IBM Moves to Advance Blockchain in the Enterprise

IBM delivers blockchain as a service for developers and commits to making the technology ready for business.

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ORLANDO, Fla.—IBM has put its considerable weight behind blockchain to advance the technology in the enterprise, including offering blockchain as a service to developers.

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.

To help developers quickly begin exploring the use of blockchain in the enterprise, IBM has made nearly 44,000 lines of code available to the Linux Foundation's open-source Hyperledger Project to help developers easily build secure distributed ledgers that can be used to exchange most anything of value.

"This is one of the fastest growing Linux Foundation projects we've ever seen," said Tom Rosamilia, senior vice president of IBM Systems, speaking at the IBM PartnerWorld Leadership Conference here. Rosamilia noted that the new IBM z13s secure mainframe—introduced here—is an ideal machine to run blockchain applications on because of its performance, security and large memory space.

Meanwhile, IBM also made a range of announcements spanning technology and business consulting to rapidly advance the use of distributed ledger technology across multiple industries. The new blockchain services on the IBM Cloud help developers create and manage blockchain networks to power a new class of distributed ledger applications. Developers can create digital assets and accompanying business logic to more securely and privately transfer assets among members of a permissioned blockchain test network.

Using IBM's new blockchain services available on Bluemix, developers can access fully integrated DevOps tools for creating, deploying, running and monitoring blockchain applications on the IBM Cloud. Blockchain applications can also be deployed on IBM z Systems, enabling an additional level of security, availability and performance for handling sensitive and regulated data. Blockchain applications can access existing transactions on distributed servers and z Systems through APIs to support new payment, settlement, supply chain and business processes.

"IBM's focus on blockchain development is an interesting example of how the value of a technology often extends beyond its initial applications," Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, told eWEEK. "In the case of blockchain, the technology is most associated with Bitcoin projects and transactions, many of which have been mired in controversy and scandal. But the ability to support ledgers of transactions which are highly difficult or expensive to alter makes blockchain intriguing solutions for a variety of common business problems, including enabling secure exchanges of business goods and supporting global supply chain processes."

IBM also is enabling Internet of things (IoT) data on blockchain. Using its Watson IoT Platform, IBM will make it possible for information from devices such as RFID-based locations, barcode-scan events or device-reported data to be used with IBM's blockchain. Devices will be able to communicate to blockchain-based ledgers to update or validate smart contracts. For example, as an IoT-connected package moves along multiple distribution points, the package location and temperature information could be updated on a blockchain. This allows all parties to share information and status of the package as it moves among multiple parties to ensure the terms of a contract are met.

Moreover, to help accelerate the design and development of blockchain applications, IBM Garages will open in London, New York, Singapore and Tokyo to enable IBM experts to collaborate with developers on the design and implementation of blockchain for business. IBM Global Business Services will also expand its blockchain consulting practice for clients in banking and financial services and logistics. IBM Interactive Experience (IBM iX), the largest global digital agency, will also engage clients to co-design new use cases for blockchain in more than 25 IBM Studios around the globe.