The revamped IBM blockchain platform now runs on Amazon and Microsoft Azure clouds.

Jeffrey Schwartz

June 21, 2019

4 Min Read
Blockchain to rescue IoT? The mission of the Trusted IoT Alliance, founded in 2017, is to leverage blockchain infrastructure to secure and scale IoT ecosystems. As an early member, Cisco and others are asking just what role blockchain plays in IoT security. “What this group is looking at is defining the solution, or at least getting some standards around, how you deliver integrity in the IoT space,” said Anoop Nannra, technology strategist at Cisco. In a recent joint study by The Boston Consulting Group and Cisco, the findings show that IoT and blockchain use cases – of which only a small number of firms are experimenting – prove substantial advantages can be achieved in certain application areas: High trust and transparency is needed across devices managed by multiple parties; reliance by multiple stakeholders is required on a single version of the truth; device authenticity is critical to prevent the tampering of devices; and autonomous decision-making is need in a decentralized fashion.Shutterstock

IBM may live in the shadow of the three largest public cloud providers in terms of scale and enterprise adoption, but the company  just took a step ahead of the pack in the emerging blockchain network arena.

The new IBM Blockchain Platform 2.0 comes with multicloud support and a simplified tool set that will make it easier for partners to build and deploy solutions that use the smart contracts technology. The new platform is the first from a major provider to enable multicloud blockchain interoperability, according to Gartner analyst Avivah Litan.

“This is a critical feature for blockchain success,” Litan said. “Users and developers shouldn’t have to worry about the back-end blockchain platforms that they or their partners are using. They just want their applications to work across their partner ecosystem. Other cloud blockchain service providers will inevitably follow IBM’s lead here as their respective customers will push them into supporting blockchain interoperability.”

The current version the new platform replaces runs on Linux-based mainframes and commodity servers, requires IBM’s public or private cloud and orchestration and management tools built around Docker Swarm. The 2.0 revamp replaces the Docker Swarm orchestration with support for Kubernetes tools and infrastructure, thereby opening up the IBM Blockchain Platform. Accordingly, it can run in any Kubernetes-compatible public or private cloud.


IBM’s Jerry Cuomo

“When we reimagined the blockchain platform and rearchitected it to use Kubernetes, that really freed the blockchain to run just about anywhere Kubernetes runs, which these days is just about anywhere,” said Jerry Cuomo, VP of blockchain technology and an IBM Fellow, in an interview with Channel Futures. The software is built on the same code as the recently updated SaaS-based version of the IBM Blockchain Platform, which remains in IBM Cloud.

While IBM insists that it leads in customer adoption of blockchain services, only 100 of the 1,100 deployments (less than 10%) are actually used in production. One barrier to broader live deployments is the fact that blockchain is used for distributed ledgers and smart contracts and involves any number of enterprises. Even in closed-loop enterprise scenarios, these are multiparty or consortia networks such as supply chains.

“What we’re seeing is some pause in or delay in the maturing of blockchain consortiums by decisions like where to run the blockchain network,” Cuomo said. “The chances that they all made the same decision on what public cloud to go to is close to zero.”

And those with the largest enterprise scale deployments that have made the decision have predominantly chosen Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure.

As an example, Cuomo pointed to IBM customer Vertrax, which provides supply-chain management solutions to the oil and gas industries. Vertrax wanted to create a blockchain network based on the IBM platform, but AWS is its primary cloud provider and it didn’t make sense to add IBM Cloud to the mix. The new software can run in the AWS managed blockchain service, which like IBM, is based on Hyperledger Fabric, led and championed originally by IBM but now is a Linux Foundation project.

“I think they are first now to be running a live consortium network with the IBM Blockchain Platform live on Amazon,” Cuomo said.

“Vertrax said ‘we are an all-AWS shop; we don’t want to have to go to another cloud just for the blockchain solution,’” said Vijay Rathna, director of blockchain solutions at Chateaux, a systems integrator focused on AI, blockchain and other emerging technologies, and the IBM partner that created the solution for Vertrax. “That’s why this is a…

… great solution for someone who still wants to use all the benefits of IBM blockchain, but they can still stay in the same cloud.”

IBM first previewed the new blockchain platform at the IBM Think conference back in February, showcasing that its reboot can run in AWS and Microsoft Azure. At Think, Marley Gray, Microsoft’s principal program manager for Azure blockchain engineering, joined Gari Singh, CTO of IBM’s Blockchain Platform in a session where they demonstrated the configuration of a multicloud blockchain with the two companies’ respective Hyperledger-based services.

Microsoft, which champions the Ethereum protocol, has added Hyperledger support.

“Connecting our networks together across clouds is reality for blockchain as we have to be able to collaborate with all sorts of people and, and have choice,” Gray said during the demo.

Microsoft had never ruled out adding support for Hyperledger.

This week, Microsoft, Salesforce, the Ethereum Foundation and several other ISVs joined the Hyperledger Foundation’s new identity infrastructure interoperability project.

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About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Schwartz

Jeffrey Schwartz has covered the IT industry for nearly three decades, most recently as editor-in-chief of Redmond magazine and executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner. Prior to that, he held various editing and writing roles at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek and VARBusiness (now CRN) magazines, among other publications.

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