Book Image

Hands-On Blockchain with Hyperledger

By : Nitin Gaur, Luc Desrosiers, Venkatraman Ramakrishna, Petr Novotny, Salman A. Baset, Anthony O'Dowd
Book Image

Hands-On Blockchain with Hyperledger

By: Nitin Gaur, Luc Desrosiers, Venkatraman Ramakrishna, Petr Novotny, Salman A. Baset, Anthony O'Dowd

Overview of this book

Blockchain and Hyperledger technologies are hot topics today. Hyperledger Fabric and Hyperledger Composer are open source projects that help organizations create private, permissioned blockchain networks. These find application in finance, banking, supply chain, and IoT among several other sectors. This book will be an easy reference to explore and build blockchain networks using Hyperledger technologies. The book starts by outlining the evolution of blockchain, including an overview of relevant blockchain technologies. You will learn how to configure Hyperledger Fabric and become familiar with its architectural components. Using these components, you will learn to build private blockchain networks, along with the applications that connect to them. Starting from principles first, you’ll learn to design and launch a network, implement smart contracts in chaincode and much more. By the end of this book, you will be able to build and deploy your own decentralized applications, handling the key pain points encountered in the blockchain life cycle.
Table of Contents (20 chapters)
Title Page
Copyright and Credits
Packt Upsell

Blockchain in the enterprise

Now that we've looked at where blockchain is emerging in various industries, let's talk about what principles should guide the use of blockchains in an enterprise. Why would an enterprise want to apply blockchain technology to one of its systems or applications?

What applications are a good fit?

Organizations will need to establish criteria for use during the application design process to help them assess where they can best apply blockchain technology. The following are some examples of criteria that could help an enterprise determine which applications or systems would benefit from it:

  • Applications that adhere to trade, trust, and ownership: As described previously, these three tenets—trade, trust and ownership—are fundamental to any blockchain system. Trade and ownership imply the churn and the transfer of ledger entries, while trust points to the trustless nature of a transaction system.
  • Applications that are fundamentally transactional in nature: There is often a debate about why we can't achieve the benefits of blockchain from a distributed database, that is, a no-SQL or a relational database. But a multi-party transaction is what makes an application suitable for blockchain. There needs to be long-running processes with numerous micro-transactions that will be verified and validated by the blockchain-powered transaction system. However, databases can still be used for persistence or replication to fit enterprise systems. Other considerations include small data set sizes that could increase over time, logging overhead, and so on.
  • Business networks that are comprised of non-monopolistic participants: This third criteria addresses distributed versus decentralized computation models. Blockchain trust systems can work within any model; however, the trust aspect of a blockchain business network comes from multi-party participants with non-monopolistic participation (the consortium permissioned network model). Oligopolistic participation might be acceptable (the private permissioned network model), but it's essential to devise a trust model that assures the prevention of centralized control, even with rational behavior of the participants. Many internal use cases do not adhere to this principle and are more for distributed application models.

For enterprises trying to either understand or determine where to employ blockchain meaningfully, there's a simple approach to thinking through use case selection. An appropriate use case for a sustainable blockchain solution will achieve long-term business objectives and provide a strong return on technology investment.

This starts with an enterprise problem—an issue big enough for the enterprise to expend resources/time—and the recognition of cohorts that have the same problem. When companies realize that an enterprise problem is also an industry problem (such as security lending, collateral lending, and so on), they've found a use case where the promise of blockchain has the most potential.

While organizations are determining the benefits of various aspects of blockchain for their enterprise applications, they also need to recognize the fragmentation of the whole blockchain landscape. There are numerous innovative approaches available for solving a specific challenge with blockchain. A lot of vendors offer variants of the trust system that are specialized to address particular use cases, and they've defined the use cases that will benefit most from blockchain in a given industry, for example. Such specialized vendors often promise a fast solution to meet consumer demands for quick digital interactions.

The tenets of blockchain can be instrumental in delivering rapid consumer-driven outcomes such as decentralized, distributed, global, permanent, code-based, programmable assets, and records of transactions. We should exercise caution with regards to thinking of blockchain as a hammer to solve every enterprise application challenge, but it can be of use in many transactional applications.

Now, let's discuss how blockchain is perceived in the enterprise and some of the challenges that arise with enterprise adoption of the technology. In the following section, I'll focus on three areas that help set the tone for blockchain in an enterprise context.

How does the enterprise view blockchain?

Radical openness is an aspect of blockchain as a digital trust web, but in an enterprise, it's vital to consider the impact and implications of radical openness.

A public blockchain can operate with extreme simplicity, supporting a highly distributed master list of all transactions, which is validated through a trust system supported by anonymous consensus. But can enterprises directly apply the model of the trustless system without modifying the fundamental tenets of blockchain?

