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InfoQ Homepage News IBM Launches Blockchain as a Service

IBM Launches Blockchain as a Service

At the company’s recent InterConnect conference, IBM announced the release of IBM Blockchain as a Service. This service is based upon the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Fabric version 1.0 and runs on IBM’s high security network which is underpinned by LinuxONE. Previously, the Hyperledger Fabric was in an incubator state and has since been promoted to an active state.

In addition to IBM, the Hyperledger foundation includes other established entities including American Express, SAP, J.P. Morgan, Intel and Daimler. This consortium includes some of the same members as the recently announced Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, which does not include IBM.

While Hyperledger is an open source platform, IBM seeks to bring additional value to organizations looking to adopt blockchain technology. In IBM’s news release, the company positions their offering as a way to:

Help developers create, deploy and manage blockchain networks on the IBM Cloud.

IBM also feels they are able to ease adoption for regulated environments by provisioning blockchain instances on its high security business network. The high security business network includes security features such as:

  • Protection from insider attacks - helps safeguard entry points on the network and fight insider threats from anyone with system administrator credentials
  • The industry’s highest certified level of isolation for a commercial system - Evaluation Assurance Level certification of EAL5+ is critical in highly regulated industries such as government, financial services and healthcare, to prevent the leakage of information from one party's environment to another
  • Secure Service Containers – to help protect code throughout the blockchain application – effectively encapsulating the blockchain into a virtual appliance, denying access even to privileged users
  • Tamper-responsive hardware security modules - to protect encrypted data for storage of cryptographic keys. These modules are certified to FIPS 140-2 Level 4, the highest level of security certification available for cryptographic modules
  • A highly auditable operating environment – comprehensive log data supports forensics, audit and compliance

In a recent interview at InterConnect, Marie Wieck, general manager of the IBM Blockchain group, discusses the scale in which IBM is operating to address emerging blockchain use cases:

Within my group itself, Direct Line is about 200 people, but there is about 600 people in the extended team.

Wieck claims they have:

400 clients that are working with on production-level use cases with 8 networks in production.

The industries that IBM has been focusing on include supply chain, government, health care and financial services.

One customer who has been building their platform on top of the IBM Blockchain solution is SecureKey Technologies, which allows for the sharing of a digital identity across entities. SecureKey Technologies has seen a lot of interest in blockchain technologies from the banking industry which has traditionally been a conservative industry. Greg Wolfond, Chairman and CEO at SecureKey Technologies describes some of their adoption:

We tested a phase 1 network, focused on sharing identity, in Canada with Royal Bank, TD Bank, BMO and Scotiabank. Our technology allows a customer to show up at a bank and share personal data attributes from a province or credit agency and create a bank account in seconds.

IBM is really focused on the network effect to drive adoption. They have created a partnership with Maersk and are anchor tenants in this new network. Wieck provides some insight into their business model:

We will provide a SaaS based model and sell services on top of it. Consumption revenue is through the IBM Cloud. We think that the most enterprise grade cloud is with IBM.

IBM is also focusing on luring developers to its platform. Wieck explains how:

There are simple ways for developers to get involved. We want developers to be directly involved through the cloud and through developerWorks. You get free access, you can get started quickly. In three clicks you can have a four peer Hyperledger network up and running in Bluemix.

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