There’s a new buzzword that you may be hearing, both in technical circles as well as in the mainstream: Blockchain.
While generally mentioned in reference to cryptocurrency, blockchain will soon be brought up in situations outside of the news you hear of Bitcoin rocketing upwards and plummeting downwards more than your average roller-coaster. From tracking financial transactions, to the maintenance of medical records, to providing reliable tracing of products and goods from source to customer, the technology has the potential to revolutionize many of today’s industries.
So what is Blockchain?
Basically, blockchain is a growing ledger of informational blocks, each connected to that before it, and the one following, hence the block and chain parts of the name. This linking means that information cannot be altered or removed. All participants in the chain typically have access to and verify this single ledger, as part of their participation, which not only further increases the security of the information contained but avoids the issues associated with multiple centralized information ledgers, say those kept by a client, versus those kept by a manufacturer. The blockchain provides a single, immutable, source of verifiable information for those participants involved.
How are Oracle, Microsoft, and IBM Getting Involved?
As with any new data-focused technological development, one can reasonably expect that the three leading Database providers would at some point have an offering focused around blockchain. Oracle, Microsoft, and IBM have now each included BaaS or Blockchain as a Service within their platform offerings. This newer service is leveraging other parts of their more defined and mature business lines to provide blockchain services to their clients.
Microsoft Azure Blockchain Workbench
As can be inferred from the name, Microsoft’s offering focuses on the use of Azure as the backbone for developers of blockchain to launch their networks on. In their own words, it can be summed up as:
“a collection of Azure services and capabilities designed to help you create and deploy blockchain applications to share business processes and data with other organizations. Azure Blockchain Workbench provides the infrastructure scaffolding for building blockchain applications enabling developers to focus on creating business logic and smart contracts. It also makes it easier to create blockchain applications by integrating several Azure services and capabilities to help automate common development tasks.”
Microsoft includes the unique ability to associate a particular participant in the network, typically identified by an address made up of a long string of letters and numbers, with their Active Directory system, allowing the potential ability to integrate with applications utilizing AD logins. Azure Blockchain Workbench currently supports the Ethereum blockchain network, as well as Hyperledger Fabric.
Licensing of Azure Blockchain Workbench is based upon a number of underlying services and their associated costs. When a client selects workbench from the Azure marketplace, a standard template of services is deployed and the costs of those services are what define the monthly cost of workbench itself. This methodology is meant to streamline the deployment of the necessary infrastructure and service requirements in order to get a client up and running quickly and smoothly.
Microsoft offers a free Azure account for trial purposes, though it is not exclusive to Blockchain. This account includes 12 months of popular free services, plus a 200 dollar credit to use on any Azure service for up to 30 days. This account also includes over 25 services that are always free for clients.
Oracle Autonomous Blockchain Cloud Service
Oracle as well is utilizing its own cloud services as the foundation for blockchain developers. Its service includes enterprise tools specifically designed to help clients integrate their blockchain network with both Oracle and third party applications. Oracle also claims that it is the first autonomous blockchain service, specifying that it is
- Self-driving: Auto-provisioning of infrastructure dependencies, embedded backup, recovery, and monitoring
- Self-securing: Adaptive intelligence-enabled threat detection and remediation and automated security patching
- Self-repairing: Automated, high availability configuration and restart with zero-downtime patching, delivering 99.95% availability
If these features sound familiar, that’s because they closely mirror the same statements Oracle is making regarding their Autonomous Database Cloud service. Oracle has closely aligned itself with the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Project to provide clients with a complete blockchain platform. Oracle’s methodology for licensing their blockchain offer falls in line with their other current cloud offerings. Sold as part of their UCC or Universal Cloud Credits options, clients can purchase the service through the Pay As You Go, or Monthly Flex pricing structures, both based per 500 transactions.
Oracle is currently offering 300 dollars in free credits, enough for up to 30 days of usage on their various cloud products, including their blockchain offering. Actual usage time will be dependent on the cloud services chosen.
IBM Blockchain Platform
IBM’s platform is utilizing their cloud services, though IBM cites three main things that set its offering apart from the competition; Security at scale, Trusted expertise, and Network Convening power. The last of these appears unique to IBM, referring to IBM’s Blockchain Ecosystem which,
“provides companies building on the IBM Blockchain Platform a range of opportunities to access valuable new channels, exclusive strategic partnerships and innovative technology and resources to accelerate growth.”
IBM has been actively engaging with partners as part of their blockchain strategy. They recently announced that a total of 94 companies have joined the Tradelens blockchain shipping solution, developed as the result of a partnership between IBM and Maersk.
As with Oracle, IBM’s Blockchain Platform is also based on the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Fabric.
IBM licenses their Blockchain Platform through subscription plans at two levels, Starter and Enterprise. Both of these levels involve two pricing aspects, the Membership fee, and the Peer fee. The Membership fee is required and covers the creation of organizations which hold a copy of the ledger and validate transactions. The Peer fee covers each additional node that also holds a copy of the ledger and validates transactions. The Starter membership is intended for Test and Development purposes, while Enterprise is intended for Pilot and Production purposes.
IBM is offering 500 dollars in trial credits when customers sign up with their Starter Plan. These credits can be used against a client’s network and represent approximately 30 days’ worth of usage under the default configuration. Once the credits have been used, clients have the option to continue with the Starter Level plan and those associated charges, or move to the Enterprise Plan.
Miro can help you plan and execute your blockchain subscription purchase at the best possible price with the right terms and conditions for your organization and business needs. Contact us today to learn more.