Introducing IBM Blockchain Platform 2.5: Helping advance the new era of multi-party systems

By Andy Carelli, Director, Blockchain Platform – Offering Management and Market Development, IBM



New collaboration models are emerging out of necessity today and for better preparedness tomorrow. It’s evidenced in the way supply chains are changing to provide better visibility for the distribution of emergency supplies. We see the need for public and private information to be validated and shared between healthcare institutes and government authorities to support humanitarian efforts. These applied areas are examples of how innovation is being given a chance to prevail over traditional approaches. For blockchain enthusiasts, it’s an exciting opportunity to challenge the status quo and shift to multi-party systems.

In just the last few months, we have seen a number of new conventional and unconventional use cases that illustrate how organizations overcoming old and new challenges by leveraging an enterprise distributed ledger technology. These include IBM Rapid Supplier Connect, a solution that helps medical organizations quickly find alternative suppliers, to an FDA pilot to create a blockchain-based pharmaceutical supply chain. Blockchain initiatives are transforming supply chains, giving developers access to reliable, more trustworthy dataand identifying entirely new uses cases on their own.

New Era of Multi-Party Systems

We’re on the cusp a new era of multi-party systems. Multi-party networks, spanning across industries, are leveraging the clear advantages of real-time, trusted, tamper-proof data exchange. Businesses, industry experts, regulators, and people are leveraging new collaboration models to share and record data in a way that preserves both privacy and transparency, and ensures the validity of transactions. This technology is providing the basis for unprecedented levels of trust to support shared processes, and instilling confidence in a validated source of truth to support decision-making. Transparency under privacy controls forms the basis of a more effective business network.

At IBM, we are committed to delivering the most advanced and comprehensive tools, technologies, and infrastructure within our IBM Blockchain Platform to help advance powerful multi-party systems.

Introducing IBM Blockchain Platform 2.5

Today, we are excited to announce the release of IBM Blockchain Platform version 2.5, which improves on IBM Blockchain Platform version 2 in a number of ways. These include supporting the latest open source innovation with Hyperledger Fabric 2.0and delivers new integrations with Red Hat technologies. It boosts security, usability, flexibility, and development speedwith support for Hyperledger Fabric 2.0, Red Hat CodeReady Workspaces, Red Hat OpenShift 4.3, and Ansible Content Collections. This release delivers upon aspects of the advancements we highlighted at our digital IBM THINK conference in May.

Register for our weekly User Series webcast to see a live demonstration of some of these new features and get your questions answered by the experts!

About IBM Blockchain Platform

Begin or advance your efforts in enabling multi-party systems powered by the leading automation and governance platform for Hyperledger Fabric.

IBM Blockchian Platformis available as a managed service offering on IBM Cloud

and as a multicloud offering that can deployed in any environment – private, public or hybrid multicloud, or on-premises behind your firewall to meet data residency requirements.

Tourour offering and learn more onhow to get started with IBM Blockchain.

Related:

'Unexpected Error, Contact Citrix Support Error ID: XDDS:DFB94D9B' – Unable to Update Machine Catalogs -Citrix Cloud

In Citrix Cloud, after updating an image, users are unable to update the machines. Users get a popup noting ‘Unexpected Error, Contact Citrix Support’. The error details note Error ID: XDDS:DFB94D9B.

  • Azure Hosting Connection
  • Test Connection test failed
  • No App Registration in Azure related to Citrix App

Related:

Hyperledger Fabric on Azure Kubernetes Service Marketplace template

Customers exploring blockchain for their applications and solutions typically start with a prototype or proof of concept effort with a blockchain technology before they get to build, pilot, and production rollout. During the latter stages, apart from the ease of deployment, there is an expectation of flexibility in the configuration in terms of the number of blockchain members in the consortium, size and number of nodes and ease in management post-deployment.

We are sharing the release of a new Hyperledger Fabric on Azure Kubernetes Service marketplace template in preview. Any user with minimal knowledge of Azure or Hyperledger Fabric can now set up a blockchain consortium on Azure using this solution template by providing few basic input parameters.

This template helps the customers to deploy Hyperledger Fabric (HLF) network on Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) clusters in a modular manner, that meets the much-required customization with regard to the choice of Microsoft Azure Virtual Machine series, number of nodes, fault-tolerance, etc. Azure Kubernetes Service provides enterprise-grade security and governance, making the deployment and management of containerized application easy. Customers anticipate leveraging the native Kubernetes tools for the management plane operations of the infrastructure and call Hyperledger Fabric APIs or Hyperledger Fabric client software development kit for the data plane workflows.

