IBM Blockchain – The Hyperledger Solution

May 18th, 2018
Marianne Eggett
z Systems Solutions Consultant

 

The emergence of a new methodology for business-to-business transacting is upon us. Blockchain is touted as the framework to eliminate the middleman in the supply chain process, while enabling a more secure transaction at a lower cost. Blockchain was invented in 2008 and implemented for Bitcoin a year later. Since then it has been on a fast evolution to market.

The Hyperledger project was created from the Linux Foundation in 2016. During the past two years, the development of the Blockchain reality took shape. Today, Blockchain is implemented by IBM through the Hyperledger project deliverable, Hyperledger Fabric, and is available for enterprise B2B transacting. See Mainline BLOG Blockchain for a Blockchain introduction.

IBM Blockchain – the Hyperledger Fabric Solution

Hyperledger Fabric is an implementation of the Blockchain framework. It is one of the foundational products developed from the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Project for Blockchain business to business applications. This implementation supports the shared, replicated ledger technology and smart contracts, which enables a private, permissioned Blockchain network. It’s designed to adjunct a company’s API infrastructure into the enterprise’s backend systems.

Version 1.0 was released July 2017. Version 1.1 was recently released in March 2018. In these releases, functions were added that supported the smart contracts with smart contract APIs, performance and scaling improvements, more secure certs and serviceability enhancements. Many of the enhancements expected in V1.2 are for the Blockchain lifecycle, referred to as Chaincode, for discovery functions and an improved testing environment. Hyperledger Composer is available for the blockchain developer.

Today’s Hyperledger Fabric is available in the IBM cloud, previously referred to as IBM BlueMix. Hyperledger Fabric runs on the IBM LinuxONE platform. IBM chose the LInuxONE because it is the most reliable and secure platform in the industry. The IBM LInuxONE has lightening speeds for handling cryptographic processing and boasts of hardware failures measured in decades. It’s the ideal platform for an application that is all about security. At present, Hyperledger Fabric is implemented with open source database management systems, either LevelDB or CouchDB, housing the ledger. It will be interesting to see if IBM expands that to include Db2.

Getting Started with IBM Blockchain

IBM recognizes that this project requires baby steps. Today, many customers are starting their own initiative to learn the impact of Blockchain on their B2B applications and processes. In that vein of exploration, IBM offers three aids for the IT community. IBM has made available a 30-day testing center enabling curious IT departments to explore Blockchain technology. Second, IBM offers a Blockchain Workshop that is a full 2 days, with lecture and labs, to understand how to install and implement a basic Blockchain application. Finally, IBM’s Blockchain Engagement Workshop enables customers to define a starter plan for a Blockchain application with IBM assistance. The IBM Blockchain team work directly with the customer’s IT team in the planning and rollout of their developer’s pilot application.

Today, the IBM Blockchain platform is only in the IBM Cloud. IBM does have plans to introduce a private version of their Hyperledger Fabric implementation so enterprises can implement the Hyperledger Fabric within their IT data center. Watch this space for future announcements.

Next Steps

This is an exciting time. Blockchain is considered an evolutionary technology on cryptocurrency and supply chain management. Here is an interesting application of leveraging IBM Watson to incorporate artificial intelligence into the blockchain to reduce fraud in the multi-billion-dollar diamond industry. https://www.ibm.com/blogs/research/2017/05/power-blockchain-watson).

This IBM Research project exemplifies how close the technology is to creating a revolutionary change to the way we will conduct business in the future.

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