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.
IBM Moves to Advance Blockchain in the Enterprise
“Blockchain is moving into banks and is processor-intensive and should lend itself to both IBM hardware and their tight relationship with banks—this is likely why IBM is getting behind this technology,” Said Rob Enderle, founder of the Enderle Group. “Once blessed by banks it created an additional competitive exposure particularly if it remains optimized for x86 platforms, and IBM wants to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
IBM is working with a number of global partners, including London Stock Exchange Group and the Finnish business development organization Kouvola Innovation.
“London Stock Exchange Group is directly engaged in the development of the open blockchain technologies with IBM and we are excited to help enable the creation of solutions that will help manage risk and bring additional transparency to global financial markets,” said Moiz Kohari, executive vice president and group head of technology innovation at London Stock Exchange Group, in a statement. “We believe this technology has the potential to drive change across the industry but will need to be developed in partnership with customers and industry participants under an open source approach.”
“Blockchain provides a revolutionary approach that enables businesses across industries all around the world to completely change their logistics business and operations,” said Mika Lammi, head of IoT business development at Kouvola Innovation, in a statement. “We see the potential for blockchain to transform logistics value chains into a more seamless process that provides a trusted view of every piece of cargo. The IBM Blockchain fabric, together with the Watson IoT platform, offers great potential to bring together the physical and digital worlds in a way that has never been done before.”
As a founding member of the Linux Foundation Hyperledger Project, IBM’s code was developed through the collaboration of more than 35 global IBM researchers and software developers, and more than 100 technical architects focused on making blockchain ready for business.
“In just a few short months, IBM’s vision for making blockchain a powerful new business solution across multiple industries is becoming a reality as our clients begin piloting innovative new code, services and z Systems optimized for distributed ledgers,” said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president of IBM Research, in a statement. “These advancements are making it easier for developers to move from understanding the potential of blockchain, to actually using it to change their business processes in powerful new ways.”
IBM brings vast capabilities to the project, including a pluggable architecture to enable developers to use software modules that best suit their needs, a new consensus algorithm developed by IBM Research tailored to specific blockchain use cases, advanced identity management built with the latest cryptography, smart contracts that can be written in popular programming languages such as Java or Go and executed in containers, and fine-grained privacy and confidentiality control that allows authors of smart contracts to precisely specify both who can view them and who can execute them.
“Getting in early on commercial blockchain development is a wise move for IBM and could lead to significant business opportunities,” King said. “In fact, the current state of blockchain bears some similarities to the early days of Linux where many supporters of the OS regarded it as a means to what they considered Microsoft’s hegemony in desktop computing. IBM took another path, recognizing the potential value of Linux as a lingua franca for the data center and garnered significant benefits as a result of those efforts and investments.”