A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO BLOCKCHAIN AND HYPERLEDGER
“Every informed person needs to know about Bitcoin because it might be one of the world’s most important developments.” —Leon Luow, Nobel Peace Prize nominee.
Everyone knows about Bitcoin as the cryptocurrency that skyrocketed during 2017 and its bubble burst during 2018 as its value dropped.
Well, most of the people that I have met treat Bitcoin and Blockchain as synonyms, but no these two are not the same. Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency and it also acts as a platform for the distribution and exchange of the cryptocurrency whereas Blockchain is the underlying technology that powers Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency platforms like Ethereum.
As the name describes Blockchain is a chain of blocks, where the blocks contain the data that is to be stored on the Blockchain network. Blockchain promotes decentralization and restores the control back to the users. It also acts as the single source of truth where the nodes are able to validate and verify the transactions made and keep track of all the sources so that there is no need of a third party mediator like banks in case of money transfer from one account to another.
Now, Blockchain has three types:
Permission less Blockchain
Public Permissioned Blockchain
Private Permissioned Blockchain
Permission less or Public Blockchain
This is the type of Blockchain where everyone has access to all the information available on the Blockchain network and no one person or group has authority over the transactions that are happening on the network. Ethereum and Bitcoin network are examples of this type of network. As there is no authority on the network everyone is free to make transactions, smart contracts and contribute data.
Enterprise-grade solutions require decentralized solutions where the participants of the Blockchain are controlled i.e. the information is not available for everyone to view as they might contain sensitive information about the enterprise it is part of. So, in order to avoid the leakage of privileged information, the network is permissioned where only the selected nodes(computers or say users) are included and to buffer out the members, a smart contract can be written allowing only members who satisfied the predefined conditions.
According to its website:
“Hyperledger is an open source collaborative effort created to advance cross-industry Blockchain technologies. It is a global collaboration, hosted by The Linux Foundation, including leaders in finance, banking, Internet of Things, supply chains, manufacturing, and Technology.”
And also Hyperledger is not an independent Blockchain or a coin it is a collective open source project under the hood off Linux Foundation that also caters to many other open source projects. The Hyperledger project consists of companies like IBM and Intel who are developing their own Blockchain platforms and other tools to ease the developers who intend to work on their platforms.
According to Hyperledger there are some key features that the permission less Blockchain platforms fail to deliver when it comes to their usage at an enterprise level, the requirements are:
- Participants must be identified/identifiable
- Networks need to be permissioned
- High transaction throughput performance
- Low latency of transaction confirmation
- Privacy and confidentiality of transactions and data pertaining to business transactions
Now, let us talk about one of the projects under Hyperledger namely Hyperledger Fabric and see how it incorporates the above requirements in its implementation.
Hyperledger Fabric is an open-source enterprise-grade permissioned distributed ledger technology platform that incorporates key beliefs of the Blockchain technology and was developed first under IBM and then was incorporated under Hyperledger project where it has gained the support of multiple organizations and other developers are also working on it to make it more secure and better for the enterprise use.
Some of the industry using cases of the Hyperledger Fabric include banking, finance, healthcare, human resources and supply chain management and sectors involving delivery of their products where the object changes hands frequently as it helps to keep track of people in a closed organization.
Smart contracts are digitized contracts that are self-executing when the programmed conditions are met. Essentially they are just like the contracts we encounter during the purchase of land or contracts consisting of some kind of deals as they act as proof of the deal that has been made and relying on those contracts one is able to have them enforced by law. Here, the smart contracts do the same thing as that of traditional contract by enforcing the conditions mentioned in the contract. The contract is triggered when the conditions to fulfill the smart contract is met.
For example, if we had a contract for the sale of an apartment between the seller and a buyer, the contract contains the details about the ownership of the apartment, so here the ownership gets transferred only when the funds have been transferred to the seller’s account. This transfer of ownership is done digitally and automatically after the transaction has been made, this type of automatic transactions can be enabled by Blockchain under the context of smart contracts.
In Hyperledger Fabric these smart contracts can be programmed in general-purpose programming languages like Java, Go and Node.js when compared to in Ethereum where the smart contracts are written in domain-specific Solidity language. Developers need to have a basic knowledge of Object Oriented Programming concepts along with the working of Blockchain technology in order to develop logic for smart contracts. Smart contract in Fabric is known as “chaincode”.
According to many industry experts, it is predicted by 2024 Blockchain is going to disrupt all of the industries in a direct or indirect way. So, it is beneficial to start investing our time and resources in learning about this revolutionary technology and how it might impact the world in the future. Though the future of cryptocurrency is still unstable as to its value will rise up or fall down but according to my personal opinion the value of cryptocurrencies will rise along with its role in realizing the complete digital age, where the core concepts(transparency, immutability, etc.) of Blockchain will be used as a foundational pillar. Now is the perfect time to learn all you can about Blockchain and its various platforms in order to have a jump start compared to your peers.