It was no surprise to hear Oracle signal its move into the blockchain space this week with the announcement of its forthcoming “blockchain-as-a-service” offer. As one of the world’s leading database and cloud providers, this was always going to happen.
Firstly, they are not the only providers to make this move with IBM, Microsoft and others already heavily promoting their involvement in blockchain. Secondly, their client base of Chief Information Officers (CIOs) have been one of the most likely groups within big companies to take an interest in the potentially innovative information architectures that distributed ledger technology can provide.
In some ways, this news can be seen as a good thing. After all, it’s a sure sign that blockchain has come of age. This is backed up by the recent Blockchain Enterprise Survey from Juniper Research, which found the rate of blockchain adoption increasing.
The report states that over half of the largest enterprises (those with over 20,000 employees) were either considering or in the process of deploying blockchain solutions. Of these companies, over half had reached a Proof of Concept stage and 16% were involved in trial deployments.
PLAYING INTO THE AGENDA OF LEGACY PROVIDERS
The questions is, what does Oracle’s and other providers’ newfound interest in blockchain really mean for the technology’s future? I, for one, am skeptical. To explain why, the real potential of the distributed ledger must be understood.
For information architecture and data management, blockchain could be truly transformational. The vision of a serverless architecture is entirely possible with a distributed ledger, enabling the deployment of software without the need for server management. That’s the open and collaborative world we’re looking at through the Wireline cloud app marketplace.
But the legacy providers must have different agenda. These companies live for vendor lock in and have done so for many years. It’s how they have retained their market dominating position for so long, making portability between providers extremely difficult.
In many ways, it has been a marketing message built on scaring CIOs and other senior decision makers about the consequences of change. As a result, these individuals have shied away from innovation unless it’s within their walled gardens. I’m more interested in fuelling this innovation, which is why we’ve committed to portability and made it possible for code written on Wireline to run on Amazon, Google, IBM and even Oracle’s nascent functions-as-a-service platform.
My concern is that we’re starting to see the same fear campaign being used when enterprises start to show an interest in blockchain. An example of this comes from the same Juniper Research report, which urges companies to focus on private blockchains for commercial deployments rather than utilise public ones.
The author of the research, says: “Even if companies conduct initial testing using a public blockchain, in most cases the shortcomings of these chains should disqualify them from many use cases, including financial settlement, public sector deployments, logistics and land registry.”
In my view, this advice is myopic and simply plays into the agenda of the legacy providers. There is a fundamental misunderstanding that private or permissioned blockchains are safer than public ones.
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
We believe in public blockchains as well as open-source software because of the strength in numbers this approach provides. These large networks, with the many eyes of open source communities watching them, are the very best and most realistic way of deterring a sophisticated hacker attack.
One thing I will add here is that the argument about permissioned blockchains having higher transaction capability is fair, at least for now. However, I also believe that the public blockchain will resolve transaction throughput and therefore this isn’t a good enough reason to dismiss them.
At this key point in many enterprises’ adoption and development of blockchain infrastructure, we need to talk about the future that will be most beneficial for all.
Do we want a market characterised by the vendor lock in and lack of portability that exists now? Or do we want a wider range of microservices that meet the diverse and specific requirements of individual enterprises?
The correct path, which includes the use of the public blockchain with open source software, seems clear to me. This is why our upcoming token sale will be the first to directly fund investment in developing a wireless architecture cloud and blockchain ecosystems.
If the most intrepid and innovative enterprise IT leaders can avoid being derailed by the fears that have shaped their vendor relationships so far, a transformed marketplace with greater choice and portability is the prize that awaits.