Blockchain

One Year In, Blockchain Grows Stronger

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It is hard to believe that almost a year has passed since the Linux Foundation formed the Hyperledger Project. On December 17, 2015, the Hyperledger Project was announced and IBM was among several founding members that contributed code to the cause.

The code was given the simple name of Fabric. The initial goal of Fabric was to quickly and iteratively develop a new style of blockchain that ensured data privacy and consistency and was suitable for a wide variety of industry use cases. Special attention was given to support the needs of regulated businesses that required privacy, confidentiality, audibility, and scalability.

A full year later, there is much for the community to celebrate:

  • The first production network, running with over a quarter of a million blocks in its shared ledger;
  • More than 4,600 developers subscribed to the Hyperledger Slack and 1,800+ GitHub stars;
  • A diverse set of code committers (individuals, companies, countries) contributing to Fabric code;
  • Dozens of companies (large and small) building new business networks using Fabric;
  • The first set of commercial offerings available on any cloud (public or private) with Docker, including a highly secure blockchain extension off the IBM Cloud;
  • A community-defined Fabric v1.0 that represents a year of diverse input across a variety of industries and use cases.

The IBM and the Hyperledger community learned that while the use cases for blockchain are diverse (supply chain, provenance, financial services) there exists an 80/20 rule: 80 percent of the services required are common to all use cases while only 20 percent are unique to a specific use case. So we built modularity into the Hyperledger Fabric that provide flexible options that can be tailored to the needs of the 20 percent. As a result, there’s no need for industry-specific blockchain ledgers or Fabric.

We also learned how to build and apply the technology as well as how to run it at scale on clouds (public and private). From continuous deployment, we learned how to automate and orchestrate nodes in a blockchain network and we also defined a specific hardware environment, purposefully built for blockchain security.

During the course of the year, Fabric has been used in many engagements, across many industries and use cases. For example, IBM Global Finance (IGF) now employs a Hyperledger Fabric based blockchain network for accelerating the resolution of disputes. The system frees dispute-locked capital through a shared ledger to capture key events from members, provide visibility and produce an audit trail. IGF is the first production network for Fabric.

Startup, Everledger has spent the past year developing its shared ledger to digitally certify diamonds traced through the Kimberley Certification process. Starting with the polished diamond industry, Everledger created relationships with the major diamond certification houses around the world to digitally encrypt over one million diamonds on Fabric, running on IBM’s High Security Business Network, an extension of IBM’s Cloud.

Walmart is putting food safety on Fabric. The multinational retail giant is using Fabric as a shared ledger to indelibly record a list of transactions that indicate how food has flowed through a commercial network, from producers to processors to distributors to grocers—and finally, to consumers.

For its part, CLS Group (CLS), a leading provider of risk management and operational services for the global foreign exchange (FX) market is using Hyperledger Fabric for a new payment netting service, called CLS Netting. The service is for buy-side and sell-side institutions’ FX trades that are settled outside the CLS settlement service.

These client engagements were possible because of IBM and the Hyperledger community’s agile design method of: doing and failing fast, and then succeeding quickly with a modular approach. A meritocracy took root with a number of Fabric contributors rising through the ranks of committer to maintainer. As for corporate contributions to Fabric, there are several deserving recognition including: London Stock Exchange, Digital Asset Holdings, DTCC, Fujitsu, Huawei and Hitachi.

Fabric is rapidly evolving toward a March 2017 milestone where v1.0 will be suitable for production networks. This next version represents the voices of the diverse community of contributors and users. Modularity continues to be a key design focus with improved capabilities around query, consensus, and membership services.

A year wiser, Hyperledger Fabric v1.0 is shaping up to become the foundation for the era of the Internet of transactions where one network can run transactions directly with the peers of any other network – a modular approach much like the network-of-networks model on the Internet.

IBM Vice President, Blockchain Technologies

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