IBM Corp. is hitting the ground running in the nascent blockchain market. Barely two months after announcing plans to develop an open-source implementation of the technology for the financial services sector, the vendor is releasing nearly 44,000 lines of code that will form the core of the project. The framework, dubbed Hyperledger, has been designed with modularity in mind so as to give every adopter the ability to pick and choose functionality based on their specific use case.
One of the capabilities included in the package is a homegrown identification mechanism that Big Blue’s researchers developed to help verify the different parties involved in a transaction. After completing the authentication process, an application based on the technology would be able to automatically set the terms of the exchange using a complementary “smart contract” feature. An agreement created using the function is little more than a pre-written script that configures the blockchain according to desired goal.
In a hypothetical future scenario where a bank that employs Hyperledger wishes to reduce the risk of customers falling victim to card fraud, large purchases can be automatically put on hold until some form of manual verification (e.g. an email confirmation) is received. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. IBM says that its framework may one day also be used to process other types of transactions such as stock purchases, loans and even non-monetary exchanges. A trucking company, for instance, could theoretically implement its entire manifest in the form of a blockchain and create a smart contract that automatically cross off packages upon delivery.
To support more complicated use cases that involve a large number of parties, Hyperledger also includes a specially-developed consensus algorithm that can automatically sort out inconsistencies in a transaction. But the true strength of the framework comes from the fact that its modular nature will enable every organization to create custom functionality tailored to its unique operational requirements. If history is anything to go by, then IBM will likely take the matter into its own hands and develop a homegrown set of industry-specific capabilities in order to try and hurry along adoption.
Developers have the choice of deploying Hyperledger on their own hardware or simply using the cloud-based version that Big Blue is rolling out in conjunction with the source-code. The addition, which consists of several interconnected tools, competes with the blockchain-as-a-service offering that Microsoft Corp. added to its public cloud late last year.