IBM encounters blockchain headwinds as Hyperledger forges ahead

Highlights

  • IBM’s first live blockchain we.trade takes tech work in-house
  • IBM cuts blockchain staff
  • Head of IBM blockchain financial services departs abruptly
  • Hyperledger’s success previously closely tied to IBM
  • Hyperledger adds Microsoft, Salesforce, Ethereum Foundation, GS1, Nornickel

In the last couple of months, IBM has encountered several blockchain setbacks. It has laid off staff. Its head of financial services has left. And one of its highest-profile clients, trade finance blockchain we.trade is taking work in-house. To date, the fortunes of Hyperledger, the open source blockchain community that’s part of the Linux Foundation, has been perceived as tied to IBM. But just last week it announced a slew of high profile new members.

The IBM setbacks

Before delving into IBM’s misfortunes, they need to be viewed in context. Last year when Juniper Research asked respondents to rank enterprise blockchain technology and services providers, 65% ranked IBM first. Microsoft was second at 7%. That was an enviable position for IBM to be in, and one that wasn’t likely to be sustained to that degree.

Plus last month, IBM’s TradeLens project landed two of the world’s biggest container shipping companies who are competitors of co-founder Maersk. Many said that was impossible.

Compared to the size of its success, the recent setbacks are relatively small. And as markets mature so does competition.

As a sign of that maturity, we.trade, the trade finance blockchain, plans to take most of its development in-house. We.trade was the first IBM blockchain to go into production, albeit a soft launch. The trade finance company is owned by 13 major banks and is initially offering open account trade finance to European SMEs. Nordea has started to actively promote it to clients.

Two months ago we.trade announced that COO Roberto Mancone was departing and General Manager Ciaran McGowan was joining. McGowan has a background as a CTO and was hired to build a technical team in Dublin. In the last couple of months, various we.trade representatives confirmed to Ledger Insights that IBM’s role will be reduced. But it will continue to play a part with SaaS hosting and some professional services.

Layoffs and departures

The layoffs at IBM may be another sign of maturity and competition. Multiple sources have confirmed retrenchment on the consulting (not technology) side of blockchain. But the numbers quoted varied from the teens up to a hundred or so. IBM doesn’t talk about lay off figures, and this is part of broader ranging cuts that CNBC reported at roughly 1,700 employees.

IBM has stated that the cuts relate to repositioning to focus on high-value segments. But blockchain is one of those segments.

Another team loss was Jesse Lund, as CoinDesk first reported. Apart from being responsible for blockchain financial services, he was also in charge of IBM World Wire, the cross border payments system that leverages Stellar technology. In mid-May, Stellar encountered a technical problem that caused it to go down for two hours. News about Lund’s departure appeared less than two weeks later.

Technology

Stellar was the third blockchain technology that IBM associated with. First and foremost, IBM is identified with enterprise blockchain Hyperledger Fabric. The platform is used in most of its blockchain client engagements and in its two owned solutions, IBM Food Trust and TradeLens, which is a joint initiative with Maersk. Although Fabric has developed a significant open source community beyond IBM, Big Blue is one of Fabric’s main contributors.

Given Fabric’s success, the progress of Hyperledger as an organization has been perceived as tightly aligned with IBM. That’s compounded by IBM’s adoption of Hyperledger Indy, the identity software that underpins the Sovrin network.

Hyperledger and IBM

As demonstrated by adoption, Hyperledger’s most promising technologies after Fabric appear to be Indy (and its sibling Aries) and Hyperledger Sawtooth (and its sibling Grid). Two of those three are associated with IBM.

In December Hyperledger ran it’s Global Forum in Switzerland. One might expect that IBM had a major footprint. However, not only was there no keynote from IBM, but over two days there was only one IBM presentation, from its blockchain CTO Gari Singh.

The reason for IBM’s low-key presence is open to interpretation. One takeaway is that perhaps Hyperledger needs to try to unhook the perception of itself and its success as being closely tied to IBM. And as a good community participant, IBM complied. But IBM’s contribution to Hyperledger is undoubtedly recognized.

“Hyperledger Fabric would not have happened without their [IBM’s] involvement and continued investment, and thanks to that it is today the most widely supported and widely used enterprise blockchain framework,” Hyperledger’s Executive Director, Brian Behlendorf told Ledger Insights via email.

But he was keen to emphasize other member contributions. “Both Hyperledger and IBM are really happy to see other companies realizing value from Hyperledger Fabric, such as every major cloud provider who deploys it as a managed service, from big clouds like Microsoft to specialized clouds like Blockdaemon, who are both also members of Hyperledger and also contribute code into Fabric.”