The template has various configurable parameters that make it suitable for production-grade deployment of Hyperledger Fabric network components.

Top features of Hyperledger Fabric on Azure Kubernetes Service template are:

  • Supports deployment of Hyperledger Fabric version 1.4.4 (LTS).
  • Supports deployment of orderer organization and peer nodes with the option to configure the number of nodes.
  • Supports Fabric Certificate Authority (CA) with self-signed certificates by default, and an option to upload organization-specific root certificates to initialize the Fabric CA.
  • Supports running of LevelDb and CouchDB for world state database on peer nodes.
  • Ordering service runs highly available RAFT based consensus algorithm, with an option to choose 3,5, or 7 nodes.
  • Supports ways to configure in terms of number and size of the nodes of Azure Kubernetes Clusters.
  • Public IP exposed for each AKS cluster deployed for networking with other organizations
  • Enables you to jump start with building your network sample scripts to help post-deployment steps such as create workflows of consortiums and channels, adding peer nodes to the channel, etc.
  • Node.js application sample to support running a few native Hyperledger Fabric APIs such as new user identity generation, running custom chain code, etc.

To know more about how to get started with deploying Hyperledger Fabric network components, refer to the documentation.

What’s coming next

  • Microsoft Visual Studio code extension support for Azure Hyperledger Fabric instances

What more do we have for you? The template and consortium sample scripts are open-sourced in the GitHub repo, so the community can leverage to build their customized versions.

Related:

Dell 2020 Networking & Solutions Technology Trends

Co-authors

  • Joseph White, Senior Distinguished Engineer
  • Joe Ghalam, Distinguished Engineer
  • Mark Sanders, Distinguished Engineer

Since joining Dell as CTO for Networking & Solutions in June 2019, I have been energized by the opportunities and the extent of technology development at Dell Technologies, as well as the deep partner engagement in R&D. Heading into 2020, our customers require distributed and automated infrastructure platforms that support a wide range of use cases from data center automation to edge and 5G enterprise verticals. Let’s take a closer, more technical look at what’s behind these trends.

Cloud-native software drives intelligent automation and fabrics in data centers

Advances in infrastructure automation are leading to full automation stacks incorporating OS configuration management, DevOps tools, and platform stack installers and managers. These bundles enable a new operational model based on fully-automated, zero-touch provisioning and deployment using remote tools for networking, compute and storage infrastructure. This has become a critical requirement for large deployments, delivering the ability to rapidly deploy and manage equipment with the least amount of operational cost at scale. This is a key enabler for edge use cases.

Network configuration and fault mitigation is rapidly becoming automated. Telemetry data availability and integration with orchestration applications allows the network to be more than one static domain. Using data analysis and fault detection, automatic network configuration and self-healing can become a great differentiating factor in selecting one solution over another.

The tools for infrastructure lifecycle management, including firmware upgrades, OS updates, capacity management and application support, are becoming an integral part of any infrastructure solution. These trends will accelerate with the help of AI software tools this year and continue to expand to every part of the infrastructure.

Micro-services based NOS design fuels the next wave in Open Networking

Network operating systems (NOS) are evolving into flexible cloud-native microservices designs that address many of the limitations of traditional networking platforms. One of the biggest benefits is the ability to support different hardware platforms and customize the services and protocols for specific deployments. Gone are the days when the only option network operators had was to accept a monolithic, generic OS stack with many features that would never be used. This new architecture is critical for supporting edge platforms with constrained CPU and power with targeted networking missions.

Community-based NOS platforms such as SONiC (Software for Open Networking in the Cloud) have the added benefit of accelerating development through a community. SONiC is gaining momentum as a NOS for both enterprises and service providers due to its disaggregated and modular design. By selecting desired containers and services, SONiC can be deployed in many use cases and fit in platforms of many sizes.

The recent increased industry involvement and community creation has placed SONiC on an accelerated path to support more use cases and features. The increased development activity will continue through 2020 and beyond. SONiC has also grabbed the attention of other projects and organizations such as ONF and TIP/Disaggregated cell site gateways. These projects are looking into ways to integrate with SONiC in their existing and new solutions and driving a new set of open networking use cases.

