Is IBM’s Blockchain the Enterprise Future? Is it even Blockchain?


Earlier this year, Forbes revealed a list of companies that were worth over a billion dollars that were actively involved in Blockchain technology. Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, and other giants, of other sectors, like Shell, Metlife, and Allianz SE, all featured.

Interestingly, over 50 percent of the companies listed had some sort of involvement with IBM and its Blockchain, HyperLedger Fabric through the Linux Foundation. This enterprise-grade blockchain solution was the go-to for several companies still experimenting in the space. 

It was a solution that was easy to understand and use, it came with IBM support, and it could be custom-built for many needs. Indeed, it felt as if the world’s biggest enterprises were entering the blockchain space at a rapid rate. 

However, there have been, and still are, detractors about this kind of blockchain usage. Many feel that private blockchains, of which this is, are not real blockchains at all.

Looking at the definition of Blockchain, it can be said that there are some inconsistencies in what IBM is doing with its offering. 

Stuart Popejoy, Co-founder of Kadena, describes a blockchain as thus: 

“Blockchain is, at its core, a decentralized immutable ledger of events or transactions in which truth is enforced by a consensus mechanism. In public blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum, this consensus is achieved through Proof of Work, or “mining.” In permissioned Blockchain, consensus can be achieved through participants supplying cryptographic signatures to vote on what gets written. Either way, no central authority arbitrates what is true.”

His issue with IBM’s offering is the missing decentralization aspect. IBM defines Blockchain a little differently; they outline the required distributed and immutable nature of the technology, but there is minimal mention of a decentralized consensus. This is because, according to Popejoy, Hyperledger Fabric doesn’t require an actual consensus mechanism at all.

Popejoy instead explains that Hyperledger fabric is “little more than a time-stamped list of entries.”

He may very well have a point. Perhaps Hyperledger is not a true blockchain as understood by those who have delved headfirst into this space and appreciated the decentralized nature of the technology. That being said, on an enterprise-grade, experimental level, is this not sufficient? 

What Popejoy is suggesting is in Hyperledger, you can’t prove that somebody hasn’t tampered with the ledger, but on a closed, permissioned blockchain, there should not be too many threats to the integrity of the data.

Of course, that does not mean there won’t be bad actors, and perhaps some people will be able to take advantage of HyperLedger in its immediacy, but things are progressing, and many companies need to at least get a taste before diving headlong into a new era of technology.

An excellent example of this is Nestle, who was one of the founding members of IBM’s Food Trust. They used hyperledger for their supply chain but realized there are limitations. Now, they are moving towards creating their own public blockchain solution to ensure complete decentralization, immutability, and transparency. 

Darryn Pollock
Darryn has been interested in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space since he heard about Bitcoin in 2015. He then decided to use his journalism degree to report on this fascinating fintech space in 2016, and has not looked back since.

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