IBM recently delivered a new secure blockchain service on the IBM Cloud.
The new service, now in limited beta, is targeted at companies and organizations in regulated industry sectors—such as government, financial services and health care—where there is a need to test and run blockchain applications in private.
The new secure blockchain service runs on IBM's LinuxONE systems, which the company claims is the most secure Linux-only server on the market.
"Why this is the most secure blockchain is because we're providing it on the LinuxONE system and we have these LinuxONE systems in public clouds all over the world," said Donna Dillenberger, an IBM Fellow and global leader of enterprise systems for IBM Research.
The secure blockchain environment on LinuxONE takes advantage of IBM's secure services container technology, which provides firmware protection to prevent system administrators from accessing the blockchain data, software and applications. It also prevents root users from accessing this data.
"So anything installed in this secure services container is attested, encrypted and signed and you can't install malware in it—the firmware prevents it," Dillenberger said.
Blockchain is a permissionless distributed database based on the bitcoin protocol that maintains a continuously growing list of data records hardened against tampering and revision, even by its operators. The initial and most widely known application of blockchain technology is the public ledger of transactions for Bitcoin. IBM has been one of the technology's major proponents.
IBM said blockchain networks are built on the notion of decentralized control, but some cloud environments leave back doors open, potentially providing room for unauthorized access. IBM's new secure blockchain service addresses this concern.
Jerry Cuomo, vice president of blockchain at IBM, said IBM's customers have told the company that concern about security has been one of the inhibitors of the adoption of blockchain. "While there is a sense of urgency to pioneer blockchain for business, most organizations need help to define the ideal cloud environment that enables blockchain networks to run securely in the cloud," he said in a statement.
One such customer is Everledger, a company that tracks and protects diamonds and other luxury goods through blockchain. Everledger tapped IBM to help build its global certification system.
"Having the opportunity to build, test, scale and refine Everledger on IBM Blockchain, underpinned by security-rich infrastructure, is a game changer," said Leanne Kemp, CEO and founder of Everledger, in a statement.
Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, said he believes IBM has been readying itself to aid in blockchain development for over a decade. The company has been deeply involved in open source since the mid-1990s, making it a natural player in the Linux-based Hyperledger projects underlying many blockchain projects, he noted.
The demanding security features that blockchain projects require is another key focus point for IBM, permeating everything from standalone security solutions to computing environments designed to be maximally secure from the ground up, King added. And IBM's LinuxONE is the third and final piece of IBM's blockchain service strategy, he said.
In essence, IBM has created a secure cloud-based development environment supporting blockchain projects in the highly regulated financial, healthcare and government sectors, King stated. These projects need to be secured from the "get-go" to help ensure that the entire network, including entry points, is safe against outsider and insider threats.
"While it's likely that other cloud vendors will offer services they say are secure for blockchain development, few can claim IBM's wealth of related experience and technology assets, and none have a platform similar to the LinuxONE mainframe," King told eWEEK.
IBM has established a new business unit to handle demand for blockchain solutions and services. Dillenberger said many of IBM's customers have come asking for the company's help in understanding what blockchain is and helping them design blockchain applications and optimize their business processes using blockchain. And not only existing IBM customers; Big Blue has seen many new customers—including startups—coming to IBM asking for help with blockchain, she said.
Blockchain will change the way organizations transfer high-value goods, digital assets and financial instruments, Dillenberger noted.
"To accelerate blockchain adoption, clients must trust the infrastructure and the system that blockchain is running on," she said.
IBM announced plans to establish a Blockchain Innovation Center in Singapore to help businesses and the Singapore government adopt blockchain technology in the region.
"Singapore is one of the financial hubs in the world and they came to IBM and asked us to help the Singapore government as well as other major companies that do business in Singapore to help them innovate their financial products with blockchain," Dillenberger told eWEEK. "And it's not only financial products, but manufacturing and trade companies as well."