Enterprise Blockchain Consortiums – Part 1

  • Deva Annamalai
  • March 9, 2017
  • 0

2016 was a big year for Blockchain.

The hype around Blockchain was palpable, and we saw news from all around the world about various initiatives picking up steam.

While this entry is not meant to provide a comprehensive state of *all* of the consortiums out there, I am attempting to capture the ones that seem to have the most momentum and news coverage. If you are serious about following the enterprise Blockchain scene, the following players merit your attention:

  1. HyperLedger
  2. R3CEV
  3. Digital Asset Holdings
  4. Chain
  5. Ripple
  6. Ethereum Enterprise (This was the new entry on the block as this entry was being written).

HyperLedger  

Hyperledger is an open source effort by Linux Foundation to develop a blockchain platform and support blockchain-based distributed ledgers. The term Hyperledger itself doesn’t specifically point to one project; rather it is a collection of various projects committed by different members. The projects themselves range from building blockchain based distributed ledgers to a Blockchain as a Service toolkit, to a blockchain explorer.

Hyperledger ecosystem is built on the following tenets:

  • Data/Decisions need to remain with project stakeholders
  • Plug-ability to enable flexibility.
  • Ability to trace transaction history
  • Utilize native SDKs as much as possible
  • Support for HSM (Hardware Security Module)
  • Support for ACL
  • Eliminate Single point of Failure
  • Collaborate with projects within the Hyperledger ecosystem to pick the best design/architecture

Image Credit: Coin Desk Construct 2017

HyperLedger Projects

HyperLedger Fabric – An implementation of blockchain technology that is intended as a foundation for developing blockchain applications or solutions. Fabric offers modular design allowing plug-and-play components like consensus and membership services. It leverages container technology to host smart contracts called chaincode that comprise the application logic.  Fabric was incubated with contributions from IBM and Digital Asset Holdings Group (DAH),  based on the successful experiment implemented at the F2F hackathon hosted by JPMC in NYC week of March 21, 2016.

The fastest way to take Fabric for a test drive is to use IBM’s Bluemix Free Developer edition that can be found here. On the other hand, if you are a glutton for shell scripts and terminal, you can build your own Node.Js/Vagrant based Fabric client SDK development environment setup by following instructions here.  A Java SDK version is apparently in the works.

Iroha – Iroha has an interesting background it comes from the land of rising sun – It is a distributed ledger project that was designed to support infrastructural projects that require the use of distributed ledger technology in a simple and easy way. Iroha was developed in C++ and emphasizes its use in mobile environments and application development.

Iroha specifies its goal to provide the following c++ components that can be used across all Hyperledger projects:

  • Sumeragi consensus library
  • Ed25519 digital signature library
  • SHA-3 hashing library
  • Iroha transaction serialization library
  • P2P broadcast library
  • API server library
  • iOS library
  • Android library
  • JavaScript library
  • Blockchain explorer/data visualization suite

Iroha was added to the Hyperledger family with contributions from Soramitsu, Hitachi, NTT Data and Colu. A full white paper explaining the design of Iroha can be found here. The client code can be found on Github here.

Sawtooth Lake – Sawtooth Lake is a blockchain ledger project from Intel. Its designed to be a modular platform for building and running distributed ledgers. By using a pluggable architecture for consensus, Sawtooth Lake provides the ability to run both permissioned and permissionless Blockchains. Sawtooth Lake comes out of the box with a consensus Algorithm called PoET (Proof of Elapsed Time), which is intended to run in a Trusted Execution Environment (TEE), such as Intel® Software Guard Extensions (SGX).  PoET is a lottery protocol that follows the Nakamoto Consensus model to elect a leader in the voting process. However, unlike Bitcoin consensus that uses extensive Proof of Work based validation which wastes compute cycles and electricity, PoET uses a Trusted Execution Environment(TEE) to provide a guaranteed wait time for each validator(node).

Each validator in the network requests a wait time from a trust function within the TEE. The validator with the shortest wait time for a particular transaction block is elected the leader. The TEEs provide trust services like CreateTimer() and CheckTimer() to ensure that a particular validator created a timer within a TEE and waited the specified amount of time to win the lottery. By utilizing Intel’s SGX enabled processors that can provide a TEE environment, PoET can scale by adding more validators without having to resort to extensive Proof of Work based mining.

Cello – Is a toolkit for deploying a Blockchain-as-a-Service, that reduces the effort required for creating, managing, and terminating Blockchains. Getting Hyperledger Fabric up and running on different nodes requires configuring Docker scripts to get the environment up and running on various machines, which can be time-consuming and error-prone.

Cello avoids these problems by providing pre-configured environments to get a Blockchain running similar to IBM Blumix or Microsoft Azure BaaS.

In summary, Hyperledger seems to have a vibrant ecosystem of various participants contributing to developing a vibrant open source Distributed Ledger technologies. The Hyperledger Technical Steering Committee ensures that the various efforts stay in sync with the core philosophies of open source contributions. You can find more information about Hyperledger at their wiki or in their slack channel.

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