IBM Racks Up Blockchain Success

It hasn’t even been a year (Dec. 17, 2015) since IBM first publicly introduced its participation in the Linux Foundation’s newest collaborative project, Open Ledger Project, a broad-based Blockchain initiative.  And only this past April did IBM make serious noise publicly about Blockchain on the z, here. But since then IBM has been ramping up Blockchain initiatives fast.

LinuxONE rockhopper

Courtesy of IBM: LinuxONE Rockhopper

Just this week IBM made its security framework for blockchain public, first announced in April, by releasing the beta of IBM’s Blockchain Enterprise Test Network. This enables organizations to easily access a secure, partitioned blockchain network on the cloud to deploy, test, and run blockchain projects.

The IBM Blockchain Enterprise Test Network is a cloud platform built on a LinuxONE system.  Developers can now test four-node networks for transactions and validations with up to four parties.  The Network provides the next level of service for developers ready to go beyond the two-node blockchain service currently available in Bluemix for testing and simulating transactions between two parties. The Enterprise Test Network runs on LinuxONE, which IBM touts as the industry’s most secure Linux server due to the z mainframe’s Evaluation Assurance Level 5+ (EAL5+) security rating.

Also this week, Everledger, a fraud detection system for use with big data, announced it is building a business network using IBM Blockchain for their global certification system designed to track valuable items through the supply chain. Such items could be diamonds, fine art, and luxury goods.

Things continued to crank up around blockchain with IBM announcing a collaboration with the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). With this arrangement IBM researchers will work with government, industries, and academia to develop applications and solutions based on enterprise blockchain, cyber-security, and cognitive computing technologies. The effort will draw on the expertise in the Singapore talent pool as well as that of the IBM Research network.  The Center also is expected to engage with small- and medium-sized enterprises to create new applications and grow new markets in finance and trade.

Facilitating this is the cloud. IBM expects new cloud services around blockchain will make these technologies more accessible and enable leaders from all industries to address what is already being recognized as profound and disruptive implications in finance, banking, IoT, healthcare, supply chains, manufacturing, technology, government, the legal system, and more. The hope, according to IBM, is that collaboration with the private sector and multiple government agencies within the same country will advance the use of Blockchain and cognitive technologies to improve business transactions across several different industries.

That exactly is the goal of blockchain. In a white paper from the IBM Institute of Business Value on blockchain, here, the role of blockchain is as a distributed, shared, secure ledger. These shared ledgers write business transactions as an unbreakable chain that forms a permanent record viewable by the parties in a transaction. In effect, blockchains shifts the focus from information held by an individual party to the transaction as a whole, a cross-entity history of an asset or transaction. This alone promises to reduce or even eliminate friction in the transaction while removing the need for most middlemen.

In that way, the researchers report, an enterprise, once constrained by complexity, can scale without unnecessary friction. It can integrate vertically or laterally across a network or ecosystem, or both. It can be small and transact with super efficiency. Or, it can be a coalition of individuals that come together briefly. Moreover, it can operate autonomously; as part of a self-governing, cognitive network. In effect, distributed ledgers can become the foundation of a secure distributed system of trust, a decentralized platform for massive collaboration. And through the Linux Foundation’s Open Ledger Project, blockchain remains open.

Even at this very early stage there is no shortage of takers ready to push the boundaries of this technology. For example, Crédit Mutuel Arkéa recently announced the completion of its first blockchain project to improve the bank’s ability to verify customer identity. The result is an operational permissioned blockchain network that provides a view of customer identity to enable compliance with Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements. The bank’s success demonstrated the disruptive capabilities of blockchain technology beyond common transaction-oriented use cases.

Similarly, Mizuho Financial Group and IBM announced in June a test of the potential of blockchain for use in settlements with virtual currency. Blockchain, by the way, first gained global attention with Bitcoin, an early virtual currency. By incorporating blockchain technology into settlements with virtual currency, Mizuho plans to explore how payments can be instantaneously swapped, potentially leading to new financial services based on this rapidly evolving technology. The pilot project uses the open source code IBM contributed to the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Project.

Cloud-based blockchain running on large LinuxONE clusters may turn out to play a big role in ensuring the success of IoT by monitoring and tracking the activity between millions of things participating in a wide range of activities. Don’t let your z data center get left out; at least make sure it can handle Linux at scale.

DancingDinosaur is Alan Radding, a veteran information technology analyst and writer. Please follow DancingDinosaur on Twitter, @mainframeblog. See more of his IT writing at technologywriter.com and here.

 

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