IBM’s Singh noted that numerous startups contributed to Fabric, but expressed a little frustration that there weren’t more enterprise contributions than currently.

Hyperledger forges ahead

Back at Hyperledger’s Global Forum, there was a keynote from Intel, which is one of the main contributors to Hyperledger Sawtooth. Intel announced a new Sawtooth-based supply chain tools initiative Hyperledger Grid in collaboration with the world’s largest agribusiness, Cargill.

Both of these projects are showing significant promise. U.S. retailer Target says it’s working with Grid. And the highest profile adopter of Sawtooth is Salesforce which is basing its blockchain offering on the technology.

Salesforce was also one of a several high profile new Hyperledger members announced last week. The others include the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT), the Ethereum Foundation, standards body GS1, Microsoft, and huge Russian metals company Nornickel, which is adopting Fabric. CAICT is the thinktank from China’s Ministry of Industry and IT.

While Hyperledger gradually cuts the umbilical cord to IBM, it’s not ignoring Big Blue’s contribution. Behlendorf acknowledged: “Their [IBM’s] commitment to Hyperledger has been unwavering.”


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IBM’s New Blockchain’s Multicloud Update to Improve interoperability

In Ledger Insights on June 18 report, IBM made an announcement regarding its Blockchain Platform upgrades.

IBM’s new Blockchain Platform will reportedly run on several cloud networks, like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft’s Azure.

Besides its previous iteration, this is the main upgrade which is available only via IBM’s cloud. Users will use a container program Kubernetes to access the multicloud platform and effectively scale their blockchain networks.

The interoperability of IBM Blockchain Platform 2.0 is a major advantage of this new multicloud framework. Blockchain participants are able to maintain governance of multiple cloud networks — even where privacy environments differ — through the multicloud platform.

Gari Singh, IBM Blockchain CTO, explained the advantage of this cross-network advantage:

“We want to bring on XYZ company, but XYZ has a contract with Azure or AWS or Oracle,” he said.

“How do we allow those guys to connect up a peer [node] to join the network and how can you support that?” […] We can now actually leverage all the great things that are in Hypeledger Fabric, and we can support you wherever you need to be. And we can also help to support networks that want to work with IBM, but they have other members that don’t.”

IBM’s platform resembles Hyperledger Fabric’s open source blockchain platform but IBM has added ease-of-access tools. These tools will streamline the permissioned network launching process so as to assist in necessary tasks like consensus mechanisms creation and providing governance.

In order to release a blockchain ID platform built on Hyperledger Fabric, IBM had to partner with Câmara Interbancária de Pagamentos, a Brazilian payments non-profit organization.

The released platform — dubbed ‘Device ID,’— authenticates digital signatures that are on mobile devices thereby deterring fraudulent and criminal activities.

Some organizations that intend to use this new blockchain verification platform is the Brazilian Payment System and Nine banks.

Source:https://cointelegraph.com/news/ibm-announces-new-multicloud-update-to-blockchain

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IBM Announces New Multicloud Update to Blockchain

IBM has announced upgrades to its Blockchain Platform, according to a report by Ledger Insights on June 18.

The new IBM Blockchain Platform will reportedly be able to run on multiple cloud networks, such as major tech corporation Microsoft’sAzure or Amazon Web Services (AWS).

This is apparently the main upgrade over its previous iteration, which was available solely through IBM’s cloud. The multicloud platform will be available via Kubernetes, a container program that will reportedly allow users to scale their blockchain networks as needed.

One of the main upshots of its new multicloud framework is that IBM Blockchain Platform 2.0 that IBM boasts on its website is its interoperability. According to the website, the multicloud platform lets the blockchain participants provide governance across multiple cloud networks, even those with differing privacy environments.

IBM Blockchain CTO Gari Singh commented on this cross-network advantage, saying:

“We want to bring on XYZ company, but XYZ has a contract with Azure or AWS or Oracle,” he said. “How do we allow those guys to connect up a peer [node] to join the network and how can you support that?” […] We can now actually leverage all the great things that are in Hypeledger Fabric, and we can support you wherever you need to be. And we can also help to support networks that want to work with IBM, but they have other members that don’t.”

According to the report, IBM’s platform is a variation on the open source blockchain platform Hyperledger Fabric, which is fundamentally the same but with the addition of ease-of-access tools provided by IBM. The tools reportedly streamline the process of launching a permissioned network, assisting with necessary tasks such as assigning governance and creating consensus mechanisms.