Do organizations view this disruptive technology as a path to their transformation or merely a vehicle to help them improve their existing processes to take advantage of the efficiencies that the trust system promises? No matter what, enterprises will want the adoption of blockchain to be as minimally disruptive to the incumbent system as it can be, and that won't be easy to achieve! After all, the design inefficiencies of the incumbent system are what have compelled the enterprise to consider this paradigm shift. A lot of the concepts and use cases for blockchain are still distant from enterprise consumption.

The first industry to experiment with and adopt blockchain was the financial services sector, as it has been facing down the fear of being disrupted by another wave of start-ups. Like many industries, it is also driven by consumer demands for faster, lower-cost transactions. Financial services has a well-defined set of use cases including trade financing, trade platform, payment and remittance, smart contracts, crowd funding, data management and analytics, marketplace lending, and blockchain technology infrastructure. The uses for blockchain we've seen in this industry will likely permeate to other industries such as healthcare, retail, and the government in the future.

The blockchain is a nascent technology that brings together a lot of good ideas, but it still has some maturing to do for enterprise use. The lack of defined standards to promote interoperability between multi-domain chains could be a challenge. Enterprises that adopt it will therefore need to build competency so that they can contribute to further innovation and help with necessary blockchain standards development. This, in turn, could help bring unique opportunities to both improve existing business practices and develop new business models built in a blockchain-powered trust web:

Litmus testing to justify the application of blockchain technology

Fundamentally, blockchain addresses three aspects of the transaction economy:

  • Trade
  • Ownership
  • Trust

The notable technology elements of blockchain are:

  • Technology behind the trust system: Consensus, mining, and the public ledger
  • Secret communication on open networks: Cryptography and encryption
  • Non-repudiation systems: Visibility to stacks of processes

While the implications of blockchain technology may be profound, organizations should devise a set of enterprise-specific criteria that can be applied to existing or new projects that may gravitate towards enterprise blockchains.

Given the versatility of blockchain technology and the current hype curve, enterprises should use a chain decision matrix as a tool to ensure that they have a structured approach to apply a foundational technology to a business domain. This approach will also lend itself to a consistent blockchain infrastructure and trust system management, which will prove vital as many application-driven chains evolve and the demand for enterprise visibility, management, and control grow.

Integrating a blockchain infrastructure for the whole enterprise

Any enterprise adoption of blockchain should have the goal of disrupting incumbent systems. Thinking about integration with enterprise systems of record is one way to work towards this. In this manner, an enterprise can implement blockchain-driven transaction processing and use its existing systems of record as an interface to its other applications, such as business intelligence, data analytics, regulatory interactions, and reporting.

It's vital to separate the infrastructure for enterprise blockchain technology from the business domain that uses chain technology to gain competitive advantage. Blockchain can be seen as an enterprise chain infrastructure that's invisible to businesses and operating behind the scenes, while promoting the interprise synergy between various business-driven chains. The idea is to separate the business domain from the technology that supports it. A chain application ought to be provisioned by a business domain that has a suitable trust system. The trust system, as I've stated repeatedly, is central to any blockchain endeavor, and therefore it should be appropriate to the needs of a given business application. The cost of the infrastructure and compute requirements will be dictated by the choice of trust system available to an enterprise.

By separating out the blockchain technology infrastructure, designing an architecture around a pluggable trust system by using trust intermediaries and a design that promotes flexibility, and a modular trust system, the business can focus on the business and regulatory requirements, such as AML, KYC, nonrepudiation, and so on. The technology infrastructure for blockchain applications should be open, modular, and adaptable for any blockchain variant, thereby making the blockchain endeavor easy to manage.

Interprise synergy suggests driving synergies between numerous enterprise blockchains to enable inter and intra enterprise chain (interledger) connections. In this model, the transactions would cross the various trust systems, giving visibility into the interactions to enterprise governance and control systems. Fractal visibility and the associated protection of enterprise data are important to consider when looking at these interactions between business units and external enterprises. An invisible enterprise chain infrastructure can provide a solid foundation to evolve enterprise connectors and expose APIs to make incumbent systems more chain-aware.

Interprise synergy will flourish due to conditional programmable contracts (smart contracts) between the business chains:

How can an enterprise know if it is ready for blockchain? More importantly, when considering blockchain consumption, should its focus be on integration with incumbent transaction systems, or an enterprise-aware blockchain infrastructure?

To take full advantage of the promise of enterprise blockchain, an integrated enterprise will need more than one use case and will need to drive interprise synergy. The most successful blockchain consumption strategy should focus on technology initially and then consider integration with existing enterprise business systems. This will facilitate collective understanding and accelerate enterprise adoption of the blockchain, hopefully on the path of least disruption.