I know you’re not surprised by the emergence of blockchain as a service. Two of the hottest terms in IT these days are “blockchain” and “x as a Service,” where the X can be anything from Software to Big Data. So it was inevitable that the two would merge.
The on-demand world has yielded quite a few interesting services, like databases, Big Data, high performance computing and firewall, among many others. If it is software or infrastructure-related, it will eventually become a service.
The same applies to blockchain. Blockchain shows how far we’ve come in the tech world, in that it is being rapidly adopted and no one knows who invented it. Someone named Satoshi Nakamoto claims to have developed the technology but there is some dispute of that, given his flawless English and use of British terms.
Whoever Nakamoto is, he or she or they have created a technology that the world is falling all over itself to adopt, and there is no software company behind it. No IBM, no Microsoft, no Google. It is a remarkable statement of blockchain’s effectiveness.
First, Blockchain is a public electronic ledger, like a database, that creates an unchangeable record of transactions between users, each one time-stamped and linked to the previous one so it cannot be altered or duplicated. Each digital record or transaction in the thread is called a block, and the string of blocks are a chain, hence the name.
Blockchain can only be updated by consensus between participants in the system, and when new data is entered, it cannot be erased. This makes the chain a verifiable and unalterable string of records for every transaction ever made in the system.
The main proof of concept for blockchain for now is Bitcoin, the most widely hyped of the cryptocurrencies although not the only one. Bitcoin is a method of digital, secure transactional payments over an open network. It was initially billed as a peer-to-peer version of electronic cash that could be done between individuals without going through a financial institution.
There are other uses for blockchain, many of which are emerging from major IT solution providers and often for a dedicated purpose. This list highlights the work of many but not necessarily all of the major blockchain as a service (BaaS) providers.
The Linux Foundation deserves special mention because it is the software provider of a popular BaaS product. The organization last year released Hyperledger Fabric 1.0, a collaboration tool for building blockchain distributed ledgers, such as smart contracts, for vertical industries. IBM and Oracle both offer services based on Hyperledger Fabric.
Microsoft became one of the first software vendors to offer BaaS when it launched Azure Blockchain Service in 2015. Last year it launched Enterprise Smart Contracts, which provides users with the schema, logic, counterparties, external sources, ledger, and contract binding for building their own blockchain services.
In November 2015, Microsoft and ConsenSys announced a partnership to create Ethereum blockchain as a service (EBaaS) on Microsoft Azure. The service is designed to help customers build private-, public- and consortium-based blockchain environments on Azure’s global platform.
A year later, Microsoft announced a collaboration with Blockstack Labs, ConsenSys and a variety of developers on an open source, blockchain-based identity system that allows people, products, apps and services to interoperate across blockchains, cloud providers and organizations.
There is no greater testimony to the impact blockchain has than the sheer number of companies behind R3, a consortium behind a distributed financial ledger called Corda that operates like a blockchain while denying it is one. The consortium started in 2015 with financial institutions like Barclays, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, and Royal Bank of Scotland, and has grown to more than 70 partners, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo.
Corda is a specialized ledger for financial institutions to process financial transactions. The ledgers are interoperable, so software applications can communicate, exchange data and use that exchanged data.
3. HPE R3
HPE’s has a blockchain SaaS offering is based on Corda. The offering runs Corda on HPE’s Mission Critical server services to deliver resiliency and scalability for enterprises bringing distributed ledger applications into production. HPE’s Mission Critical DLT systems promise virtually no down time, and in the event of infrastructure failure, transactions are not lost. They are saved and processed once the system is running again.
4. SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain
SAP’s blockchain as a service is called “Leonardo,” which in turn is based on Hyperledger, and resides in the SAP Cloud service, so it can be accessed from any device and requires no on-premises hardware or software. SAP Leonardo functions as a blockchain cloud service, machine learning service and supports the Internet of Things (IoT) in a single ecosystem.
BitSE runs VeChain, a Chinese cloud product management platform built on a blockchain in collaboration with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to boost blockchain adoption in the Asia-Pacific markets.
VeChain focuses on four areas: anti-counterfeiting, supply chain management, asset management and client experiences. It allows merchants to put unique IDs on products to prevent counterfeiting, a major problem in Asia. Its first major use was with D.I.G., China’s largest fine wine importer, to stop counterfeit wines.
South Korea’s Blocko has more than 90% marketshare of the enterprise blockchain market in its native country. Their blockchain-as-a-service platform, Coinstack, is used by Samsung, LG CNS, Hyundai and many of the other national giants. It set up a biometric login and payment authorization system for Lotte Card, a major South Korean credit card provider, which reduced authentication time from 7-10 minutes to 2-3 minutes, which in turn cut Lotte Card’s annual security solution expenditures to 10% of their original operating costs.
Blockstream offers a micropayment processing system called Lightning Charge on its Lightning Network for making payments with Bitcoin. It’s designed to make it easier for developers creating Lightning-powered payments applications. Blockstream claims its network allows for faster and cheaper than using the native Bitcoin blockchain network.
PayStand uses blockchain technology to simplify the sending and collecting of money in the accounts receivable and payable process. Its network automates cash management from accounting software to reconciliation. PayStand customers can certify and notarize payments from request to receipt and third-party notaries or auditors manage certifying payment records, eliminating the possibility of tampering.
9. Peer Ledger
Peer Ledger offers identity management blockchain to externally certify real-world identities, giving blockchain real-to-digital identity mapping, something the company says the technology has lacked. Peer Ledger uses the public key infrastructure (PKI) system to certify identities outside the blockchain before connecting them to blockchain accounts. The company is targeting trust-sensitive industries such as healthcare for their solution.
Consulting giant Deloitte has a solution for businesses called Rubix Core. Rubix Core’s customized blockchain architecture is designed for building a private network customized to an industry or organization. Rubix Core offers a full stack Ethereum-compliant enterprise infrastructure as well as a set of GUI tools that make it easy to rapidly build smart contract apps.