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, IBM recently partnered with Brazilianpayments non-profit Câmara Interbancária de Pagamentos to release a blockchain ID platform built on Hyperledger Fabric.

The platform, called “Device ID,” will reportedly act as an authenticator for digital signatures on mobile devices, presumably aimed at preventing fraud and other criminal activities. Nine banks and the Brazilian Payment System are reportedly set to make use of the new blockchain verification platform.

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IBM upgrades enterprise blockchain platform to support Azure, AWS

Today IBM announced IBM Blockchain Platform Multicloud. The big news is that IBM’s blockchain solution now runs on other clouds, be that Azure or AWS as well as on premises.

Until recently, if you wanted to use IBM Blockchain Platform, that meant you had to use the IBM Cloud. Many enterprise networks are consortia, and even if the founding members used IBM, new participants are likely to have existing cloud deployments on other networks.

At the Hyperledger Global Forum at the end of last year, IBM Blockchain CTO Gari Singh explained. “When we started out, our distribution of Fabric, the IBM Blockchain Platform was a [IBM] cloud first solution. At the beginning that made a lot of sense because a lot of times the networks were more pilot networks or you had a single entity that was the backbone of the network.”

As networks and ecosystems have expanded and entered production, the situation is more complicated. Singh gave an example of a consortium. “We want to bring on XYZ company, but XYZ has a contract with Azure or AWS or Oracle,” he said. “How do we allow those guys to connect up a peer [node] to join the network and how can you support that?” That multi-cloud and on-premise feature is the most significant change in IBM Blockchain Platform 2.0.

Another is the IBM Blockchain code is available in containerized form using Kubernetes.

As Jerry Cuomo, IBM’s VP of Blockchain Technology said in a blog post, “now it’s time for those networks to grow anywhere.”

What is it?

But the real question is what exactly is IBM Blockchain Platform? We’ve found that there’s a lot of confusion in the marketplace. Even though IBM is an important contributor to open source Hyperledger Fabric, it is not owned by IBM. It’s not “IBM’s” Hyperledger Fabric. And the version of Fabric delivered in IBM’s Blockchain Platform is identical to the open source version, but IBM’s Blockchain Platform provides additional tooling.

That tooling aims to make it easier to build, for example, a trade finance solution or a supply chain solution. It makes it quicker to set up a basic blockchain and deploy smart contracts. There’s also an extension to Visual Studio Code the popular software that developers use for coding.

While it’s entirely possible to use Hyperledger Fabric and get it up and running yourself, the IBM tooling aims to make it easier to set up a permissioned network. That involves defining which organizations run nodes, establishing the trust and consensus models, and what the rules are for channels, which is IBM’s concept of mini private blockchains.

Enterprises need value-added services to be able to monitor data, to ensure the nodes are up and running, to check that data is backed up and to enable data to be restored.

And if different parts of the network are spread amongst a variety of cloud providers, there still needs to be one command and control center for monitoring.

Singh summed it up: “This vision is of blockchain at its best. It’s not one vendor controlling the software. It’s not one vendor controlling the cloud. It’s not one organization controlling everything. We can now actually leverage all the great things that are in Hypeledger Fabric, and we can support you wherever you need to be. And we can also help to support networks that want to work with IBM, but they have other members that don’t.”

Deployments

IBM also took the opportunity to highlight a few client projects. One is the advertising blockchain network from MediaOcean, which is in production. When it announced in June 2018 brands included Kellogg, Pfizer and Unilever.

Another example is openIDL from the American Association of Insurance Services (AAIS), which helps its 700 insurance members report statistics to regulators in 51 states.

Talking about IBM’s Blockchain Platform, Joan Zerkovich, SVP Operations, AAIS said: “The network management tools are way ahead of competitors’ offerings, and a critical aspect of what we do.”


Image Copyright: Ledger Insights

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A new blockchain cross border payments solution from Visa to transform corporate cross-border …

Visa, the American multinational financial services giant has recently launched their new blockchain cross border payments solution. The company has named this platform Visa B2B Connect, and it has partnered with IBM, the technology giant for this project.

The commercial launch of this new platform is important since it addresses the structural limitations of current cross-border payment platforms. Visa is focusing on corporate cross-border payments with their offering.

Cross-border payment is a large sector, and corporate cross-border payments form a significant segment within it. The market for corporate cross-border payments was $21.3 trillion in 2018, and it will likely reach $26.64 trillion in 2022, according to a Statista report.

The sector has its challenges, though. Experts have noted that cross-border payments are slow, costly, and opaque. The lack of transparency is especially noticeable with respect to FX rates.

