Since being published, the next generation of the IBM Blockchain Platform has been announced. Therefore, IBM Blockchain Platform Starter Plan will be removed from the IBM Cloud Catalog starting July 5th, 2019 and you will not be able to provision new instances after that. However, existing instances will be supported until June 4, 2020. To continue your blockchain developer journey with the next gen version of the IBM Blockchain Platform, go here.
Let’s get to the bottom of it — what is really behind a blockchain network? The IBM Blockchain Platform is powered by The Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger, which was formed by over 20 founding companies in December 2015, making it easier than ever for businesses to adopt distributed ledger technologies. With the core framework in place, you can then alter the network according to your business needs, granting permissions to those who need it and making sure those who don’t, are kept out. This allows for trust, transparency and accountability within transactions.
Hyperledger actually encompasses various open source projects, but for our purposes we’ll focus on Hyperledger Fabric and Hyperledger Composer. The first is a permissioned network technology and the second is a tool to model your blockchain network before it’s live, but we’ll get into that later on. Check out what people have been asking about it below.
Hyperledger exists to make blockchain friendly for enterprise use but it isn’t just one thing. Hyperledger is multiple projects each built for a specific business purpose. One of those projects is Hyperledger Fabric, the permissioned distributed ledger technology which can be used in any industry for any blockchain solution.
2. The relationship between Hyperledger and IBM
Many projects within open source communities like Hyperledger are contributed by companies that believe professional open source development will accelerate and ensure sustainability of the code bases. IBM is a strong advocate of this model across various open source projects and initially contributed to Hyperledger Fabric and Hyperledger Composer. Specifically, The IBM Blockchain Platform uses Hyperledger Fabric, so when you use the IBM Blockchain Platform you’re experiencing that core open source code that makes Hyperledger Fabric so secure. By using Hyperledger Fabric, the IBM Blockchain Platform makes it easy to start up a network, add users to the network, revise and improve smart contracts and applications, and manage one’s network at scale. Beyond the platform, IBM is working with Hyperledger in a number of open source projects like Hyperledger Composer, Hyperledger Indy and Hyperledger Burrow.
Advantages of Hyperledger
3. Develop a framework with Hyperledger Fabric
You might be interested in blockchain solutions but might not be sure about the technology behind it. Hyperledger Fabric has become the basis for a number of enterprise platform offerings, and that is a testament to the maturity and growth of the community around it. Technically, it is great as a modular platform — which means that businesses can bring in specific components they need for their business solution. Users can also specify how identity is issued and how consensus occurs, depending on their use case. Finally, it’s permissioned, which means that it enables only verified members to join the network making it one of the best tools for implementing enterprise solutions.
4. Simplify building your network with Hyperledger Composer
While Hyperledger Fabric is a great tool for you to start implementing a blockchain framework and developing solutions, Hyperledger Composer can help you deploy your network. Hyperledger Composer is one of the fastest ways to recognize the value of blockchain in a business context. You can define the asset, participant and transactions for a specific use case. This model can demonstrate how a blockchain can add value through a specific business application. Another key feature of Hyperledger Composer is that it develops most of the basic code for you. Explore basic and advanced Hyperledger Composer tutorials.
5. Make your network fit to your needs
One of the great features of the IBM Blockchain Platform is that you can deploy your own Hyperledger Fabric network within a matter of seconds. Once you deploy that network, you can easily add channels and members to these channels. Hyperledger Fabric allows you to create as many channels as you need, and the IBM Blockchain Platform makes it even easier to do that at scale.
Privacy and security
6. Choose between shared or private channels
On Hyperledger Fabric, you can add fully permissioned subledgers within the broader network, allowing you to build off of what you originally created. A shared channel is one in which all members of organizations who join a network have access to the transaction data.
If certain members of your organization have more private business dealings, they can join together in a private channel within the broader network, allowing only those few parties to view the permissioned data. For example, if you only want certain members of your supply chain to have visibility on a transaction, you can have a private channel that gives permission to only those members for that particular transaction. In addition, there are multiple mechanisms for private data sharing. So, if you don’t want to use public channels you can share data privately for use cases like financial services and digital identity.
7. Collaborate on a permissioned network
First and foremost, as a permissioned network, there is a vetting process for participants to join each network. This occurs on a use case basis, which means it’s specified for a given solution. Secondly, within the network, the permissioned parties are offered public and private keys, so they can only interact with the ledger as themselves, making it more secure against hacking from people trying to steal your keys. And like mentioned above, the private versus shared channel feature ensures that data governance stays consistent and information that is meant to be confidential stays confidential.
8. Get started with Hyperledger Composer Playground
Now that you’re familiar with the basics, it’s time to start playing around! Hyperledger Composer is a tool that makes it easy to model a blockchain network for developers and business professionals. Through the playground, you can see how easy it is to model assets, participants and transactions. These can be packaged and deployed to a running blockchain network. The playground sits a layer above implementation, allowing you to try and test blockchain technology before deploying an actual network. Using a RESTful API server, you can simply integrate other data sources, like IOT data, that are relevant to your unique model.
9. Understand Hyperledger Fabric’s SDK offerings
Hyperledger Fabric does, in fact, provide a set of software development kits (SDKs). These are typically found in common programming languages like Go, Lo JF and a few others. It is important to note that since Hyperledger Composer is generally a programming model, it does not offer SDKs. However, with SDKs, Hyperledger Fabric can be used to form smart contracts.
10. Deploy your network: it’s easy!
Using IBM Blockchain Starter Plan, you can deploy a live blockchain network with a single click. IBM Blockchain handles the creation and configuration of this network, and you can update it once it goes live. This way you can focus more on catering the network to your specific business needs rather than getting stuck in the weeds of the code. Starter Plan networks are built on Hyperledger Fabric V1.1 and use CouchDB as the ledger database, so by using it you can reap all of the benefits of Hyperledger Fabric right from the start.
11. Let’s talk about tokens
At the moment, there’s not a token capability in Hyperledger Fabric. However, for those of you that are interested in tokens, there are multiple open source community efforts that are focused on looking to add token functionality in the future.
Use cases and applications
12. Put Hyperledger to work
Now that you’ve learned about all things Hyperledger, you might want to know where it works best. Hyperledger Composer supports production networks in many different areas such as financial services and trade finance, as well as for modeling networks in areas like supply chain and asset tracking. It can also be used in the government and healthcare sector. It is meant to be adaptable to any enterprise use case as defined by the developer.
13. Introducing smart contracts
In the IBM Blockchain Platform, there is a set of sample applications such as letters of credit, commercial paper, vehicle manufacture and marbles that are all meant to demonstrate how the Platform works for a specific use case. These are fully built applications that have smart contracts associated with them. There is a growing community of open source Hyperledger Fabric samples, ranging from streamlining automotive trading to tracking perishable goods.
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