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by Christopher Tozzi, Aug 09, 2018

IBM and Financial Services Partners Launch Enterprise Blockchain App Store


IBM

If you’re a bank looking to take advantage of distributed ledger technology, there’s an app for that — or there may soon be, at least, thanks to LedgerConnect, a new platform from IBM and financial services partners that some folks are calling a blockchain “app store.”

To be clear, IBM and its partners have not themselves labeled LedgerConnect an app store. They’re describing the platform simply as a solution to “deploy, share and consume services hosted on a shared distributed ledger network.” 

But that kind of sounds like an app store, and that’s the term that third-party observers are using to refer to LedgerConnect, which IBM announced on July 30.

LedgerConnect is designed to cater to financial services companies, not individual end users. This is not a handy solution for crypto enthusiasts to locate DApps that they might wish to install on their PCs or phones (though such registries do already exist).

LedgerConnect serves instead as a way for financial institutions to access services that are hosted on a distributed ledger, with the promise that the solution is designed for “regulated and security-conscious” organizations, according to the LedgerConnect announcement.

But because the services available from LedgerConnect are powered by IBM Blockchain Platform and HyperLedger Fabric, it may be a stretch to call them “apps” in the traditional sense. It appears that what IBM and its partners intend to offer will be fully hosted services that interact with IBM’s enterprise blockchain platform, rather than applications that an organization could download and use on its own infrastructure.

Advancing IBM’s Enterprise Blockchain Mission

Whether LedgerConnect is really a blockchain app store in the traditional sense or not, its significance for IBM is clear. The solution will make it easier for financial services companies to access IBM’s enterprise blockchain platform.

In other words, rather than having to build their own individual services on top of IBM Blockchain Platform, banks and other financial institutions will be able to take advantage of ready-made solutions offered through LedgerConnect.

What’s more, banks will be able to share and collaborate around blockchain-based services more seamlessly. In that sense, LedgerConnect could be a significant step in convincing more enterprises to adopt distributed ledger technology as a way to share information and process transactions between themselves. That’s a different, more expansive use of blockchain technology than using a permissioned blockchain for internal operations, like tracking inventory.

On that note, it’s also significant that LedgerConnect will operate as “a single shared and highly secured network,” according to IBM’s press release. It seems, then, that all users of the solution will be sharing their data on a single distributed ledger, rather than using private, permissioned blockchains. This is another reflection of the platform’s potential for increasing inter-enterprise collaboration around blockchain technology. 

Building Enterprise Blockchain Partnerships

LedgerConnect is also significant from a blockchain ecosystem perspective as evidence that more big-name partnerships surrounding blockchain technology will emerge.

IBM’s major partner in the initiative is CLS, a financial services company that specializes in settlement services for the foreign exchange market. However, nine other financial institutions, including Barclays and Citi, are also part of the endeavor as early adopters of LedgerConnect, according to IBM.

So far, IBM has been tight-lipped about what, exactly, the services available from LedgerConnect will look like. It’s also unclear when the platform will become generally available; for now, IBM says that it is working on building a successful proof of concept and gaining regulatory approval.

Still, making it easier for banks to take advantage of distributed ledgers and use a blockchain to collaborate with one another can only help spur further adoption of blockchain technology. Although the details surrounding LedgerConnect remain murky for now, and it may not be the same kind of app store that you can access on your phone, the initiative is a sign of positive momentum for distributed ledger technology in the financial services industry.