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A blog about Blockchain technology

Accelerating the Adoption of Enterprise Blockchain

Over the past year, I have had the pleasure of working with several customers on their business initiatives related to blockchain technology. During this time, I have been helping them to envision business scenarios, choose the right blockchain protocols and distributed ledgers and, most importantly, develop pilots focused on validating the technology capabilities to provide real value to their organizations.
 
When to use blockchain?
From the technical perspective, we could apply blockchain to many scenarios. However, not every situation requires blockchain, but there are some scenarios where it creates significant value compared to alternative technologies. Usually, these are shared business processes, with the organization in different industries such as financial services, manufacturing, or retail.
The recommendation to recognize blockchain scenarios is to make sure you are using the core capabilities of blockchain. You should respond positively to four key questions (see below), and there should be a real business case with measurable outcomes. If this is not the case, please consider using other more mature technologies.
 
Questions to be answered before developing a blockchain solution
Answering the following four questions can determine if blockchain is appropriate for the identified business scenario.
  1. Do multiple parties share data?
  2. Do you need your transactions to be immutable?
  3. Is there a requirement for verification?
  4. Can intermediaries be removed and reduce cost and complexity?
If you answered yes to all of these questions, then you have a potential scenario to apply blockchain.
A more comprehensive list of questions has been prepared by the Center for Global Development.
 
 
Public blockchain vs. Enterprise blockchain
A public blockchain like Bitcoin or Ethereum is an Internet protocol managing the distribution of potential unique data with the following characteristics:
  • Many, anonymous, or pseudonymous participants.
  • Open read and write by all participants.
  • Consensus by proof of work.
Too often organizations fail with blockchain because they try to use public blockchain networks for their enterprise solutions. But public blockchains lack governance, performance and scalability typical for an enterprise context. Instead, businesses should consider the use of permissioned, or enterprise, blockchain.
An enterprise blockchain (i.e., Hyperlegder, Ethereum Enterprise, Ripple, Quorum, etc.) is a distributed ledger with the following characteristics:
  • All the participants, and their digital identities, are known from one or many trusted organizations.
  • Writes and read permissions are roles-based and usually requires consensus of several participants.
  • Multiple algorithms are used for consensus.
There are two types of enterprise blockchain:
  • Private: Usually managed by a single organization. Typically, the network participants are internal business units or divisions.
  • Consortium: In this case, the blockchain network is managed by multiple trusted organizations. New participants require a consensus of several participants.
 
Supported protocols
Microsoft has been working on blockchain since November 2015 when they were the first major cloud provider to announce a Blockchain as a Service (BaaS). Microsoft’s vision is to be the worldwide cloud platform leader powering the blockchain-based applications. Microsoft is working with customers, partners, and the developer community to accelerate blockchain’s enterprise readiness. The mission is to help companies thrive in this new era of secure multi-party collaboration by delivering open, scalable platforms and services that any company can use to improve shared business processes. The roadmap for Azure Blockchain is based on the following principles:
  • Blockchain on your terms: No one-size-fits-all approach. Microsoft’s platform and ecosystem partners make it easy to get started and iterate quickly with the blockchain of your choice, both on-premises and in the cloud.
  • Integrated with your business: Merge blockchain with the IT assets you already have. Azure lets you integrate blockchain with the cloud services your organization uses to power shared processes.
  • Ready for the enterprise: With the Coco Framework, Cryptlets, and Azure services integrations, Microsoft is addressing existing technology gaps with blockchain and helps organizations build durable enterprise-grade applications.
Microsoft’s active participation in industry consortiums such as R3, Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, and IC3, also help the company understand core industry scenarios, and to continue learning to meet the needs of customers. Currently, Microsoft supports the most widely used blockchain and distributed ledger protocols on Azure, including HyperLedger Fabric, R3 Corda, Quorum, Chain Core, and BlockApps.
 
Recommended Engagement Model
Based on my previous engagements and experience delivering innovative projects and using an agile approach, I help customers understand the potential impact of blockchain technology on their industries, as well as determine whether it is capable of delivering both cost efficiencies and competitive advantage for them. Customers have an improved understanding of blockchain, they explore the potential of this technology through business scenarios and, eventually, they implement a proof-of-concept for a blockchain application based on the Microsoft Azure cloud.
 
White Papers
In the White Papers section of this blog,  I have prepared the following white papers, free to download. More white papers will follow in the next months.
 
Blockchain for Education
With blockchain, we can imagine a world in which certificates are embedded in digital code and stored in transparent, shared databases, where they are protected from deletion, tampering, and revision. In this world, students from all around the world will own their digital identity and studies across multiple educational institutes, creating a single, immutable and verifiable curriculum. Certificates of attendance, completion of exams, and diplomas can be issued on the blockchain and be digitally signed. No more fake certifications, no more degree mills, no more “photoshopped” papers. In the future, students may apply for further study, a job, immigration to another country. They may require to prove their level of study or knowledge of language to attend university, for example. Entities like recruiters, employers, government, universities, can verify the student’s credentials without relying on central authorities, in just minutes, and with no other intermediaries.
 
Blockchain for Energy
Blockchain is a decentralized ledger technology. When applied to the energy sector, it will enable people to trade energy among themselves. Just as Bitcoin allows the exchange of digital currency with its peer to peer platform, blockchain will enable a fundamental shift in the distribution of energy. This shift will stimulate more renewable energy projects as a whole, ultimately forwarding our transition from carbon emitting electricity generation. Tokenizing renewable energy allows wind, solar and hydro producers to seamlessly connect with investors, who are willing to pay upfront for the right to consume renewable energy.
 
Blockchain for Health
With blockchain, medical records and certifications have a digital record and signature that could be identified, validated, stored, and shared in an immutable way. Patients will own their digital identity and medical records across multiple health institutes, creating a single, unmodifiable and verifiable medical registry. Entities like hospital, health regulation agencies, government, universities, can verify the practitioner’s credentials without relying on central authorities, in just minutes, and with no other intermediaries. When a request for proof of existence of a certificate is issued by a government or health regulation agency, a transaction is initiated by the practitioner, the relevant information is encrypted in a new transaction block using the public key of the entity requesting visibility on the certificate, and only the requestor, and no-one else, can decrypt this information using their own private key.

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