A Solid Foundation Needed for Blockchain Technology to Reach New Heights

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The towering skyscrapers of New York City leave visitors staring upward in amazement, but it’s what lies beneath their feet that’s created the perfect environment for one of the world’s most recognizable skylines. A thick bedrock, unusually close to the surface, provides a foundation for architects to build structures that climb a thousand feet or more into the air.

As blockchain gains more interest from both established companies and start-ups, IT leaders are in search of a similar footing to build new solutions. The expectations for blockchain are sky high. Blockchain technology could dramatically save time and costs by using a shared digital ledger where parties record and validate transactions, eliminating the need for a middleman and reshaping the way industries operate.

Why Blockchain for transactions?

Blockchain technology can be applied to a range of contractual interactions, including stock trades, real estate deals and tracking items of property (a priceless painting or a large diamond). Blockchain can help maintain the integrity of a transaction by making it unique and unchangeable by any party without the agreement of all parties.

As blockchain technology gains more interest, though, companies are realizing the digital ledger is only as strong as the systems upon which it is built. Like the bedrock those New York City skyscrapers stand on, the blockchain must be built on a trusted foundation – systems that protect data, preserve the overall integrity of the process  and help ensure industry regulations are followed.

IBM’s leadership role in contributing to blockchain

IBM and other industry players have been working to create the right foundation for blockchain. The Linux Foundation has started the Hyperledger Project, bringing together a diverse and fast-growing set of companies interested in advancing blockchain. In February 2015, IBM contributed 44,000 lines of code to the project.

In April 2016, IBM launched new blockchain cloud services for developing solutions on the IBM Bluemix cloud platform. This week, IBM expanded that commitment with a new business network on IBM Blockchain that allows developers to create and test advanced blockchain solutions in a secure cloud environment.

 Security-rich business network on IBM Blockchain, powered by LinuxONE

Developers can access the new security-rich business network on IBM Blockchain remotely and gain access to a virtual environment as they would other cloud services. It’s the underlying system for the service that sets it apart. The new test network runs via the Bluemix cloud on IBM LinuxONE, the world’s highest-performing Linux-only system. LinuxONE meets the highest levels of security and is built on the same technology that meets the strict requirements of the financial, healthcare and government sectors.

LinuxONE features security capabilities built into all elements of the system to accelerate hashing, elliptic curve digital signatures and cryptographic key generation, helping facilitate secure transactions and payments. LinuxONE has cryptographic co-processors in every chip core and accelerators in the I/O unit to speed data encryption without compromising performance.

IBM Secure Service Container on IBM LinuxONE —an extra level of protection

IBM’s LinuxONE Secure Service Container also can be used to create isolated partitions for protecting data and applications. This allows clients to run multiple blockchains on the same system by helping keep the blockchains separate and secure, adding protection against insider threats as well as external cybercriminals. The Secure Service Container is a new capability that allows software virtual appliance components to be bundled together to ease installation and deployment.

Even systems administrators cannot access confidential data in the Secure Service Container, an important capability for closing back doors often used by cybercriminals. In 2015, 60 percent of all attacks on corporate networks were by insiders, either malicious or inadvertent actors used by outsiders, according to the IBM Cybersecurity Intelligence Index.

The future of blockchain

As blockchain advances, more technologies (hardware with built in security features)  like LinuxONE and the security-rich business network for IBM Blockchain will need to be employed to ensure new solutions are sound. This is particularly important as companies use blockchain to hold sensitive data, such as financial transactions, medical records and personal identities. An early client of the IBM blockchain services is U.K.-based Everledger, which is using the technology to validate and securely maintain the chronology of ownership for diamonds, thereby helping prevent theft and fraud.

With the right foundation, developers will have the confidence to use blockchain to build bold new solutions that rewrite the processes behind industries.

For more on blockchain and how it could be used by businesses, visit IBM Blockchain. If you’re a developer, you also can try out blockchain for yourself through the new security-rich business network on IBM Blockchain.

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