As an early advocate for blockchain, IBM has been working vigorously to commercialize the technology through its enterprise-grade version of Hyperledger Fabric, known as IBM Blockchain. Hyperledger Fabric currently empowers 1300 networks in the IBM blockchain cloud, 100 of which are live in production today.
Following years of experimentation and the advancement of established live networks, IBM has now established a set of 5 “blockchain for good principles,” demonstrating how trusted and transparent enterprise blockchains can benefit organizations and society as a whole.
The principles, which are also outlined in an IBM blog post, are:
- Open is better
- Permissioned doesn’t mean private
- Governance is a team sport
- Common standards are common sense
- Privacy is paramount
When IBM’s CEO, Ginni Rometty, began commenting on data rights with respect to data analytics, we became inspired on the blockchain side. There are ways to use blockchain technology that are critical and would lead to good outcomes, but let’s make sure we don’t leave that to guess work. That is how these 5 principles came about and it’s our responsibility to abide by them wisely and share them with others,” Jerry Cuomo, Vice President of IBM Blockchain and IBM Fellow, told me.
Open Is Better
According to IBM, blockchain networks must foster diverse communities of open source contributors to promote innovation and ensure the overall quality of code. Open is always better when it comes to the cloud, artificial intelligence or the Internet of Things, but it has especially interesting implications when looked at from a blockchain context. We have always been an ‘open by design’ company, but we think carrying that principle to blockchain is fundamental to our strategy,” explained Cuomo.
For example, IBM points out that The Hyperledger Project, operated under The Linux Foundation, is a “greenhouse” for growing enterprise-grade blockchain software with strong and diverse code contributors. For instance, Oracle has the Oracle Blockchain, but they monetize using Hyperledger Fabric. We are all collaborating to create these blockchain networks, but we all have competitive offerings.
Permissioned Doesn’t Mean Private
Although anonymous public blockchains afford a number of powerful capabilities, IBM believes that these are not suitable for most enterprises, particularly those in regulated industries. Rather, to support an enterprise-grade platform aligned with regulatory and fiduciary responsibilities, enterprise blockchains must be designed around the principle of permissioned and trusted access. There are types of blockchains that are anonymous like Bitcoin and Ethereum, and there are types of blockchains like Hyperledger Fabric and several others that are permissioned. Permissioned is important because it insists that members of the network are known to the network. Permissions are balanced with privacy so blockchains that follow these principles have privacy capabilities that allow members to transact confidentially,” said Cuomo.
Maintaining a balance through a permissioned network is critical for IBM, as most organizations need to know whom they’re conducting business with to ensure that no illegal activity is being transacted over the network.
Governance Is A Team Sport
IBM also believes that enterprise blockchains must embrace distributed and transparent governance to ensure that networks serve the needs of all participants and are managed in a manner reflective of each use case. Governance is mandatory in a blockchain network,” said Cuomo.
Common Standards Are Common Sense
Additionally, IBM understands that enterprise blockchains should be architected around common standards that are interoperable in order to help future-proof networks, prevent vendor lock-in and foster a robust ecosystem of innovators. And while most blockchain networks presently exist in siloes, the technology is evolving to support a network of networks. Moreover, blockchain networks should define and publish their data models and policies for change according to industry standards.
Privacy Is Paramount
Finally, IBM thinks that an enterprise blockchain should control who can access data and under what circumstances. Blockchain networks must also abide by privacy regulations such as GDPR.
For example, IBM Food Trust is a blockchain network aimed at ensuring food safety, freshness and sustainability.