Google is working on blockchain-related technology to support its cloud business and head off competition from emerging startups that use the heavily-hyped technology to operate online in new ways, according to people familiar with the situation.
Companies use blockchain and other so-called digital ledgers to securely record transactions and process other data over the internet — a service Google could use, for example, to reassure customers that their information is protected when stored on the giant network of computer servers that power its cloud services.
The Alphabet Inc. unit is developing its own distributed digital ledger that third parties can use to post and verify transactions, one of the people said. Although the timing of any product release is unclear, the company plans to offer this to differentiate its cloud service from rivals. It will also provide a white-label version that other companies can run on their own servers, the person added.
The internet giant has also been acquiring and investing in startups with digital ledger expertise. Many of the deals haven’t been announced, the person said. Still, Alphabet was a leading corporate investor in the field last year, ahead of Citigroup Inc. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., according to research firm CB Insights.
Several people in Google’s infrastructure group, which reports to cloud chief Diane Greene, have been tinkering with blockchain protocols in recent months, according to another person familiar with the company. Other Google insiders said recently that the cloud business is a natural place for blockchain-related services. The people asked not to be identified talking about the subject because the company isn’t ready to make an announcement yet.
“Like many new technologies, we have individuals in various teams exploring potential uses of blockchain but it’s way too early for us to speculate about any possible uses or plans,” a Google spokesman said.
In 2016, Google started a trial for developers testing blockchain services on its cloud. The company is now exploring much more expansive ways to deploy the technology, the people said.
Digital ledgers like blockchain power Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. They are databases that are updated regularly across thousands of computers over the internet. Each entry is confirmed by these machines, which can be part of public networks or run privately by companies. There are different kinds of digital ledgers — blockchain is only one. Data crunched by this technology range from transactions to supply-chain updates to digital cats…