What Does Blockchain Mean for an Enterprise?
What Does Blockchain Mean for an Enterprise?
The upside of blockchain technology for enterprises is tremendous as it allows for the reorientation of familiar technologies.
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Blockchain has been made popular by the creation of Bitcoin, but what exactly does "blockchain" mean to an enterprise?
The foundational pieces that comprise this model are already in place in one fashion or another within most enterprises. However, they have not been pieced together in a way to produce similar benefits as a blockchain equivalent. At its core, a blockchain is a Shared Distributed Ledger with strict, yet customizable rules detailing how to place information into the ledger.
A deeper dive is warranted in three specific areas related to blockchain:
First is the Shared Distributed Ledger. This is really as simple as it sounds. It is a ledger like those for accounting purposes. The key detail of a ledger is that you can't go back and change a single item without having to rewrite the entire ledger. This proves useful when dealing with regulatory bodies as the amount of work required to falsify information is immense. The distributed part of the definition is critical to business processes in that it ensures high availability and redundancy for cases like disaster recovery. The final piece is it being shared. The sharing is what makes the ledger foolproof. Consider a two-party agreement and a notary service. If each party has a copy of the contract, either could tamper with it and claim their copy is the correct copy, but with a notary having a 3rd party copy which cannot be changed suddenly we have created a case of irrevocable proof. This is ultimately the end goal of blockchain. The distributed ledger is available at scale to meet the needs of business and the shared component enables users to have simultaneous access.
Second is the Concept of Smart Contracts. While the initial blockchain for bitcoin wasn't intended to deliver a smart contract platform, it inherently had one built in as a mechanism for keeping track of ownership of bitcoins. The real expansion of this concept being applied to blockchain was brought with the creation of Ethereum. But what is it? Well to be plain and simple, it is a mechanism for ensuring that software runs, is completely audited and can be proven that it ran, in addition, to identify what it actually produced. This can be any function of code to do some type of work when triggered to run (Function as a Service).
Third is the Concept of Consensus. Blockchain implementations rely heavily on the concept of consensus, as it is the determining factor for who can write a piece of history to the blockchain. For bitcoin, this must be done in a distributed manner as no single person can own the entire blockchain, otherwise, it is not actually shared. Within the enterprise, consensus may look a lot like voting, or even a request for approval and a sign-off approving a said request. It could be a group vote where a quorum is required or even something more like a two-thirds vote.
These three components individually exist in one form or another in different parts of most organizations. Generally speaking, within the enterprise, they have not been assembled into something as well packaged as the overarching concept of blockchain.
There is tremendous opportunity to use blockchain in highly-regulated industries like financial services, healthcare, and pharma where an irrevocable truth in a shared contract is necessary. Another use case is security logs for customers to prove the logs were collected when reported.
The blockchain solution architecture is similar to an event streaming architecture and you can build in different security levels within a single blockchain.
How Do Developers Benefit?
The maturity of smart contracts simplifies the analytics infrastructure enabling developers to focus on developing software.
Developers can use APIs to write software to the area of persistent data in the blockchain.
All auditing capabilities are pre-built.
The underlying storage is pre-built.
The key is knowing how to communicate the topic and the benefits to others. It's not complex and the technical knowledge to execute is already there.
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