Have questions about what blockchain technology is and what it can do for your enterprise? Outlined below is a blockchain primer plus key features and differentiators of Sky Republic Atlas.
BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY 101
Blockchain is a category of software able to manage and transact assets for a network of participants. It distributes a ledger of processed transactions to the participants to synchronize them on the state of the assets. Transactions are sequentially grouped and communicated by block. Each block is chained to the previous block and immutably recorded across the network of participant nodes using cryptography and a consensus mechanism.
Consensus is a distributed algorithm run by the nodes of a blockchain network to generate, exchange and verify the distributed ledger. It secures the network, allows participants to verify and account for the transactions and guarantees that they all have identical views on the state of the assets.
That said, consensus algorithms in use can be very different and tailored for the kind of blockchain they power. The main algorithms are Proof of Work (known for consuming a lot of energy), Proof of Stake, and Proof of Authority.
They are two main categories:
Cryptocurrency or public blockchains:
- Examples: Bitcoin or Ethereum
- Use case: digital cash
- Principle: digital currency platform operating independently of a central bank to regulate the creation of currency units and the transfer of funds
- Network: one global instance, anonymous, open, and decentralized
- Consensus: Proof of Work for Bitcoin and Ethereum
- Some participants in the network called “miners” compete to validate transactions and generate blocks for a reward in coins. First one to give a valid proof of work for a valid block wins. Proof of work is a solution to a cryptographic puzzle solvable only by brute force. The problem is adjusted permanently to take a significant amount of time and energy even with specialized hardware. Blockchain immutability is guaranted by the fact that no one has the computing power necessary to alter previous blocks and recompute related proof of works before a new block is added. Participants only consider the longest chain of blocks.
Enterprise or permissioned blockchains:
- Examples: Hyperledger Fabric, R3 Corda, and Sky Republic Atlas
- Use case: respectively distributed database, financial workflows and B2B smart contracts
- Principle: business platform to manage assets and/or automate transaction workflows
- Network: one instance per community, permissioned, confidential, and governed
- Consensus: Proof of Authority
- Some participants in the network called “notaries” are in charge of validating transactions and producing the ledger using digital signatures. By signing the ledger, they prove their identity, ensure blockchain immutability and engage their liability.
Cryptocurrency platforms using Proof of Work consensus are.
Enterprise blockchains using Proof of Authority consensus and permissioned networks are way faster and target throughput and latency delivered by current transactional systems.
Cryptocurrency platforms using Proof of Work consensus do. Enterprise blockchains using Proof of Authority consensus don’t as they are based on digital signatures and not the resolution of a cryptographic puzzle.
A simple answer is yes if you are considering a decentralized system, no if you are considering distributed systems. Most business ecosystems are distributed and won’t be decentralized as participants want to rely on liable and identified intermediaries. Enterprise blockchains use state of the art cryptography to secure transactions.
No. Enterprise blockchains are better, faster, and cheaper platforms to intermediate business in the digital era.
The term DLT has been created as a substitute for “Enterprise blockchain” at a time where businesses weren’t making the difference between blockchain and cryptocurrencies. The name was chosen to also fit enterprise platforms like R3 Corda which don’t technically distribute a ledger structured as a chain of blocks. A recent blog from Forrester acknowledges that most enterprises continue to use the term blockchain anyway.
A notary is an organization in charge of verifying transactions and producing ledger entries for an enterprise blockchain network. It can also be in charge of its governance (membership, operation support, maintenance, upgrade, etc.) or not.
Decentralized networks face challenges by construction. Enterprise blockchains can be operated by one or a consortium of entities. While a consortium approach can be powerful to design the infrastructure and the solutions of a blockchain network, its operation is simpler when there is only one entity in charge of its governance.
Smart contracts are self-executing contracts with the terms of the agreement between a group of parties being directly written into lines of code. Most of the time, this agreement must also be formalized in a traditional legal contract to be binding and enforceable. The code and the agreements contained therein exist across a blockchain network. Depending on the nature of the underlying blockchain, it can be decentralized (public blockchain) or distributed (permissioned blockchain) but should always allow its parties to verify by themselves its proper execution and protect them from any form of tampering from miners or notaries involved in the network.
A smart app is a private application running natively on a blockchain node. It automates the business logic of a participant, can transact and store his assets, and integrates his smart contracts with his back end applications.
An event is any business or technical change that has significance for a blockchain network and should be notified and/or recorded. The issuance of a purchase order, a temperature threshold being met, a change in an existing document, a flight being delayed, a change of custody for a shipment, or an asset transaction are examples of events.
Nearly all established EDI or IT standardization bodies have started initiatives on blockchain. Some industry specific programs are also very active like BiTA (Blockchain in Transport Alliance). Looking back at the time it took for EDI standards to be established, most enterprises decide to start leveraging blockchain benefits right now while following the evolution of potential standards and comply later.
SKY REPUBLIC ATLAS
It’s a blockchain capable of processing and distributing events to appropriate recipients automatically and securely inside and outside a blockchain network. Recipients don’t have to query the blockchain to retrieve relevant events for their business. Events can be easily created and processed by Sky Contracts and Sky Apps to apply respectively ecosystem or enterprise business logics. The persistence and integrity of events is guaranteed by the blockchain nodes.
In a distributed system, a choreography automates the interactions between the different entities (the ecosystem logic) while an orchestration automates the interactions of one entity (the enterprise logic). For example, a choreography in a supply chain creates or verifies events between a buyer, a manufacturer and a carrier to automate the processing of a shipment from order to delivery. Each party would execute an orchestration to process received events, interact with their ERP and send events back to their partners.
A Sky Contract is an ecosystem choreography and a Sky App is an enterprise orchestration.
If your blockchain must store assets, data and documents while maintaining relationships between them for queries or updates, you will probably save significant development and maintenance time using a relational database. You’ll benefit also from out of the box relational database properties and get integrity, persistence, fault tolerance and disaster recovery capabilities for your data.
The problem of a shared database is that users can’t verify changes made by others and can’t control its availability. With Atlas, each party runs a copy of a Sky Contract which manage its own database. The Sky Contract will verify the distributed ledger and apply changes to its database only if they match the business logic agreed with your partners. You get a system of records synchronized and in consensus with your partners which is also protected and accessible at all times.
Also, Sky Contracts and Sky Apps automate the exchanges within the ecosystem as defined in previous question: “What does ecosystem choreography mean?” With a shared or distributed database, there is limited support for the creation and exchange of events.
Atlas is a commercial release providing additional capabilities such as ecosystem choreography and reducing overall TCO compared to open sources. It minimizes build costs through the native support of relational databases, easy software development kits, and a growing library of technical and application connectors. Run costs are optimized though simplified hub governance and cloud ressources optimization.
Atlas comes with first class consulting and support services directly from the company that designed and built the platform. You’ll get the appropriate attention to complete your project.
No but you can create one with a Sky Contract.
Atlas can coordinate blockchain participants in order to suppress private information from the network.
You can use Atlas connectors or APIs to integrate your applications (ERP, TMS, CRM, etc.), your middlewares (EDI, API, etc.) or other blockchains.