IBM opens its ultra-secure “blockchain as a service” stall for business

IBM opens its ultra-secure “blockchain as a service” stall for business

Big blue has big ambitions for blockchain technology and its latest product aims to make it way easier for corporates and public sector to test and build networks. Kam Patel reports.  

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IBM has launched what it believes is the world’s most secure enterprise-ready service for private companies and governments to build, test and deploy scalable blockchain networks.

Called IBM Blockchain, the “blockchain as a service” platform is the first of its kind to be based on the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Fabric (version 1.0).  Hyperledger is an open-source effort to bring blockchain to businesses. It is backed by a 120 strong cross-industry consortium that includes the likes of the Bank of England, Samsung, Intel, Airbus, JP Morgan, Deutsche Group and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

IBM says the service will enable developers to quickly build and host security-rich production blockchain networks on its cloud computing suite IBM Cloud.  Early bird clients already running their blockchain applications on IBM Blockchain via IBM Cloud include Everledger, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Maersk, and Walmart.

Hyperledger Fabric is designed to provide a framework for building enterprise-grade blockchain networks that can quickly scale as new network members join and transact, typically at rates of more than 1,000 transactions per second among a large ecosystems of users.

To make it easier for developers to translate business needs from concept to actual code, IBM Blockchain includes a new set of open-source developer tools for Hyperledger Fabric called Fabric Composer. Fabric Composer can help users model business networks, create APIs that integrate with the blockchain network and existing systems of record and quickly build a user interface. IBM says Fabric can automate tasks that traditionally could take weeks, allowing developers to complete them in minutes.

Ensuring security will be critical to the success of IBM Blockchain. As the company reminds, many believe blockchain is an inherently safe technology but blockchain networks are only as safe as the infrastructures on which they reside. It is therefore very keen to stress IBM Blockchain’s security credentials, which include protection from insider attacks, the industry’s highest certified level of isolation for a commercial system and a highly auditable operating environment that generates comprehensive log data to support forensics, audit and compliance.

Rules of engagement

In tandem with IBM Blockchain, IBM also announced the launch of the first commercially available blockchain governance tools. The tools make it easy to set up a blockchain network and assign roles and levels of visibility from a single dashboard. They help network members set rules, manage membership, and enforce network compliance once the network is up and running.

In practice, once setup is initiated, members can determine the rules of the blockchain and share consent when new members request to join the network. In addition, the deployment tool assigns each network a “network trust rating” of 1 to 100. New network members can view this before joining and determine whether or not they can trust the network enough to participate. Organizations can also take steps to improve their trust ratings before moving into production.

IBM further signalled its determination to be a major player in the commercialisation of blockchain by announcing it is collaborating with Toronto headquartered SecureKey Technologies to create and offer a blockchain-based digital identity network for consumers using IBM Blockchain.

IBM says the network, slated for launch later this year, will be designed “to make it easier for consumers to verify they are who they say they are, in a privacy-enhanced, security-rich and efficient way…consumers will be able to use the network to instantly verify their identity for services such as new bank accounts, driver’s licenses or utilities”.

The identity network is currently in the testing phase in Canada and once it goes live Canadian consumers will be able to opt-in to the new blockchain-based service using a mobile app. Leading Canadian banks, including BMO, CIBC, Desjardins, RBC, and Scotiabank have ploughed $27m collectively into SecureKey.

 

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Kam Patel is a former deputy editor at Hemscott Invest and online editor, CityAM. Other previous postings include editor, MoneyAM; digital content editor, Moneyweek; and science & technology correspondent, Times Higher Education Supplement. He is a qualified investment adviser.

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