When it comes to blockchain, there are numerous questions about the technology, including ones about smart contracts and distributed ledger technology. I’ve already discussed blockchain, but I’d like talk about smart contracts before I get deeper into the numerous options available for enterprise blockchain technology.
Smart contracts are, as the name suggests, an agreement between buyers or information providers and sellers or receivers which executes automatically as soon as certain criteria are met. There is no middleman involved, and immutability and the distributed nature of blockchain make it possible to avoid any fraud or manipulation. One of my favorite examples of smart contracts in practices comes from health care, where many providers are part of a consortium and are willing to share important information using blockchain. If one insurance company has certain rules to fulfill to receive information from another insurance company, execution of those rules happens automatically via blockchain.
If you are dealing with cryptocurrency, then you are using public blockchain. After opening your account at a crypto-exchange, you can start buying and selling any cryptocurrency. In the same way, you could hypothetically use public blockchain to store your data and make it available. In the perfect enterprise world, though, that’s not feasible because of data privacy and confidentiality. Public blockchains can also require extensive computing power, especially because an unnecessarily large number of users can join public chains.
These concerns mean that a private blockchain is often a better option because it is restricted and allows only permits authorized users access — it’s a permissioned network. There are various technologies that provide both public and private blockchain, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple and Litecoin.
Hyperledger is another technology that offers both public and private blockchains. It’s an open source project started by the Linux Foundation and provides a strong foundation to store and exchange digital information for a variety of industries. Hyperledger is one of several great enterprise blockchain solutions because of the way it builds private and consortium chains. Under the umbrella of this project, there are several projects to meet enterprises needs to implement blockchain as an enterprise offering or solution.
Hyperledger is enterprise-ready and companies like IBM and SAP are already backing up the project. As discussed above, we can put together different modules or frameworks to create a simple and robust enterprise solution for blockchain deployments. The current version of Hyperledger is production ready.
Hyperledger is not the only enterprise Blockchain solution, and I highly recommend you do thorough research before finalizing blockchain technology.
Before you finalize your blockchain solution, one of the most important decisions you have to make is whether blockchain is right for your enterprise. Depending on your offering, your use case may or may not be a good fit to use blockchain. Plenty has been written already that will help you make an ultimate decision. Once you have decided to use blockchain, you next have to decide whether to use a private, public or consortium chain and then decide which technology you should use. Your industry vertical, business problem, use case, how fast data needs to be available and the type of data you’re using will all play an important role.