Merchant silicon extends to cover more complex networking requirements

Programmable packet forwarding pipelines, deep buffers, high radix, high line speeds, and high forwarding capacity merchant silicon switches coupled to a new generation of open network operating systems are enabling effective large scale-out fabric-based architectures for data centers. These capabilities will enhance both data center and edge infrastructure, replacing the need for a chassis design or edge routers with custom ASICs. In 2020, for the first time, we expect to see merchant silicon-based network solutions achieve parity with most of the traditional edge and core networking platforms, providing a scale out design that is better aligned to converged infrastructure and cloud requirements.

Programmable silicon/data plane enabling streaming analytics

Programmable data planes are maturing with P4 compilers (as the community approach) and many other available languages for creating customized data pipelines. There is also a growing number of NOSs that support programmable data plane functionality. These new software tools enable the creation of unique profiles to support specific services and use cases, including edge functionality, network slicing, real time telemetry and packet visibility. These powerful new capabilities provide control and AI-based mitigation, as well as customized observability at large scale in real time. Developers have access to the data pipeline and will be able to create new services that are not possible in traditional networking. This is going to be one of the key new trends in 2020.

Storage fabrics using distributed NVMe-oF over TCP/IP solutions

NVMe has emerged as the most efficient and low-latency technology for storage access. NVME-over-Fabric (NVMe-oF) extends the protocol to work across networks using fabric-based networks (Fibre Channel, RoCE, TCP/IP). TCP/IP and RoCE have a clear cost effectiveness advantage with 100GbE being four times as fast as 32GbE FC at about 1/8th of the cost. Between those two protocols TCP/IP emerges as the solid choice due to similar performance, better interoperability and routing, and utilization of lossless networks only where needed. NVMe-oF/TCP transport provides the connectivity backbone to build efficient, flexible, and massive-scale distributed storage systems. The key to unlocking this potential is service-based automation and discovery controlling the storage access connectivity within the proven SAN operational approach and orchestration frameworks extended across multiple local storage networks through both storage services and fabric services federation.

Distributed edge emerging as a requirement for Industry vertical solutions

Emerging use cases at the far edge for analytics, surveillance, distributed applications and AI are driving the need for new infrastructure designs. Key constraints are the operating environment, physical location, and physical distribution giving rise to the need for a comprehensive remote automated operational model. New workload requirements are also driving the design. For example, Gartner predicts that “by 2022, as a result of digital business projects, 75% of enterprise-generated data will be created and processed outside the traditional, centralized data center or cloud*.” New innovations at the edge include converged compute and networking, programmable data plane processors, converged rack-level design, micro/mini data centers, edge storage and data streaming, distributed APIs and data processing. We are at the start of new phase of development of custom solutions for specific enterprise verticals that will drive new innovations in infrastructure and automation stacks.

Wireless first designs are driving new infrastructure platforms for enterprises and service providers

There is tremendous growth in wireless spectrum and technologies including 5G, 4G, shared spectrum (CBRS), private LTE, and WiFi, coupled with a new desire to transition to wireless as the preferred technology for LAN, campus, eetail, etc. This is driving the need for wireless platform disaggregation into cloud native applications for core, radio access network (RAN) and WiFi that support multiple wireless technologies on shared infrastructure. Disaggregation is starting at the core and moving to the edge levering edge compute with automation in a distributed model, which is bringing all the benefits of cloud economics, automation and developer access to wireless infrastructure and creating massive new efficiencies and new services.

Smart NICs are evolving to address massively distributed edge requirements

The new generation of powerful Smart NICs extend the model of simple NIC offload and acceleration by adding heavy data plane processing capacity, programmable hardware elements, and integrated switching capabilities. These elements allow many data flow and packet processing functions to live on the smart NIC, including networking, NVMe offload, security, advanced telemetry generation, advanced analytics, custom application assistance, and infrastructure automation. Smart NICs will be a key element in several valuable use cases: distributed network mesh, standalone intelligent infrastructure elements (e.g. radio controllers), autonomous infrastructure, distributed software defined storage, and distributed data processing. Smart NICs will serve as micro-converged infrastructure extending the range of edge compute to new locations and services beyond edge compute.

The age of 400G – higher speeds driving new fundamental network switch architecture

Native 400G switches coupled with 400G 0ptical modules are now available and breaking the 100G speed limit for data center interconnects. This is creating challenges with power and thermal, as well as space and layout, and moving the industry to co-packed optics.

In addition, new silicon photonics (ZR400 and others) enable long reach Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) transport given the availability of merchant optics DSPs. This is going to fundamentally transform networking, data center interconnect and edge aggregation by collapsing the need for a stand-alone DWDM optical networks, therefore bringing great efficiencies, automation and software-defined capabilities to the entire networking stack.

