At its conference in Barcelona, VMware (tech subsidiary of Dell Technologies and CO2 emission-reducing evangelist) has announced that it has introduced a beta version of blockchain-as-a-service.
Part of VMware Tools
According to VMware, the new blockchain-as-a-service product will be integrated into existing VMware tools and will provide permissioned blockchain for enterprise consortiums, which will be more secure than public blockchains.
What Is Blockchain?
Blockchain, the open-source, free technology behind crypto-currencies like Bitcoin, is an incorruptible peer-to-peer network (a kind of ledger) that allows multiple parties to transfer value in a secure and transparent way. Blockchain’s Co-Founder Nic Carey describes blockchain as being like “a big spreadsheet in the cloud that anyone can use, but no one can erase or modify”.
The BaaS market is likely to take off in a much bigger way because it offers enterprises the chance to deploy distributed ledgers without the cost or risk of deploying it in-house, and without needing to find in-house developers.
VMware has highlighted a need by financial customers to use a version of blockchain in a commercial environment that is secure and can be audited, and the way in which a blockchain service could be a way for organisations to run distributed ledgers efficiently.
VMware believes that the decentralised trust, enterprise-grade scalability, reliability, security and manageability, with the ability to deploy nodes across multiple cloud environments, (including on-premise) and a single management interface with enterprise monitoring and auditing tools will make its blockchain-as-a-service product attractive to businesses.
Why Environmentally Responsible?
VMware’s CEO, Pat Gelsinger, has described the computational complexity of blockchain as being an “environmental crisis”, and the company is keen to point out that the virtualisation and server consolidation that VMware offers has reduced hundreds of tonnes of CO2 emissions.
Not The Only One
VMware is certainly not the only company in the race to get a blockchain-as-a-service product out to businesses. Microsoft was one of the first software vendors to offer BaaS on its Azure cloud platform as far back as 2015, and tech commentators have noted that Microsoft and many of the other big tech companies, including Amazon and Oracle, are now looking to make the most of the growing blockchain as a service (BaaS) market.
Real-World Blockchain Examples
The benefits of blockchain technology are already being in enjoyed by many companies, and some of the ways that it is currently being deployed include:
- Walmart’s pilots where the time it takes to trace a food item from shop to farm was reduced, through the use of blockchain, from 7 days to just 2.2 seconds.
- A pilot project between car-maker BMW and start-up Circulor with a view to eliminating battery minerals produced using child labour. In that project, blockchain is being used to help provide a way to prove that artisanal miners are not using child labour in their cobalt mining activities.
- Using the data on a blockchain ledger to record the temperature of sensitive medicines being transported from manufacturer to hospital in hot climates. The ‘incorruptible’ aspect of the blockchain data gives a clear record of care and responsibility along the whole supply chain.
- Using an IBM-based blockchain ledger to record data about wine certification, ownership and storage history. This has helped to combat fraud in the industry and has provided provenance and re-assurance to buyers.
- Shipping Company Maersk using a blockchain-based system for tracking consignments that addresses visibility and efficiency i.e. digitising a formerly paper-based process that involved multiple interactions.
- Start-up company ‘Electron’ building a blockchain-based system for sharing information between those involved in supplying energy which could speed up and simplify the supplier switching process. It may also be used for smart grid processes, such as local load-balancing of supply and demand.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
VMware is one of many big tech names that now want to make the most of a BaaS market, although VMware’s (currently beta) offering is targeted at enterprises in regulated industries. VMware has plenty of powerful support in this venture in the shape of partnering with Dell Technologies, Deloitte and WWT as well as having the advantage of IBM Cloud for VMware Solutions supporting VMware Blockchain.
Blockchain is growing in popularity as companies are able to see real examples of how it can be used save time and costs, provide fast and secure traceability, visibility and efficiency, and provide a real competitive advantage.