Over the past couple of years especially, most of us have heard at least rumblings of the “blockchain”. Back in 2017, there was a huge surge of interest in the blockchain due to surging prices of cryptocurrency that was seen across the board, led by the extremely valuable bitcoin at the time. The term blockchain was seemingly synonymous with cryptocurrency. However, the underlying technology that makes cryptocurrency possible is quite useful for various other use cases. Many companies have realized the way the blockchain works is a great way to provide a secure way to establish trust. VMware and other companies have started to utilize the blockchain and its abilities to provide decentralized verification of trust for very interesting use cases.

Let’s take a look at the blockchain and how technology is useful for this purpose as well as specifically how VMware is implementing its own blockchain offering.

What is the Blockchain?

You may or may not have heard of blockchain technology. Blockchain technology provides exciting enhancements to current technology methodologies and takes security and in particular identity security to the next level. Blockchain technology was initially developed in conjunction with the currency revolution of the past few years. This is the underlying technology that makes digital currency such as Litecoin, Ethereum, and Bitcoin.

Blockchain technology is based on the idea of a distributed database. This means that data is replicated between nodes in the blockchain in a peer-to-peer type communication. The information is reconciled between the nodes in the blockchain and if they reach consensus the information is validated. Unlike a central database in a single location that stores all the information, the blockchain stores information in a decentralized manner since the information is stored at all locations. This helps to ensure a high trust model of validating information replicated between nodes. This makes it exponentially more difficult to tamper with or maliciously delete/alter the information contained in the decentralized model.

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The blockchain is defined by data “blocks” which are the pieces of information that are replicated around to each node in the decentralize blockchain model. In terms of the general blockchain powering many cryptocurrencies on the market today, the blockchain itself resides on the Internet, so is inherently resilient. Since the blockchain is spread across multiple nodes and requires a large amount of processing power, the nature of the technology itself is highly secure in establishing trust in the data blocks themselves that are spread throughout the nodes of the blockchain itself.

What is Blockchain and How Does it Affect Trust?

Blockchain is all about trust. When thinking about blockchain vs a database such as a group of banks. They may trust one another to do business together, but they may not trust one another with the data.

How do I know they are to be trusted with my data? The database is about central trust, and blockchain is about decentralized trust.

What Does Blockchain promise to do? The blockchain is not a problem/solution “fix all” solution. When thinking about use cases, this needs to be considered.

Blockchain is solely about the trust of data and the decentralized trust model and reaching consensus about the trust of that data. In decentralized trust model, everyone has a copy of the data to be trusted and have to be in agreement that the data can be trusted.

VMware Blockchain

VMware Blockchain is based on the idea of the decentralized distributed ledger (image courtesy of VMware)

Great Blockchain Use Cases:

  • Guaranteed and Verified Data Dissemination
    • Reporting
    • Emergency response networks
    • Information embargo

  • Asset and Product Tracking – Data integrity and trust of data
    • Drug tracking and disposal verification such as in the Pharmaceutic industry
    • Part history & provenance
    • Lot/food tracking
    • Maintenance & repair history

  • Asset Transfer – Preventing the “double spend” problem
    • Smart contracts providing programmatic access to data and trust of transactions
      • Payment transfer
      • Energy swaps
      • Deed transfer & recording

  • Certified Claims – Verification and trust that you are who you are and have what you have
    • Digital transcript – such as what degree a person may hold
    • Background checks
    • KYC in backing
    • Digital Voting

  • Supply Chains – Manual processes are currently used in supply chains
    Fragmented processes and efforts
    • Track and Trace – using blockchain, physical goods can be tracked using the blockchain
    • Each transaction denoting a movement of goods can be traced
    • Integrated with current asset management solutions
    • Oil and gas, telecommunications, shipping, pharmaceutical

Blockchain technology provides many different great use cases for the underlying technology as shown above.

Let’s take a closer look at the VMware specific implementation of the blockchain called VMware Concord and see how it implements and builds upon the constructs.

VMware Blockchain

The VMware Blockchain is a decentralized trust infrastructure that is hybrid, scalable and managed as-a-Service by VMware. VMware’s blockchain solution offers three key benefits to enterprise environments:

  • Enterprise-Grade Decentralized Trust – It needs to be scalable and able to handle possibly millions of transactions.
  • Robust Day 2 Operations – It allows auditing in day 2 operations or remove data from the blockchain. What about data sovereignty? VMware’s solution offers these capabilities
  • Developer Friendly – It contains tools that are familiar and supports the tools available from a developer perspective.

VMware Blockchain

Decentralized vs Centralized trust models (image courtesy of VMware)

VMware’s blockchain solution is a hybrid-SaaS solution with Local Replicas with the following advantages:

  • The decentralized trust model offers multi-cloud decentralized trust so that customers are not locked into a single cloud provider with the blockchain solution.
  • The nodes to be truly decentralized need to be placed separately from one another.
  • The VMware solution provides better scaling and throughput. VMware’s solution in benchmarks performed much better than Ethereum in both Throughput and Time to Finality or when those transactions are committed. The testing was carried out with 1000 transactions with 16 node environments.
  • Security while scaling – Security is always a concern for any technology. VMware has focused on security using a Byzantine fault tolerant system to solve both scale and security concerns.
  • Audit, Rich UI, API – Auditing is extremely important in regulated environments. This includes HIPAA, GDPR, or possibly PCI-DSS auditing. How are these audits performed on the blockchain? How are other partners who now have the data held to same audit compliance? VMware has built much of this into the VMware blockchain interface.
  • VMware supports the Ethereum virtual machine on their blockchain network today which allows tapping into the already rich ecosystem in existence. Replicated state machines are abstracted which allows VMware to have and offer choices and flexibility in the environment.

The VMware blockchain is based on Project Concord which is an open-sourced, highly scalable and energy-efficient engine for digital consensus and contract execution. VMware has achieved the implementation of blockchain in an energy efficient manner, unlike the current blockchain technologies that cryptocurrency is built on top of due to low CPU and byzantine fault-tolerant core. Additionally, VMware has provided integration of their blockchain technology solution with the other VMware products and solutions such as NSX-t, Wavefront, vRealize Log Insight, RSA NetWitness, and others.

Why is VMware getting into the space of Blockchain?

VMware has stated they are focused on solving enterprise distributed management and security problems and have done so now for some 20 years. To get to a decentralized trust model, the nodes need to be placed in different cloud providers. VMware’s strong relationships with enterprise cloud providers make the enterprise blockchain truly possible. VMware has invested over 4 years of advanced research and peer reviews followed by over a year of validation through customer engagements.

VMware Blockchain

VMware’s overall Blockchain vision and ecosystem (image courtesy of VMware)

Concluding Thoughts

We are certainly only seeing the infancy of blockchain implementations and use cases. The powerful decentralized model of blockchain technology allows businesses to develop solutions for establishing trust and providing end-to-end verification and tracking in various use cases. VMware has built a powerful blockchain solution on top of Project Concord, which is an open sourced solution, freely available for download and development. With VMware’s strong cloud partnerships and enterprise experience solving distributed and management problems, it certainly has a strong background from which to develop a powerful enterprise-ready blockchain solution. The VMware solution is currently in beta.

You can find more information regarding the VMware blockchain solution by visiting https://www.vmware.com/blockchain and downloading the source code from the Github repository.

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