Blockchain As a Service (BaaS) is Booming
As more and more industries begin to see the bright side of employing blockchain technology into their businesses, they keep running into the same problem; most business owners simply don’t know enough about blockchain. In fact, there are so few business owners with the technological know-how when it comes to blockchain, that a number of large companies are now offering blockchain services for hire, also known as BaaS.
Hyperledger is both a service and a system generally referred to as the Hyperledger Initiative. The way to think of Hyperledger is to think of it like tutoring center on a college campus. College kids can head to the tutoring center for help with any subject, or even mental health consultations as they need. They can host study groups there, and meet like-minded people who are struggling in the same subjects. And of course, if the free tutoring sessions offered aren’t sufficient, this tutoring center will match the student with a tutor for hire.
Essentially, Hyperledger functions the same way, but for the blockchain world. Blockchain developers can head over to Hyperledger to get help with current projects via forums, or they can hire a professional to check their system for bugs or other issues. Hyperledger also connects developers with each other, as well as business owners to development companies. If you own a blockchain based business and are lost and confused in the slightest, head over to Hyperledger for help.
Hyperledger hosts a number of projects, the most famous are Hyperledger Fabric and Hyperledger Sawtooth. Hyperledger Fabric focuses on helping companies build their blockchain business from the ground up. If you want to use this service, you basically pay some money up front and within a few days you will have a blockchain with your desired functionality which suits your business. You will also have continued costs for customer service support and maintenance as needed. There are also pre-developed packages which can help you with dapp development if you need. Hyperledger Sawtooth on the other hand uses a fancy proof of time elapsed consensus mechanism to run multiple smart contracts on the same blockchain. This ability of these contracts to be run concurrently is because of selective permissions which also help to preserve the security of transactions on the blockchain. Of course, these are only two of the numerous projects currently being pursued and the list can go on forever. Hyperledger is funded by a number of big-name firms, most notably IBM and Intel. And like mentioned above, they can truly help you with almost any blockchain based issue.
AWS stands for Amazon Web Services and generally refers to the blockchain services currently available for purchase through Amazon.com. They are currently a direct competitor to Hyperledger.
AWS functions much the same as Hyperledger in that a business can receive all the help they need to build on the blockchain or a blockchain from the ground up. AWS can help set you up with a blockchain perfect for your businesses specified functionality, as well as help design dapps. Business owners can choose if they want to run their blockchain on the Ethereum blockchain or Hyperledger Fabric. They can also choose the exact consensus mechanism they wish their blockchain to run on. AWS offers help with building blockchains and apps for transaction, data, and content-based services. These services are generally pay as you go and as a business owner you will only pay for what you use which helps eliminate monetary waste.
This all sounds pretty decent, but what’s missing from AWS is the sense of community and large think tank style found in the Hyperledger set up. When a company uses AWS’s services, they are only getting input from Amazon. While a company who goes with Hyperledger can receive input from any number of companies or blockchain developers on the internet.
Another competitor to both AWS and Hyperledger is the Microsoft version of blockchain as a service called Azure. Azure is very similar to AWS in the way it is run, and suffers from the same lack of think tank issues listed above.
Notably, Azure seems much more user friendly than its AWS competitor, and they brag on the fact that they can have any business owner set up in the blockchain world in three easy steps. Azure offers a couple different packages for their customers, so you can choose between the “basic” or the “standard” package depending on how you plan to use blockchain technology. One of the downsides of Azure is it doesn’t seem that the business owner gets to pick their consensus protocol. Azure is compatible with Ethereum, Corda, and Hyperledger Fabric, however the only consensus protocol mention is IBFT or Istanbul Byzantine Fault Tolerance. This could be just to keep their site simple, or this could be the only protocol available.
Azure is notably inexpensive (they are the only one of the three with the prices listed on their website) and they routinely provide nifty charts and stats to show you how your business is going. For very basic users who want everything converted into plain text for them, Azure is highly recommended.
The Problem with BaaS
All of this sounds pretty great, after all, who doesn’t want to pay for a company to set up something for them rather than putting in the work themselves? And that’s just the problem. The minute a business owner pays another company to get them set up on the blockchain, they are also subject to continued data monitoring and collection by that company. So, when using BaaS, you are using the blockchain in a centralized manner.
Now this may not matter to you or your business, but a number of cryptocurrency enthusiasts out there run their business for the purpose of keeping it decentralized, and thus, these probably aren’t solutions for them. These three services listed above all advertise how they continue to help their customers run the blockchain portion of their business, but what they’re not saying is that they retain a portion of control of the business. For example, if you have a business designing and selling t-shirts, and use AWS to set up your blockchain retail spot, well Amazon could see this as competition and shut you down under the guise of saying you violated your contract with them. This is a far-fetched example, but in this day and age you must consider all possibilities. Besides just trusting your personal business in the hands of a corporate behemoth, you are also trusting that said company won’t go under. Because if you are paying a fee for them to manage your blockchain (because you aren’t technologically gifted) and they do under, well, you risk losing everything you’ve put into it.
Overall, blockchain as a service is a much desired and sought-after innovation as the world quickly begins to accept and demand use of the technology. BaaS isn’t all it seems to be though, and it is important to thoroughly investigate any company you trust your business to, because you never know what the future may hold.