Small businesses often lack access to cross-border payment services. There are choices in terms of front-end service providers, however, the back-end processes like clearing and settlement still depend on traditional methods.

Blockchain with its distributed ledger, tamper-proof records, security features, and smart contracts can improve cross-border payments. Industry experts have pointed out how blockchain can reduce the cost, and expedite cross-border payments.

They have also highlighted the transparency and security benefits in this regard. Given these promises, the commercial launch of Visa‘s new blockchain cross border payments platform assumes importance.

A promising partnership for the sake of cross-border payments

Visa is utilizing its core business systems along with a key blockchain offering from IBM. Visa B2B Connect uses Hyperledger Fabric, the popular enterprise blockchain framework on the IBM Blockchain Platform.

Hyperledger Fabric, or “Fabric” as it’s commonly called, is a framework for permissioned blockchain networks. It’s a project from the Hyperledger Consortium, which is hosted by the Linux Foundation.

Fabric enables controlled access, moreover, it scales well. This open-source framework has a modular architecture, therefore, it’s easier to implement. Fabric offers “channels” to protect the privacy of confidential transactions, moreover, there are “Hardware Security Modules” (HSMs) to secure digital signatures.

Implementing an enterprise blockchain network can be hard, however, the IBM Blockchain Platform provides open-source tools, making it easier to implement Fabric. IBM has had significant success stories with this platform, e.g., TrustChain for supply chain assurance in the jewellery industry.

Visa B2B Connect will benefit from the distributed ledger of Fabric, moreover, it will also be able to guard sensitive information like banking transaction details. This is important in a highly regulated industry.

Good days ahead for corporate cross-border payments?

Visa expects to reduce the cost of corporate cross-border payments by simplifying the processes, moreover, the company expects to improve transparency. The company will initially cover 30 global trade corridors, however, they expect to cover 90 before 2019 ends. We need to wait and watch how this promising blockchain cross border payments platform helps corporate cross-border payments.

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Walmart joins IBM, KPMG, and Merck in blockchain drug-tracking pilot

Walmart, one of the leading American retail companies, has joined technology pioneer IBM, KPMG, and Merck in a new development aimed at providing tracking of pharmaceutical products through blockchain technology.

This collaboration is not the first time Walmart and IBM are joining forces, as the two are official partners on a blockchain food-tracking project as well. In the 2018 report on the FoodTrust project, IBM concludes that food-tracking has become several times faster for Walmart, reducing the time necessary to receive information about a given product form a week to no more than three seconds.

The collaboration regarding pharmaceutical tracking comes soon after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) started approving similar platforms for government-supervised pilot-programs.

One of the main goals of the new blockchain tracking system is to reduce or even eliminate current inconsistencies in the management and supervision of stock in the pharmaceutical industry. The essence of this new system will allow companies and suppliers to automatically receive information about their inventory and the progression of shipments and deliveries.

This is the second pharmaceutical pilot for Walmart, as the company already partners with MediLedger on a similar project. The significant difference between the IBM project and MediLedger is that the first is using the Hyperledger technology, while the second one is entirely built on Ethereum.

For Eric Garvin, co-lead at MediLedger, Walmart’s participation in both pilots is not a problem. According to him:

Many pharma companies are participating in multiple pilots.

Blockchain is rapidly entering the pharmaceutical world, with innovative tracking solutions like the Hyperledger and MediLedger’s system. This means that another one of the largest industries in the world is becoming more and more accepting of the capabilities of this new technology.

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Hyperledger Fabric-powered identity solution launches in Brazilian banking sector

Brazil’s Camara Interbancaira de Pagamentos (or Interbank Payment Clearing House, CIP) has launched a blockchain-based identity platform in collaboration with IBM, Cointelegraph reported.

Called “Device ID,” the solution has been developed using Hyperledger Fabric. It will reportedly see participation from nine local banks and will be integrated into the Brazilian Payment System (SPB).

Speaking at CIAB Febraban on June 11, Bradesco VP Mauricio Minas had confirmed that local banking institutions were going to introduce a blockchain-based platform.

The objective is to protect against financial crime and unauthorized use of the financial system. The solution will allow authenticating and verifying digital signatures using mobile devices.

“Brazilian banks have been studying blockchain technology applications for a long time, but they weren’t all together. So we decided to create a group and unify all actions, which is very important to achieve standardization to all banks,” Joaquim Kiyoshi Kavakama, director of Febraban, Brazil’s national banking association, said. “We are now in the forefront when it comes to blockchain.”

