The Blockchain for Business
The introduction of blockchain technology is revolutionizing business by allowing two or more parties to trust a ledger of records. While this technology is beneficial in many business areas, it is particularly useful when it comes to supply chain management.
Before describing the benefits, we should first define what the blockchain is and is not. It is a distributed ledger of data. That data is a specific record, a block, which is linked to the next block. The links to the next block are cryptographically secure to ensure the integrity of the entire list of records, the chain.
The blockchain, however, is not a product itself, but rather a framework. It is the underlying technology to an application. It is also not a transaction processing system or a database. The blockchain does process transactions and stores data, but it processes transaction in a very different way compared to traditional transactions. While data is stored, it is a complete ledger of all transactions and not just a row and columns in a typical database. Finally, the blockchain is not bitcoin. While bitcoin was the first application built on top of the blockchain, it is not the blockchain itself. Blockchain is not confined to the financial industry at all, and any number of applications can be built on top of it.
With several frameworks available, the leading choice for an enterprise blockchain network is Hyperledger Fabric. It is maintained by the Linux Foundation and was designed to allow applications to be built quickly. It is one of the most stable general purpose, permissioned, and enterprise-ready blockchain networks available for development.
Hyperledger Fabric is built for permissioned networks. This forces all participants in the network to be known and have an identity. Additionally, Hardware Security Module (HSM) support is available for safeguarding and managing keys for authentication. For identity management that needs more protection, Hyperledger Fabric provides modified and unmodified PKCS11 for key generation. With the modular architecture supporting plug-in components, Hyperledger Fabric allows developers to use their preferred implementations for components which allows multi-company networks to use their own identity management instead of having to rebuild it for the blockchain network. This “bring your own identity” is one of the most requested areas for modularity.
While identity management is important, so is protecting data. Some enterprises do not consider encryption to be enough. The amount of transaction could be enough to away competitive information. Protection laws and regulation on personally identifiable information make data protection even more important. With some financial instruments taking 10 or more years to come to value, the risk of breaking encryption increases. Hyperledger Fabric shares data on a need-to-know basis by partitioning. Channels are an available feature that allows data to go only to parties that need to know. This also limits the number of transactions seen by only those that need to know. For example, seeing the total number of transactions in a supply chain, even if encrypted, would give you an idea how sales are going. The more transactions from suppliers and customers, the greater the chance that sales are up. With channels, those transactions are protected along with the data.
Finally, none of this matters without the data itself. By default, Hyperledger Fabric includes LevelDB, but also has support for document databases, such as CouchDB. CouchDB support feature-rich queries. Furthermore, the fully queryable data is stored as JSON making smart contract development even easier as that chaincode data can also use JSON without the need to make any application changes.
Hyperledger has gained momentum very quickly and is backed by many enterprise businesses, including IBM. If you are looking to take advantage of the features of blockchain technology, Hyperledger Fabric is a perfect framework to build fast, scalable, permissioned-based blockchain frameworks.
Please contact Alpine Consulting for any help you may need in exploring or implementing Hyperledger.
About Alpine Consulting
Founded in 1996, Alpine Consulting is a leading technology solutions provider focused on eCommerce, Integration, and CounterFraud solutions and implementations. Alpine is headquartered in Austin, TX.