Since launching the Hyperledger Project, IBM has elevated
its blockchain focus to align it with its cloud business and its activities in
artificial intelligence and IoT architectures.
IBM’s blockchain business is still in its early days. Numbers have not been
published but its investment has been huge and now some revenue is trickling
in. According to a report published in April by International Data Corp, blockchain
has the “potential
to become one of [IBM’s] fastest-growing sources of revenue starting in 2017.”
Indeed, the company has initiated more than 400 customer projects involving
blockchain technology and it’s involved in some high profile work in the post-trade
derivatives processing space with the Depositary Trust & Clearing Corp.,
automating trade finance with a consortium of European banks, improving
logistics with Maersk and advancing food safety initiatives with a consortium
led by Walmart.
Since IBM threw its hat into the blockchain ring, a few similarly-sized global
IT vendors have also begun to set out their visions with regards to blockchains
and most of that activity has been taking place this year. Among the IT
heavyweights, blockchain progress has been slow, but now some tangible momentum
is building. Here’s a roundup of activity to date from vendors that IBM might
think of as its peers.
When the Linux Foundation introduced Hyperledger, an
open-source blockchain project, it aimed to propel distributed ledger
technology across the world.
The project took a major stride in that effort today when it
announced the general availability of Fabric
1.0, a production-ready blockchain framework that allows users to develop
full-fledged distributed ledger applications to solve whatever problems they
identify. It is a culmination of more than a year of public collaboration among
over 150 participating developers. Engineering was contributed by the likes of
the DTCC, Digital Asset Holdings, SAP, IBM and more.
Blockchain companies have seen billions of dollars in investment and many Fortune 500 companies are now exploring applications with distributed ledgers. By now, it’s clearly on the road to mainstream adoption. But to make the most out of blockchain technology, it helps to have an understanding of the concepts that make it so powerful.
The characteristic known as “Byzantine fault tolerance” (BFT) is one of those concepts worth understanding. The ability to tolerate what computer scientists call “byzantine failures” is a crucial part of blockchains’ ability to maintain reliable records of transactions in a transparent, tamper-proof way.
The Byzantine Generals’ Problem
BFT is so-named because it represents a solution to the “Byzantine generals’ problem,” a logical dilemma that researchers Leslie Lamport, Robert Shostak and Marshall Pease described in an academic paper published in 1982. Essentially, it imagines a group of Byzantine generals and their armies surrounding a castle and preparing to attack. To be successful, these armies must all attack at the same time. But they know that there is a traitor in their midst. The problem they face is one of launching a successful attack with one, unknown bad actor in their system.
Open, permissionless, distributed blockchain systems
such as the digital currency platforms Bitcoin and Ethereum are
paradigm-shifting technologies that often raise more questions than they
answer. This is especially true in cases where use of the technology intersects
with the law, which by its nature has difficulty keeping up with fast-paced
innovation. As a result, legal gray areas have emerged that force potential
digital currency entrepreneurs to navigate a murky and uncertain regulatory
environment—an expensive and time consuming prospect that cools growth in the
Coin Center is a Washington, D.C. based think tank that
studies these questions, develops sound policy answers and advocates for
solutions. Its goal is to help government foster an inviting environment for
open blockchain development. Through this work, we have developed a keen
understanding of the key regulatory issues looming over open blockchains. These
are the areas on which Coin Center has been focusing.
In the very beginning, blockchain technology was thought to be the next generation of fintech infrastructure. The characteristics, including its inherent distributed nature, trustless consensus mechanisms and reliability, as well as the fact that it makes data publicly available, have made banking institutions around the world eager to change their backend systems to use blockchain technology.
Blockchain technology’s high efficiency, low costs and high security have been discussed and explored by various industry experts and intellectuals. This globally recognized disruptive new technology is continuously being examined,researched and applied to create new business models and regulatory services with cooperative thinking. Its globally efficient cooperation method has been bringing the cost of verification and trust down to a minimum.