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In the words of Jerry Cuomo, Vice President of Blockchain Technologies at IBM, “Blockchain is a team sport. Your business thrives because it’s part of an ecosystem of interconnected businesses.” He said this during the blockchain keynote at IBM InterConnect 2017, and over the course of the conference I’ve come to agree with him. Blockchain is all about enterprise ecosystems, for it is in these ecosystems that blockchain can provide the most value. Additionally, I’ve seen how important it is to have partners and be part of a community when developing blockchain solutions.
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The problem with enterprise ecosystems (and the solution)
In an enterprise ecosystem, you’ve got business networks with various participants. Each participant has a separate set of records and these records must somehow be reconciled with the records of everyone else. Through blockchain, business partners are provided with the means — security-rich distributed ledgers — to work together in environments where value is exchanged. One of the great things about a blockchain system is that everyone has control but no one is exclusively in control.
In Singapore, FreshTurf has been working with IBM to tackle the challenges of last-mile fulfilment in retail logistics by creating a network of storage lockers with blockchain. This is an enterprise ecosystem that has many different participants, including consumers, merchants, logistics and locker providers. By giving these participants access to a shared distributed ledger, the company can reduce transaction times, decrease costs from overheads and intermediaries, prevent tampering, and increase trust through shared processes and record keeping. Because they all see the same record, they can transact directly with each other.
Establishing trust in enterprise ecosystems
Though participants in a business network might not be able to trust each other, they can trust the blockchain. How? In many blockchains, trust is established between anonymous participants through the act of mining. However, interactions between businesses rarely occur anonymously.
IBM does it a bit differently. With Hyperledger Fabric, participants are issued cryptographic membership cards that represent their identity within the blockchain network. Your membership card grants you access to see transactions on the ledger that are relevant to you.
As you can probably tell, identity is a very important component of blockchain in an enterprise ecosystem. To that end, IBM and SecureKey Technologies recently announced a collaboration to bring identity management into blockchain. They are developing a new digital identity and attribute sharing network to enable consumers to verify their identities. The goal is to help increase privacy, security and trust for consumers worldwide.
Building blockchain on enterprise-grade systems
Enterprise ecosystems are complex environments. IBM recognizes that it is crucial for businesses to operate blockchain on enterprise-grade systems with qualities such as performance, scalability, security, auditability and reliability. Check out this interview with Arvind Krishna, IBM SVP Hybrid Cloud, to learn more about why IBM is investing in blockchain technology.
One of the big announcements made during InterConnect is that IBM Blockchain service, which is based on the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Fabric v1.0, is now available on Bluemix. Through this managed service, you can create a blockchain network for your enterprise ecosystem. The service has been purpose-designed for business, so you can:
- Create a dynamic distributed network across multiple organizations.
- Define and manage the policies that will govern your network and channels.
- Provision your own peers and resources.
- Create private communication channels to conduct confidential transactions with selected members of the network.
- Define assets and write transaction instructions with embedded business logic.
Pairing this service with LinuxOne means you’ll get an isolated environment on dedicated compute with high speed network, so your business can get the optimized performance and security it requires.
Participating in the blockchain ecosystem
This year at InterConnect, I’ve come to understand that the value of blockchain is in its ability to transform the way businesses transact, reducing friction and alleviating distrust among participants in enterprise ecosystems. But those aren’t the only types of ecosystems that relate to blockchain.
The Hyperledger Project is a community of business leaders and developers that are working together to advance cross-industry blockchain technologies. It is a global collaboration that includes leaders in finance, banking, Internet of Things, supply chain, manufacturing and technology. The leaders of two IBM clients, Loyyal and Netki, were recently interviewed about their participation in the community. Read what they had to say and then check out the IBM Blockchain ecosystem program to access some special benefits to accelerate your blockchain ventures.
Also, check out IBM Blockchain today and join the community to stay up to date.
Since the publication of this post there have been exciting changes. Hyperledger Fabric v1.0 Beta is now available to the public. Sign up here to help shape Hyperledger Fabric and to learn more.
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