The blockchain distributed ledger technology forms the base of many believe will be the future of untraceable digital currency, Bitcoin. But is it ready for prime time for something as critical as sensitive data and monetary transactions?
IBM has previously worked with some clients that wanted Bitcoin blockchain implementation, but those customers were not happy with such implementations. “The Bitcoin blockchain definitely was not ready for prime time,” said IBM Fellow Donna Dillenberger, in a telephonic interview.
“What’s common about all these companies is that they want to make sure that they protect their client’s data as much as possible”– Donna Dillenberger
Many industries, mainly financial industries, see great potential in the blockchain technology, which was why the Linux Foundation launched the Hyperledger Project to create an open source blockchain for commercial use. Many IT and financial giants, including IBM, joined to collaborate on the project. IBM contributed over 44,000 lines of their code to the Hyperedge Project to boost this technology.
Contrary to the general perception, blockchain is not just for financial services. It could be important for supply chain, healthcare, government, even industries that are not regulated but want to protect client data or their own data are potential users.
“I can tell you that the hyperledger blockchain is definitely more ready for prime time than these other blockchain implementations. Because it’s the only blockchain implementation out there that allows for signed records in addition to many more security features,” said Dillenberger.
IBM started offering Hyperledger Project through its Bluemix service, but it wasn’t as secure as high-security industries would want.
“When you are in the business of provenance, secured records, access and transparency are everything. There is no compromise when it comes to security and one cannot underestimate the expertise required to enable this,” said Leanne Kemp, CEO and Founder of Everledger.
Blockchain networks are built on the notion of decentralized control, but some popular cloud environments leave “back doors” open, which can render sensitive private data vulnerable, IBM has stated.
Linux adds the much-needed security to IBM’s blockchain service, through the use of LinuxOne servers, according to the company. LinuxOne hardware offers the ability to sign and encrypt the entire stack and the data.
Dillenberger said that customers can run any containers inside the secure service containers including docker, OCI (Open Container Initiative) compliant containers; you can even run KVM virtual machines.
The secure blockchain service running on LinuxOne is still in beta phase and IBM is working with many companies to beta test it. “What’s common about all these companies is that they want to make sure that they protect their client’s data as much as possible,” said Dillenberger
Everledger is one such company that’s working with IBM in beta testing. “Having the opportunity to build, test, scale and refine Everledger on IBM Blockchain, underpinned by security-rich infrastructure, is a game changer. It has accelerated our ability to move fast and deliver the most innovative solutions to our partners internationally and confidentially,” Kemp said.
IBM has not stated when the service will be in beta, however, it’s expected to shed the beta tag sometime this year. There is no pricing details available yet.
Customers can also run Hyperledger based blockchain service on-premise if they don’t want to use the cloud. IBM is offering LinuxOne system in two configurations: LinuxOne Emperor and LinuxOne Rockhopper. Emperor is a super expensive monster which can scale up to 8,000 virtual machines or thousands of containers. On the other hand, LinuxOne Rockhopper is an entry-level system targeted at smaller customers who need mainframe capabilities.
To make these super powerful machines affordable, IBM is offering flexible, cloud-like pricing. Customers will be able to take complete control over their blockchain implementation using flexible pricing. LinuxOne machines currently run SUSE Linux Enterprise and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The company also recently announced that it is now offering Canonical Ubuntu (initially release 16.04) on LinuxOne.
IBM is a sponsor of The New Stack.
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