Blockchain development

Technology in blockchain-anchored business networks

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two men on laptopTechnology choices and considerations are foundational to construct, deploy and operate a blockchain-based business network. The overall technical architecture of a blockchain solution is driven by the functional and non-functional requirements of all stakeholders, and the core business.

The solution consists of four layers — data, network, application services, and apps or interaction layer. But these four layers should be realized with five perspectives or models — infrastructure, security, integration, deployment and operations — to build a successful blockchain network.

In our previous posts, we discussed the significance of the four dimensions framework — business, operations, legal and technology: or BOLT. This time we want to take to look at the final technology dimension in more detail to help your organization architect and build for growth.

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1. Build an end-to-end solution to cover both network and application components together

From a user perspective, a blockchain solution should compressively cover the required set of data elements, core network components, application services and apps for all personas across organizations to participate effectively on the business network. It is required to clearly craft the scope of business requirements and classify what goes on to the blockchain and what stays outside the blockchain in the application side.

Clearly call out the technology stack by identifying the services and products required for all four layers of the solution stack — data, network, APIs and apps. Define your method of adoption by customizing the method as per the engagement for the entire life-cycle of build, integrate, test, deploy and operate. Also, strategically define all required lower environments, pre-prod and prod with DevOps tooling stacks and seamless code promotion across environments for all components.

2. Design your network for growth and easy on-boarding

The network design mainly focuses on the core blockchain components, the underlying DLT platform, and leveraging its capabilities. Choose the right blockchain platform for your business — Hyperledger Fabric, R3 Corda, Quorum, or others — based on the nature and expected capability of the target network. Define a smart contract framework for easy customization for cross-geography and extending to more participants of similar businesses. Define your asset relationship model — static and dynamic — by identifying organizations and personas and business events which trigger smart contracts to change the asset entity’s value or asset state.

It’s helpful to represent your asset life-cycle management across the organization in a swimlane diagram. Define the channel design and endorsement policy by identifying the stakeholders on the network to validate and approve the transaction, also to have clarity on who can see what on the business data perspective. The channel, along with personal data collection and endorsement policies, are key capabilities for implementing data privacy and consensus in a Fabric-based network.

3. Adoption of security and integration is vital for a comprehensive network

Next, address security considerations like identity and access management by suitable security service (for example, AppID) so the participants have granular access by mapping user IDs, roles, and certificates. Also, it can be handled with decentralized, transparent, and accountable identity and credential management between issuers, holders and verifiers dependent on your defined requirements.

Data privacy is a supremely important element to be addressed, which can be achieved by segregating the data into four segments — personal, business, legal and operational. Data privacy can also be achieved using channels, private data collection, encryption, zero-knowledge proofs and off-chain databases, based on the requirements set to the right level of data sharing on the network. Be sure to discuss with participating organizations, the creation and management of keys and certificates.

Your next step should be to find a secure way of managing the keys and certificates using HSM or managed services for keys like “key protect” and other methods. It is required to have a clear integration strategy for both inbound and outbound data. Use of REST APIs, messaging like Kafka, SFTP, ETL, and others, for importing and exporting of data with your DLT. Discuss with participating organizations the necessity of integrating with existing enterprise IDP on their side so SSO is implemented.

4. Address deployment and non-functional requirements with a scalable growth plan

Now it’s time to address your physical deployment model along with NFRs. Choose the right infrastructure — like single cloud, multi-cloud, on-premises or hybrid — based on the network vision and nature of all your business participants. Choose containers for the network, application and API components to be deployed, and integration with external systems. This is where you deploy your blockchain network as we’ve discussed.

Finally, choose the data to be stored both on-chain and off-chain, based on your data model, expected performance indicators and the data usage in multiple personas and participants. Be sure to assess the volume of data both on real-time and offline processing, number of (total and concurrent) users expected, transaction metrics, performance metrics for next few years, compute the transactions per second (TPS), and provide that input for your capacity calculation. Identify and instantiate all required sets of managed and third-party services for your overall solution and establish a successful integration. Be sure to earmark all of them on the bill of material.

The technology perspective of the overall end-to-end technical solution with infrastructure, security, integration, deployment and operational along with non-functional considerations are vital to building a scalable and sustainable blockchain business network.

This is the final article in our series where we have discussed in-depth the four dimensions (business, operations, legal and technology) which are part of our framework to build an effective and efficient blockchain-anchored business network.

Click any of the links in our articles to start your journey, and for more information and discussion on this topic, please feel free to reach out to us directly.

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Srinivasa Raghavan

Executive IT Architect working in IBM Blockchain Services

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