How do cloud providers adopt blockchain — AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, IBM and Oracle perspective?

By Maciej Marut, Krzysztof Bury, Bartosz Dluzen

In previous articles we’ve described: what blockchain is, where it can be potentially used, what are the potential costs and if it is prepared to fulfill anti-money laundry and know-your-customer policies. This article will shed some light on how cloud providers are “introducing” this technology, but to start it properly again one-liner of introduction to blockchain.

Blockchain a distributed and open ledger that aims to fill (among others) a missing piece in XXI century which is trust is growing in popularity on a daily basis.

Looking at the Google Trends analytics “blockchain” phrase interest in 2017 grew from 15 in January to 100 points in December, where 100 means the highest popularity of the phrase and 0 means that the popularity of the phrase is less than 1% of the highest value.

Picture taken from: https://trends.google.pl/trends/explore?q=blockchain

Moreover, with ongoing cloud based solutions adoptions in both big companies and smaller challengers (market Cap to Pass $500 Billion by 2020 [1]), it is just right state and answer a question, what biggest market players in cloud business have to offer or are doing in terms of adopting blockchain technology.

Google Cloud

One of the biggest cloud services provider, doesn’t have in its offering anything that explicitly says blockchain service.

However, this does not mean that this technology is not being leveraged at all. Google (like other cloud providers) have built quite big partner community network. Partners in GCP (Google Cloud Platform) offer tools and expertise for other companies using google services.

One of such partners is GFT (https://www.gft.com/int/en/index/) which is a consulting and IT solutions provider company for the financial services industry. GFT is leveraging Google: App Engine, BigQuery, Compute Engine, Cloud Datastore, Cloud SQL and Cloud Storage to solve the most critical challenges of their clients[2].

Moreover, at 22 September 2016 GFT have announced a program to drive real-world blockchain testing for their banking clients to simulate real-world distributed ledger models. As Nick Weisfeld (Head of GFT’s Blockchain and Data Practices) comments: “Working with Google has enabled us to create a test environment for a new Royal Bank of Scotland application using real-world volumes, providing them with valuable information on how their solution operates (…)”[3].

Besides this announcement, 1 service from Google Cloud environment is particularly worth mentioning in terms of its potential for blockchain usage — CLOUD SPANNER[4].

Cloud Spanner was initially release in February 2017, following the description it is first horizontally scalable, strongly consistent, relational database service. Its use cases are ranging from financial trading through Supply-chain management and manufacturing ending on E-Commerce[5].

Amazon Web Services

AWS is not staying behind regarding blockchain adoption. Amazon Team is investing in blockchain in a similar manner as Google Cloud is doing — through theirs partner ecosystem[6].

Just to name a few partner of AWS in blockchain solutions:

  • Sawtooth — an open-source, modular, enterprise distributed ledger project;
  • Corda R3 — an open-source blockchain software framework designed to record, manage and automate legal agreements;
  • Quorum –permission-ed implementation of Ethereum distributed ledger protocol developed to support transaction and contract privacy;

When it comes to the pricing details, as stated on AWS Marketplace (Hyperledger Sawtooth example), $0.067/hr is a typical total price per instance for services hosted on m3.medium instance in US East.

In AWS Marketplace — at the time of publishing this article January 2017 — there are 9 solutions for blockchain — 9 Software Infrastructures, 1 Developer Tool and 4 Business Software.

Microsoft Azure

Seattle giant is also involved in blockchain journey. Microsoft and its partners are working on blockchain technology to make it easier to transform ideas into a successful production release. Leveraging all cloud-based solutions strong features such as scalability, easy-to-deploy templates, low-cost and low-risk, Azure is helping organizations to leverage and test blockchain solutions.

Product examples that Microsoft Azure is offering in terms of blockchain[7]:

  • Azure Blockchain Service — either as an Ethereum or Hyperledger software plan this service deploys and configures a blockchain network with minimal Azure and blockchain knowledge needed;
  • Corda R3 — similarly to AWS this service deploys a pre-configured network of Corda nodes; Corda itself is is a distributed ledger platform designed and built to manage and synchronize agreements, designed for use by regulated financial institutions;
  • Quorum — another partner product that was also present in AWS; Quorum product is an Enterprise Ethereum Alliance single Member Blockchain with foundations in Ethereum, it was initially created by J.P. Morgan;

Oracle Cloud

In its press release from October 2017[8] Oracle announced that it is launching Enterprise-Grade Blockchain Cloud Service. Oracle’s Blockchain service is part of platform-as-a service portfolio, with 5 pillars:

  • Trusted Networks
  • Smart Contracts
  • Integrate Blockchain Transactions in Applications
  • Enabling Private Transactions and Comprehensive Administration and Monitoring

Based purely on description, bar is set high by Oracle, potentially the most interesting features are the technical resolution of integrating blockchain transactions in applications and private transactions — confidentiality domains — which surely is an answer for these parties that were “concerned” about blockchain “all public” factor.

Status of the service — at the time of publishing this article — is still Coming Soon.

IBM Cloud

Expectations are big as IBM is a premier member of Hyperledger “project” which is an open source collaborative effort created to advance cross-industry blockchain technologies.

IBM is not disappointing in this matter, solid use cases ranging from supply chain projects through customer experience is the proof of that. Company is offering a Blockchain Platform packed with features among others: local and shared development environments, smart contracts, always-on, high availability networks is just some worth mentioning elements. IBM Blockchain Platform is a software-as-a service offering, available right now as an Enterprise plan (other plans like: Entry, Self-Managed or Enterprise Plus are coming soon) in 4 different locations (Sydney, Germany, United Kingdom and US South) where cost of a blockchain network is shared across its members.

Picture from IBM webpage [9]

Summary

Cloud Computing provides a simple way to get necessary elements needed for a blockchain development / infrastructure such as servers, storage, databases (even distributed ones). In addition, with easy scalability, deploying architecture and applications in minutes there is no better way to validate proof of concepts for blockchain solutions, and looking at all described above approaches blockchain and cloud computing seems like a great fit. In the future, it is expected to see more examples and case studies of the companies that were / are experimenting with blockchain in clouds.

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