The Five Blockchain Principles of IBM


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Technology typically adds positive value to society, and as such, it can deliver demonstrable good for the world; according to IBM, blockchain can further this sentiment. In an IBM Blockchain Pulse blog post, May 13, 2019, the tech behemoth lays out the guiding principles it adheres to, which it believes are key to “ building enterprise blockchains”.

Like it, or Not

IBM is one of the biggest proponents of blockchain promotion and adoption; for quite some time now the blockchain space has witnessed one of the most recognizable tech brands press further into the nascent DLT territory to astounding effect. Though the very notion of such an established and ‘centralized’ company shaves against the grain of the early and beloved sentiment of decentralization, IBM has been a contentious yet proactive force for the industry and community at large.

Whether backing blockchain initiatives that support the preservation of freshwater ecosystems, promoting innovation, or backing international blockchain education courses, IBM is a notable ‘block-in-the-chain’ (pardon the pun) for an industry often in need of backing.

Spreading the Word

In its latest blog post, IBM outlines five “blockchain principles” that it has been “guided by”:

  1. Open is better

For IBM, fostering “diverse communities of open source contributors and organizations.” is a key ingredient to the promotion and establishment of high-quality code and as such, blockchain networks “must” do so. Citing the Hyperledger Project as an example, the post praises the Linux Foundation-led initiative for creating such an ecosystem, which has been producing “enterprise grade blockchain software”.

  1. Permissioned doesn’t mean private

“Though anonymous public blockchains afford a number of powerful capabilities, they are not suitable for most enterprises, particularly those in regulated industries”, the blog post reads.

IBM argues that permissioned blockchains on which user identities are cryptographically verified have value for enterprise blockchains. Yes, privacy has its benefits, but for businesses, knowing that illegal or nefarious activity isn’t taking place on the network is essential and can, in fact, be utilized across multiple blockchains.

  1. Governance is a team sport

Transparent governance is something that enterprise blockchains “must embrace”; here, IBM suggests that blockchain platforms with a democratic structure that contain built-in “privacy and permissioning” features are the finest of pickings for enterprises.

Detailing their reasoning with yet another example, IBM notes:

“The Verified:Me identity network in Canada, convened by SecureKey Inc, has enlisted major Canadian banks to participate as trust anchors to host nodes and validate network transactions. SecureKey has created a governance model that involves ongoing checks and balances between its constituent working groups.”

  1. Common standards are common sense

Here it is espoused that the future-proofing of networks, the culmination of an innovative ecosystem and the prevention of “vendor lock-in” can be achieved through interoperability, which “critically entails” the interoperability of cloud platforms.

Seemingly, IBM is behind some form of decentralization as it makes a sound case in favor of blockchains being visible to each other via a registry. In somewhat of a sweeping statement, the post states that “it is generally accepted that the technology is evolving to support a network of networks”, therefore blockchains should not only be interoperable, but also be “built on industry standards, or leverage APIs with permissioned access.”

  1. Privacy is paramount

Finally and almost contrary to aforementioned “principles”, users who are utilizing an enterprise blockchain “should” have the ability to choose what entities or individuals can access their data, as well as deciding under what conditions this would be allowed.

Notably, the post makes the case that no user on the blockchain actually owns the network, but the data rights should “always” be in the control of the network’s creator. Additionally in another “must”, blockchains must adhere to privacy regulations, namely GDPR, and that users should keep personal data off-chain.

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