No new technology since the Internet itself has excited so many pundits as blockchain, but the mania has largely settled down, and I have warmed to the third generation ledger technologies carefully researched and developed from the ground up, by R3, Hyperledger and Microsoft, to name a few of the main players in this field.
Experience and sharper analysis exposed the inherent limitations of the original blockchain. R&D continues at a frenetic pace on fundamental algorithms, service delivery models, and applications. As the field continues to evolve, one feature is shared by all important blockchain spinoffs: they all help to orchestrate agreement on some property of a complex set of transaction data. Hence, I’ve suggested the label Synchronous Ledger Technologies, which is more precise than “blockchain” and more accurate than “Distributed Ledger Technology”.
I see three broad approaches to the commercialization and delivery of blockchains and SLTs.
First, there are dedicated Dedicated SLT Developers working on special purpose, often industry-specific systems; these include Evernym and the Sovrin Foundation, R3 and Swirlds. Secondly, several consortia and large consulting firms have established platforms in which businesses can explore, conduct pilots, and, where appropriate, collaborate; for example, Deloitte, the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, Hyperledger, and Wipro. And thirdly, managed services are emerging which promise to offer SLTs in the cloud, with catalogues of standardized data management services with solution consulting; “Blockchain as a Service” might well come to dominate SLT delivery but at this time there are two leading providers: IBM and Microsoft.
All of these are works in progress. For the majority of businesses today, I recommend they select SLT services from a shortlist of the following labs and providers:
- Deloitte has the most comprehensive SLT effort of any of the professional services firms, with a highly diverse technology stack – including Chain, Ethereum, Hyperledger, IPFS, Ripple, and Stellar – and physical labs in Dublin and New York City.
- Hyperledger is a cluster of open source communities managed by the highly reputable Linux Foundation, hosting several SLT collaborations focused on different problem sets and technology families. Hyperledger’s most significant output to date is the comprehensive Fabric SLT platform.
- IBM High Security Blockchain Network (HSBN) is a high-performance, high-security implementation of Hypledger Fabric in IBM’s cloud, currently hosting over 100 SLT pilots across almost every industry.
- Microsoft Azure BaaS was the first blockchain-as-a-service (under “Project Bletchley”) which was supported by the solid Microsoft Research and the company’s major cloud computing capability.
- R3 – a well-funded consortium of 40-odd institutions, dedicated to SLTs for financial services – pioneered third generation distributed ledger development, distinguishing itself firstly with a thorough experimental comparison of available algorithms, followed by the best explained R&D program in the field.
- Wipro has invested in a multi-technology SLT lab, leveraging the company’s partnerships with IBM and Microsoft, incorporating multiple independent blockchain options like R3’s Corda, J.P. Morgan’s Quorum, and Ripple, and supported by in-house consulting frameworks.
Constellation’s updated ShortList of Synchronous Ledger Technologies was released yesterday.