To empower students and researchers to build the next generation of blockchain solutions, Beijing Institute of Technology looked for a high-performance server platform for Hyperledger deployments.
BIT uses IBM Secure Service Container technology and tamper-resistant encryption hardware on IBM LinuxONE to create a scalable, security-rich, high-performance platform for developing blockchain solutions.
Deliversa security-rich environment to build enterprise-ready blockchain use cases
Offershigher performance than comparable x86 platforms, ensuring cost-effectiveness
Equipsstudents with valuable experience developing blockchain solutions
Business challenge story
Realizing the value of the blockchain
The blockchain concept is exploding in popularity. As use cases for digital, decentralized and cryptographically secured ledgers emerge across industries, organizations like the Beijing Institute of Technology are at the forefront of efforts to turn ideas into reality.
“Blockchains can deliver exceptional levels of security, traceability and tamper-resistance, which makes them a revolutionary technical innovation,” says Gangyi Ding, Dean of the Software College at Beijing Institute of Technology. “Like many leading research universities, BIT has been studying and developing blockchain technologies for a number of years.”
Gangyi Ding continues: “Blockchain is a relatively young technology, and we see that there are some key technical challenges to overcome before it is ready for enterprise-scale applications. At the BIT School of Software, we’re interested in finding ways to enhance the efficiency, stability and security of real-world blockchain platforms.”
To achieve its goals, BIT wanted to empower its students to build business applications for the blockchain, while minimizing the time spent provisioning the underlying infrastructure.
“We knew that exploring the benefits of the blockchain would help our students build skills that would serve them well in industry and academia,” says Gangyi Ding. “As the first step, we needed a highly secure and flexible platform to drive our blockchain research.”
Embracing a high-performance research platform
To deliver a robust platform for its software research and development projects, BIT signed up for the IBM LinuxONE Community Cloud. This no-charge, on-demand environment enabled the organization to quickly provision a virtual server instance on IBM LinuxONE with two virtual CPUs, four GB of memory and 40 GB of storage.
“LinuxONE combines capabilities such as CP Assist for Cryptographic Functions [CPACF] and single instruction, multiple data [SIMD] instructions that enable us to accelerate blockchain services,” comments Gangyi Ding. “Better still, LinuxONE can provide end-to-end security protection for memory, cryptographic keys and data—making it an ideal platform for blockchain.
“Our partnership with IBM goes back more than a decade. We are an active participant in the IBM z Academic Initiative University program, and we operate an IBM Center of Excellence within the School of Software. Those positive experiences with IBM gave us the confidence they could provide the support we needed. We were also impressed by IBM’s contribution to the Hyperledger Fabric blockchain framework implementation—one of the Hyperledger projects hosted by The Linux Foundation.”
Using the IBM LinuxONE Community Cloud, BIT developed a use case to help its students easily understand the concept of blockchain and its advantages: the Consumption Credit Points Exchange System (CCPX). Based on Hyperledger and Node.js containers running on Docker and linked using a Docker bridge network, the CCPX enables users to exchange credits or loyalty points between different companies listed on a virtual exchange, and trade them with other users.
“Our goal is to allow people to spend their time working on the blockchain rather than on the repetitive technical tasks required to provision the underlying platform,” explains Gangyi Ding. “During development, we wrote a script which enables us to cast a blockchain network from Docker hub and Node.js images, link the containers together and expose the environment to the network in just five minutes—with just a few entries on the command line.”
Surging to the front of the field
By driving its blockchain research on the LinuxONE platform, BIT is placing itself at the leading edge of development in the field.
“We were recently approached by the LinuxONE team in China with an opportunity for our students to participate in a real-world blockchain development project,” says Gangyi Ding. “One of IBM’s clients aims to provide blockchain-as-a-service [BaaS] to its small- and medium-sized customers, and our students’ experience working with our blockchain tools on LinuxONE meant they were ideally placed to contribute to the project.”
To support the BaaS solution, BIT purchased and deployed an IBM LinuxONE Rockhopper™ with four Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) processors and running Red Hat Enterprise Linux version 7.2.
“We compared benchmarks running on LinuxONE and a comparable x86 cluster, and we found LinuxONE had an undeniable edge when it came to performance and security,” recalls Gangyi Ding. “Crucially, the solution also offers us the compute, storage and networking performance we need to support other demanding scientific research projects, including machine learning, high-performance computing and big data analysis.”
After discussions between IBM and the faculty, the team decided that BIT’s students would own the development of the BaaS solution’s monitoring capabilities.
Gangyi Ding continues: “Our students were tasked with building intuitive, responsive systems to display information on the health of the blockchain and the server platform, logs and resource meters, and automated email and Slack messaging systems to notify the team if the solution exceeded its resources. Throughout the project, IBM advisers provided excellent technical support, and our students learned a great deal.”
Based on the insights it is gaining from its collaboration with IBM, many of BIT’s teachers have now introduced blockchain content into their software engineering courses—encouraging more students to get involved in related projects.
“To equip our students with the skills they will need in a globalized, digitalized employment market, we see that partnerships with world-class science and technology firms are essential—and IBM is just such an organization,” concludes Gangyi Ding. “Thanks to our work with blockchain on IBM LinuxONE, our students can learn at the cutting edge of an emerging field.”
Beijing Institute of Technology
Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT) is a public university in China comprising more than 3,500 faculty members and 25,000 full-time students. With programs focusing on science and technology as well as management and the humanities, BIT operates three campuses, four faculties and 19 colleges.
- IBM LinuxONE Rockhopper