Stay tuned—2020 is set to be a year packed with innovation as we strive to deliver customers the technology that will drive their businesses into the future.

Additional Resources

*Gartner Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020, 21 October 2019, David Cearley, Nick Jones, David Smith, Brian Burke, Arun Chandrasekaran, CK Lu

Related:

Everest Group enterprise managed blockchain analysis places IBM and Microsoft at the summit

The enterprise managed blockchain, or blockchain as a service (BaaS) space, is one which though nascent has many of technology’s fastest horses running in the race. Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft, who continue to conduct their battle for cloud infrastructure, have well-known stakes in blockchain, as well as many of the ‘second tier’ cloud provides, from Alibaba Cloud, to IBM, to Oracle.

A new report from Everest Group has assessed the runners andriders in managed blockchain platforms – and has put IBM and Microsoft Azure atthe top of the tree.

In total, 12 vendors were assessed, with fully half – Alibaba,AWS, Azure, IBM, Oracle and SAP – placing in the all-important top right segment,indicating high market adoption and capability maturity.

IBM scored strongly across all areas according to the analysis,which combined what Everest calls its ‘proprietary service providerintelligence database’, alongside conversations with enterprises and vendors. Thecompany scored full marks on platform configuration and ecosystem, ease ofadoption, enterprise adoption and business value. The only other vendor toscore full marks on any topic was Azure, in vision and strategy – the only segmentIBM failed to get a full house – and ease of adoption.

Of the 12 vendors classified, seven use Hyperledger as atleast part of their stack. AWS, for instance, uses a mix of Hyperledger Fabricand Ethereum, while Azure bakes those two in alongside Corda and IBM is onFabric only. Sovrin, a private sector non-profit, is the only one to differfrom Fabric, utilising Hyperledger Indy.

At the other end of the scale, VMware and HPE both scoredpoorly. The report however did note that VMware was ‘poised for enterpriseadoption’ given its promising feature set and ‘long-term ecosystem vision.’ HPEwas praised for its outlook across critical financial infrastructure, for whichthe company has a long heritage.

One company not analysed in this report is Google Cloud; thethird of the ‘big three’ cloud hyperscalers, depending on which analyst one follows.While the company’s efforts in blockchain are not as pronounced, initiativesare taking place, such as the partnershipannounced with Cypherium in August. Here, this can be seen as more of aninfrastructure deal to ‘provide enterprises with a full-stack solution to harnessthe potential’ of distributed ledger technologies (DLT), as Cypherium put it atthe time. The company also has deals in place with IBM Cloud and AWS.

Everest outlined the rationale for managed enterpriseblockchains – and how this is set to continue. “Enterprises are betting big onblockchain technology and are actively looking for easy ways to understand,prototype, and deploy blockchain-based solutions,” the report noted. “Althoughopen source blockchain frameworks have exploded in popularity in recent years,many enterprises today are looking for mature and deployment-ready solutions thatare easy to adopt, maintain and manage, presenting an interesting marketopportunity for vendors to build service-focused platforms on top of such frameworks.”

Yet such solutions are not an ideal fit for allorganisations. Writing for sister publication CloudTech in June, Eric Dynowski, CTO atServerCentral Turing Group, noted the four tenets required to consider managedblockchain:

  • You have to be a big organisation – or at leasthave a developer team used to building software and systems. “The blockchain byitself is useless,” Dynowski wrote. “To make it work, you’ll have to figure outhow to build it into an application, which means you’ll [need] the internalresources for that project
  • You need to be willing to share your data – a no-brainer,and ‘non-negotiable’ as Dynowski puts it
  • You need an immutable ledger. “This is probablythe easiest criterion to meet, but needing an immutable ledger alone isn’treason enough to adopt blockchain,” says Dynowski
  • You need to ensure that implementing blockchaindoes not add to your complexity. “This is the real kicker,” Dynowski concludes.“If you’re only using blockchain to use blockchain, it’s not a good solution”

The complete list of vendors analysed were Alibaba Cloud,Amazon Web Services, BurstIQ, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, Jelurida, MicrosoftAzure, Multichain, Oracle, SAP, Sovrin, and VMware.

You can find out more about the Everest Group report here (pdf download, client access required for full report).

Interested in hearing more in person? Find out more at the Blockchain Expo World Series, Global, Europe and North America.

Related: