As one of the most widely discussed phenomena across the global media, Blockchain has certainly grown from just a hype to becoming a mainstream reality. Leading industry experts from finance, supply chain, and IoT are collaborating to make Blockchain available for commercial adoption. But while Blockchain is being projected as the future of digital transactions, it still suffers from two major limitations: carrying out private transactions and scalability. As such, a pressing need to develop a Blockchain-based distributed ledger to overcome these problems was widely felt.
Founded by Linux in 2015, Hyperledger aims at providing enterprises a platform to build robust blockchain applications for their businesses and to create open-source enterprise-grade frameworks to carry out secure business transactions. It is a fulcrum, which includes leading industries and software developers working collaboratively for building blockchain frameworks that can further be used to deploy blockchain applications for industries. With leading industry experts such as IBM, Intel, Accenture, SAP, among others collaborating with the Hyperledger community, and with the recent addition of BTS, Oracle, and Patientory Foundation, the community is gaining a lot of traction. No wonder, Brian Behlendorf, Executive Director at Hyperledger, says, “Growth and interest in Hyperledger remain high in 2017”.
There are a total of 8 projects: five are frameworks (Sawtooth, Fabric, Burrow, Iroha, and Indy), and the other three are tools (Composer, Cello, and Explorer) supporting those frameworks. Each framework provides a different approach in building desired blockchain applications.
Hyperledger Fabric, the community’s first framework, is contributed by IBM. It hosts smart contracts using Chaincode, an interface written in Go or Java, which contains the business logic of the ledger. Hyperledger Sawtooth, developed by Intel offers a modular blockchain architecture. It consists of Proof of Elapsed Time (PoET), a consensus algorithm developed by Intel for high efficiency among distributed ledgers. Hyperledger Burrow, a joint proposal by Intel and Monax, is a permissioned smart contract machine. It executes the smart contract code following the Ethereum specification with an engine, a strong audit trail, and a consensus mechanism.
Apart from these already launched frameworks, two more – namely Indy and Iroha, are still in the incubation phase. The Hyperledger community is also building supporting tools such as Composer which is already launched in the market and Cello and Explorer which are awaiting unveiling.
[box type=”shadow” align=”” class=”” width=””]Although a plethora of Hyperledger tools and frameworks are available, in the rest of the article we take Hyperledger Fabric – one of the most popular and trending frameworks – for the purpose of demonstrating how Hyperledger is being used by businesses.[/box]
Why should businesses use Hyperledger?
In order to lock down a framework upon which Blockchain apps can be built, several key aspects are worth considering. Some of the most important ones among them are portability, security, reliability, interoperability, and user-friendliness. Hyperledger as a platform offers all of the above features for building cross-platform and production-ready applications for businesses.
Let’s take a simple example here to see how Hyperledger works for businesses. Consider a restaurant business. A restaurant owner buys vegetables from a wholesale shop at a much lower cost than in the market. The shopkeeper creates a network wherein other buyers cannot see the cost at which vegetables are sold to a buyer. Similarly, the restaurant owner can view only his transaction with the shopkeeper. For the vegetables to reach the restaurant, they must pass through numerous stages such as transport, delivery, and so on. The restaurant owner can track the delivery of his vegetables at each stage and so can the shopkeeper. The transport and the delivery organizations, however, won’t be able to see the transaction details. This means that the shopkeeper can establish a confidential network within a private network of other stakeholders. This type of a network can be set up using Hyperledger Fabric.
Let’s break down the above example into some of the reasons to consider incorporating Hyperledger for your business networks:
- With Hyperledger you get performance, scalability, and multiple levels of trust.
- You get data on a need-to-know basis – Only the parties in the network that need the data get to know about it.
- Backed by bigshots like Intel and IBM, Hyperledger strives to offer a strong standard for Blockchain code which in turn provides better functionality at increased speeds.
Furthermore, with the recent release of Fabric v1.0, businesses can create out-of-the-box blockchain solutions on its highly elastic and extensible architecture further eased by using Hyperledger Composer. The Composer aids businesses in creating smart contracts and blockchain applications without having to know the underlying complex intricacies of the blockchain network. It is a great fit for real-world enterprise usage, built with collaborative efforts from leading industry experts.
Although Ethereum is used by many businesses, some of the reasons why Hyperledger could be a better enterprise fit are:
- While Ethereum is a public Blockchain, Hyperledger is a private blockchain. This means enterprises within the network know who is present on the peer nodes, unlike Ethereum.
- Hyperledger is a permissioned network i.e., it has the ability to grant permission on who can participate in the consensus mechanism of the Blockchain network. Ethereum, on the other hand, is permissionless.
- Hyperledger has no built-in cryptocurrency. Ethereum, on the other hand, has a built-in cryptocurrency, called Ether. Many applications don’t need a cryptocurrency to function, and using Ethereum there can be a disadvantage.
- Hyperledger gives you the flexibility of choosing a programming language such as Java or Go, for preparing smart contracts. Ethereum, on the other hand, uses Solidity which is a lot less common in use.
- Hyperledger is highly scalable — unlike traditional Blockchain and Ethereum — with minimal performance losses.
“Since Hyperledger Fabric was designed to meet key requirements for permissioned blockchains with transaction privacy and configurable policies, we’ve been able to build solutions quickly and flexibly. ” – Mohan Venkataraman, CTO, IT People Corporation.
Future of Hyperledger
The Hyperledger community is expanding rapidly with many industries collaborating and offering their capabilities in building cross-industry blockchain applications. Hyperledger has found adoption within business networks in varied industries such as healthcare, finance, and supply chain to build state-of-the-art blockchain applications which assure privacy and decentralized permissioned networks. It is shaping up to be a technology which can revolutionize the way businesses deal with different access control within a consortium, with an armor of enhanced security measures. With the continuous developments in these frameworks, smarter, faster, and more secure business transactions will soon be a reality.
Besides, we can expect to see Hyperledger on the cloud with IBM’s plans to extend Blockchain technologies onto its cloud. Add to that the exciting prospect of blending aspects of Artificial Intelligence with Hyperledger, transactions look more advanced, tamper-proof, and secure than ever before.