IBM’s offering will be compatible with the Hyperledger project hosted by the Linux Foundation. (Going to the generally well run Linux Foundation instead of the very troubled Bitcoin Foundation was and interesting and telling strategy.)
It’s a little hard to tell what exactly might be in this product. It is focused on the benefits of “blockchain”, though they do mention Bitcoin. They also promise private transactions and authenticated parties when needed, which obviously requires more than the basic Bitcoin blockchain. The web site mentions that the “network” consists of:
- “A decentralized peer-to-peer architecture with nodes consisting of market participants (such as banks and securities firms).
- Protocol peers validate and commit transactions in order to reach consensus”.
That is, there are two classes of nodes, the regular public “protocol nodes”, and IBM equipped, privately managed, “market participants”. The latter are presumably secured and trusted, while the former are the regular, “trustless” nodes.
Naturally, IBM (and Microsoft in its product) integrate the blockchain into their other (very impressive) software development and deployment services. I suspect that these products will be some of the easiest ways to create a robust business that uses blockchain transactions. Of course, you’ll be wired into the company’s other products, so this isn’t exactly the Bitcoin “one guy in his basement disrupting money” vibe.
IBM offers “chaincode” which lets you add blockchain operations to IBM business logic in ways that are analogous to their database operations. From my limited look, I don’t really understand exactly what this is doing, but it certainly is one way to create useful transactions using a blockchain. In particular, I’m not sure how this code may do “smart contracts”, “embedded in the blockchain”.
IBM and Microsoft are offering basically the same high quality services with and without blockchain. This will be a great opportunity for head to head comparisons. Given all the IBM infrastructure (which I’m sure is world class), I will be curious to learn how the blockchain compares to their other options for efficiently doing transactions at large scales.
A very interesting development.