IBM Takes Blockchain DB Service Mainstream on Cloud

The new platform enables developers to build and host highly secure production blockchain networks on the IBM Cloud, powered by IBM's secure LinuxONE server.

IBM.Blockchain

LAS VEGAS—A blockchain database, a universal digital ledger of record that enables both security and transparency for Bitcoin financial transactions, has been a mystery to many people for a few years. IBM wants to be the first household-name company to take the mystery part out of it and make it a mainstay of its fast-developing Bluemix cloud.

To do this, Big Blue on March 20 announced the release of IBM Blockchain, the first enterprise-ready blockchain service based on the Linux Foundation's Hyperledger Fabric version 1.0.

The announcement was the first one made by IBM at its Interconnect conference here at the Mandalay Bay Conference Center.

IBM, whose mainframe data center systems and software have been running world-class financial computing centers for decades, claims that its Blockchain cloud service is the first such service now available in the industry. The new platform enables developers to build and host highly secure production blockchain networks on the IBM Cloud; it is powered by IBM's secure LinuxONE server.

IBM, Many Others Betting on Blockchain

Will blockchain, which does not run on the open internet, become the ledger of record in which international corporations will be transacting business in the future? IBM and a lot of other companies are betting that it will be, and products like this one eventually may become the main tools by which enterprises will be doing this.

There are a couple of other important partnerships coming to the fore here. IBM also announced that it is working closely with Beijing Energy-Blockchain Labs on the world's first blockchain-based, green-assets trading platform based on the Linux Foundation's open-source, openly governed Hyperledger Fabric.

Secondly, a partnership with SecureKey Technologies is in place to build a new digital identity network based on the IBM Blockchain cloud service. The network will be designed to make it easier for consumers to prove they are who they say they are in a privacy-enhanced, secure and efficient way, IBM said.

"IBM has applied decades of experience running the world's largest transaction systems for banks, airlines, governments and retailers, to build the most secure blockchain services for the enterprise," IBM Blockchain General Manager Marie Wieck said. "IBM's blockchain services are built on IBM's highly secure cloud environment and designed for organizations that require blockchain networks that are trusted, open and ready for business."

The Linux Foundation's open-source Hyperledger Fabric v1.0 is being developed by members of the Hyperledger Project. The technical committee of the Hyperledger Project recently promoted the Fabric from incubator to active state, and it is expected to be available later in the second quarter of 2017.

Hyperledger Fabric a Key Component in the Ecosystem

The Hyperledger Fabric provides a framework for building enterprise-grade blockchain networks that can scale fast as new network members join and transact at rates of more than 1,000 transactions per second among large ecosystems of users, IBM said.

Several well-known companies have been using the service for months in trial sessions. IBM also said its blockchain service cloud was first to market last year with its High Security Business Network services for regulated environments. Clients such as Walmart, Danish shipping conglomerate Maersk, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Everledger and Northern Trust are among the enterprises now running their blockchain applications on the IBM Cloud.

Blockchain networks are only as safe as the infrastructures on which they reside. IBM said its High Security Business Network integrates security from the hardware up through the software stack, specifically designed for enterprise blockchains by providing:

--Protection from insider attacks: Helps safeguard entry points on the network and fight insider threats from anyone with system administrator credentials;

--High certified level of isolation: Evaluation Assurance Level certification of EAL5+ is critical in highly regulated industries such as government, financial services and health care, to prevent the leakage of information from one party's environment to another;

--Secure Service Containers protect all code throughout the blockchain application, effectively encapsulating the blockchain into a virtual appliance. This denies access even to privileged users;

--Tamper-responsive hardware security modules protect encrypted data for storage of cryptographic keys;

--Modules are certified to FIPS 140-2 Level 4, the highest level of security certification available for cryptographic modules; and

--Highly auditable operating environment, which provides log data for forensics, audit and compliance.

New Blockchain Tools Also Released

IBM also unveiled the first commercially available governance tools for blockchain, along with new open-source developer tools that automate the steps it takes to build with the Hyperledger Fabric from days to weeks.

The governance tools for IBM Blockchain enable developers to set up a blockchain network and assign roles and levels of visibility from a single dashboard. They help network members set policies, manage membership and enforce compliance once the network is up and running.

Once setup is initiated, IBM said, 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.

To make it easier for developers to translate business needs from concept to actual code, IBM Blockchain includes new 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. Fabric Composer helps automate tasks that traditionally could take weeks, allowing developers to complete them in minutes.

IBM Blockchain on Bluemix for Hyperledger Fabric v1.0 is now available through a beta program on IBM Bluemix.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he...