verified on that blockchain. Digital Asset pitches DAML as an easier, more secure way for writing smart contracts than creating them from scratch using conventional programming languages. 

On July 23, Digital Asset announced that it had made DAML available in Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) form on Google Cloud. In other words, developers will now be able to access DAML directly from Google Cloud and use it to write applications that run in the same cloud.

“The DAML PaaS is a fully-managed solution that developers can use to test and deploy DLT applications, accessible through Google Cloud’s Orbitera application marketplace technologies,” Digital Asset said in the statement. “Combined with the DAML SDK [software development kit], developers now have an end-to-end toolkit to build and deploy sophisticated distributed applications.”

Google Cloud Plays Blockchain Catch-Up

Digital Asset’s press release about the Google Cloud partnership included only a somewhat generic statement from Leonard Law, Google Cloud’s head of financial services, about blockchain technology having “great potential to benefit customers not just in the financial services industry, but across many industries.”

That leaves some questions about whether the collaboration with Digital Asset is really significant from Google Cloud’s perspective.

There are signs, however, that for Google, adding the DAML PaaS to its cloud is part of a bigger move toward making Google Cloud a friendlier place for blockchain developers. The same day that Digital Asset announced its Google Cloud partnership, two Google Cloud executives published a blog post drawing attention to, among other things, Google Cloud’s collaboration with Digital Asset and BlockApps, another blockchain-app development platform.

The blog post also noted that Google Cloud will offer integrations with Hyperledger Fabric and Ethereum later this year, although it did not offer details.

It would seem, then, that Google Cloud is eager to up its blockchain game and that it sees Digital Asset as one key partner in doing so.

That’s a wise thing for Google to do if it wants to keep its public cloud platform on pace with competitors. The AWS cloud already offers a blockchain service, as does Microsoft’s Azure cloud. Although neither of these services provides the same exact functionality as the Digital Asset PaaS will deliver, they generally cater to the needs of developers who want to write blockchain-based software without having to build all of the tooling from scratch or deploy the applications on their own infrastructure.

In this sense, Google Cloud appears to be catching up with the other “Big Three” public cloud providers by offering a blockchain developer toolkit of its own.

For now, what Google Cloud’s blockchain toolkit will look like remains unclear. Beyond the Digital Asset and BlockApps collaborations, combined with vague statements about Hyperledger and Ethereum integrations, we have little to go on. But we do know that Google Cloud finally is doing something to make its cloud a happy place for blockchain developers, and that’s significant.