Blockchain: Move Fast But Don't Break Things!
Everyone’s heard the slogan, “Faster, Cheaper, Better…pick two, but you can’t have all three.” Well, picking and meeting two of these is sub-optimal in most solutions, and you especially won’t get very far with getting Blockchain into enterprise by only solving two of these.
Before offering yet another consensus protocol (there are over 75 already) that forges the silver bullet for “performance and scalability” (FASTER), you need to think through what are the major barriers to adopting this technology, and how to overcome them to move beyond the hype.
Ask yourself (and ask others as well):
- Does the “solution” fit into a standard industry reference architecture blueprint? It should if it’s going to integrate into industry systems for both public and private Blockchain transaction processing. I’m sorry, but the “profit-hogging” intermediaries aren’t going away — they still serve a purpose for all of us. All the infrastructure, processes, and systems that make the world go round fairly well up to this point aren’t going to be ripped and replaced holistically any day soon.
- Does the “solution” fit into an OSI Model Reference Architecture? As Blockchain is sometimes referred to as Web 3.0, The Internet of Value, or any other sales and marketing jargon, the Blockchain solution should map to an existing up to date industry standard that’s most relevant for the networking, Internet (and while we’re at it, web services) standards represented and defined in OSI. Yes, technology needs to evolve, as do standards, to meet new technology usage scenarios for mass consumption.
- Have you thought through how your Blockchain “solution” simply fits into an Enterprise Technology Framework? Click this link for an example. An Enterprise Technology Framework defines the technology services and functions (IT capabilities), required to support business applications and data. These include Common (or shared) Application Services, Common Data Services, Common System Services, Network Services, Security Services, Platform Services, and the management tools used to support the delivery of IT Services. It also helps to define the specifics for a line of business or new business service that may be required. Or, in the case of a hybrid cloud model, what system or service must stay in the data center at the corporation (i.e., “System of Record” versus what may be hosted in a SaaS Public Cloud Model or accessed via a “System of Engagement” via a smartphone or other mobile device). Enterprise Technology Frameworks provide a blueprint for applications, services, systems and yes – Data! – to solve business problems. Hmmmmm…I do think that Blockchain “touches” some of these — no???
Thinking It Through
In addition, as you’re thinking through finding a problem for your Blockchain “solution” to solve, have you considered the following architectural principles in your foundation? There are a lot of problems (business and technology) that can arise if these are not considered and addressed holistically, and that Blockchain won’t solve, both on an individual usage basis and for enterprises. Note that these are not architectural “givens”, they are architectural drivers or principles that need to be overcome for true adoption and usage. Cyber security overall isn’t one of these, as this is kind of like saying, “I have ice that’s frozen, so buy my ice”
Well, shouldn’t a Blockchain be secure as an architectural given right away?
We’re at a frontier of new technology that everyone is beyond excited about. We have progressed forward from what we’ve learned in the past
— for better or worse. Let’s also make sure we avoid the mistakes of the past by designing better systems and using them more efficiently from what did work well to propel us forward even more.
- Performance and Scalability: If it doesn’t perform, and it doesn’t scale, no one will use it — no consumer will consume it. That goes without saying, but it’s still an overall weak spot with the technology in general. However, things are definitely improving with the advent of Lightning Networks and Layer 2 solution improvements, and that’s a key focus area.
- Identity Management and Privacy: This ranges from Systems of Engagement (SMARTPHONE) to the network to Systems of Record in the Public Cloud in someone else’s data center or in your own data center. If you’re going “to do Blockchain,” you should use it to secure and manage privacy and identity across the board — not piecemeal. Or, at least you need to clearly understand the demarcation lines where the Blockchain service and solution ends, and also what’s expected of the integrated technology.
- On-Chain (Public)/Off-Chain (Private) Integration and Processing: Can your Public Blockchain transactions interface with Private Blockchains (or “Sidechains”) or existing transaction processing systems behind the firewall in the enterprise?
- Interoperability/Programmability: How tightly interoperable and programmable is your solution with other technologies? Does it leverage and use common Cloud services, technologies and orchestration, and programming languages for policy management, automation, and easier systems management? Does it and can it take advantage of Flash Storage Technologies? How well does it “play” with existing web services and networking protocols in terms of critical mass scaling? Are you “over-engineering” complexity in your idea or solution without considering interoperability with existing proven technologies, or with the convergence that’s coming with IoT and AI. Why is Blockchain technology by itself?
- Usability/Usefulness/Application: And saving the best for last — does your Blockchain solution reduce costs only in terms of value proposition? A recent study has shown that nearly 50% of use cases for Blockchain are categorized as “Other”, which is a catch-all for all kinds of ideas. The remaining 50% focus on Cross Border Remittances, Trade Finance, and Settlements (all worthy long-time business problems that Blockchain can help to solve, while introducing new standards). Okay, but how about solving the “Other” real business problems with existing business models and technology. Ok, if so, how? Or, if it’s opening up new revenue streams or services, how is it doing that and what are they, and why are they different from what there is today? What is their ROI? How does your Blockchain solution tangibly and directly help you to improve customer experience?
Click the link for more information about Huawei’s Blockchain solution.