Landscape of Practical Blockchain Systems and their Applications
The concept of a distributed ledger was invented as the underlying technology of the public or permissionless Bitcoin cryptocurrency network. But the adoption and further adaptation of it for use in the private or permissioned environments is what I consider to be of practical consequence and hence only such private blockchain systems will be the focus of this talk.
Computer companies like IBM, Intel, Oracle, Baidu and Microsoft, and many key players in different vertical industry segments have recognized the applicability of blockchains in environments other than cryptocurrencies. IBM did some pioneering work by architecting and implementing Fabric, and then open sourcing it. Now Fabric is being enhanced via the Hyperledger Consortium as part of The Linux Foundation. A couple of the other efforts include Enterprise Ethereum, Sawtooth and R3 Corda.
While currently there is no standard in the private blockchain space, all the ongoing efforts involve some combination of database, transaction, encryption, virtualization, consensus and other distributed systems technologies. Some of the application areas in which blockchain pilots are being carried out are: smart contracts, derivatives processing, e-governance, Know Your Customer (KYC), healthcare, supply chain management and provenance management.
In this talk, I will describe some use-case scenarios, especially those in production deployment. I will also survey the landscape of private blockchain systems with respect to their architectures in general and their approaches to some specific technical areas. I will also discuss some of the opportunities that exist and the challenges that need to be addressed. Since most of the blockchain efforts are still in a nascent state, the time is right for mainstream database and distributed systems researchers and practitioners to get more deeply involved to focus on the numerous open problems.