Kavakama said the solution will allow sharing of information between the partner institutions, Convengencia Digital reported. In an interview with CDTV, he said that the initiative has received investments of R$3 million from CIP.

The governance of the network will be jointly managed by CIP and Febraban and other banking associations, and there will be a steering committee to manage operational and tactical issues.

Earlier this month, Rodrigo Maia, the President of the Chamber of Deputies of Brazil, ordered to set up a special commission to deliver an opinion on a bill that aims to regulate cryptocurrencies in the country.

Meanwhile, blockchain startup Ripple recently launched its operations in Brazil in a bid to expand its footprint in South America.

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IBM, Hyperledger Blockchain ID System for Banks Launches in Brazil

CIP, a facilitator of Brazilian banking and financial infrastructure, has officially launched its blockchain ID platform via a partnership with IBM using Hyperledger Fabric, Cointelegraph Brazil reported on June 12.

The identity solution, dubbed “Device ID,” will see participation from nine banks, and is reportedly integrated into Brazil’s domestic clearing system, the Brazilian Payment System (SPB).

Its aim is to authenticate and verify digital signatures using mobile devices, ostensibly to guard against financial crime and unauthorized use of the financial system.

“Brazilian banks have been studying blockchain technology applications for a long time, but they weren’t all together. So we decided to create a group and unify all actions, which is very important to achieve standardization to all banks,” Joaquim Kiyoshi Kavakama, director of Febraban, Brazil’s national banking association, commented. He added:

“We are now in the forefront when it comes to blockchain.”

The platform had already come to light during its development phase, with Brazil’s biggest bank, Bradesco, confirming it would receive an official launch this week at the CIAB Febraban conference.

The move comes as Brazil sees attention from within the cryptocurrency industry itself, Rippleopening a dedicated office this week ahead of plans to expand further into Latin America.

At the same time, authorities remain vigilant about malpractice within the space, taking down a notorious fraud scheme involving 55,000 investors last month.

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Brazil Central Bank Debuts IBM Blockchain Interbank ID System on Hyperledger

CIP, a facilitator of Brazilian banking and financial infrastructure, has officially launched its blockchain ID platform via a partnership with IBM using Hyperledger Fabric, Cointelegraph Brazil reported on June 12.

The identity solution, dubbed “Device ID,” will see participation from nine banks, and is reportedly integrated into Brazil’s domestic clearing system, the Brazilian Payment System (SPB).

Its aim is to authenticate and verify digital signatures using mobile devices, ostensibly to guard against financial crime and unauthorized use of the financial system.

“Brazilian banks have been studying blockchain technology applications for a long time, but they weren’t all together. So we decided to create a group and unify all actions, which is very important to achieve standardization to all banks,” Joaquim Kiyoshi Kavakama, director of Febraban, Brazil’s national banking association, commented. He added:

“We are now in the forefront when it comes to blockchain.”

The platform had already come to light during its development phase, with Brazil’s biggest bank, Bradesco, confirming it would receive an official launch this week at the CIAB Febraban conference.

The move comes as Brazil sees attention from within the cryptocurrency industry itself, Rippleopening a dedicated office this week ahead of plans to expand further into Latin America.

At the same time, authorities remain vigilant about malpractice within the space, taking down a notorious fraud scheme involving 55,000 investors last month.

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Brazilian Banks to install a new identity management system based on HyperLedger

Brazilian banks have reportedly decided to implement a new standardized Hyperledger Fabric blockchain identity solution.

On June 2, the country’s central bank, CIP and IBM’s co-developed, identity solution, was integrated into the Brazilian Payment System (SPB). Banks and other financial institutions in the country typically use this payment system.

The intention of designing this new blockchain platform is to verify and authenticate users’ bank accounts digital identities. To do that, SIM card information and individual’s mobile phone together with other personal data sourced, are used.

Institutions can use the secure ID recorded from combined data to authenticate access credentials.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that both the central bank and IBM expect to launch a new bank-focused blockchain platform on June 11 during CIAB Febraban — the main Latin American banking technology event.

After its launch, the platform will become the first multi-institution blockchain-powered banking solution.

Recently in May, Banco Bradesco, a prominent Brazilian bank was involved in a trade finance deal with Marco Polo blockchain network, an enterprise blockchain consortium. Bradesco is one of the leading Brazilian banks as it has a $49.1 billion market capitalization and $338.2 billion worth total assets.

Since February, there has been an increasing development of digital ID platforms that are based on blockchain across various corporate and banking sectors worldwide.

Source: https://cointelegraph.com/news/brazilian-banks-to-implement-new-hyperledger-powered-digital-id-platform

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