One of the most important factors to consider when implementing a blockchain solution is the underlying platform. Choosing the right platform based on your requirements can save you a lot of time and pain down the line. This is especially true with the sheer number of different platforms available: making an informed choice is key to a successful blockchain deployment.
The first consideration is whether you want to use a public or a private network. Public networks are publicly accessible via the internet and nodes can be run by anyone. They require a payment in cryptocurrency to transact or run applications on the network. The two largest public blockchain networks are Bitcoin and Ethereum, but there are a number of second tier networks available too.
The big perk of public networks is that the infrastructure already exists so you’re only building on top of it, which can be cheaper at first as you only need to be able to access a node. However, you cannot exert any control yourself on the network, which means that any bottlenecks due to high usage will throttle your applications’ performance as well. Additionally, you need to buy that platform’s cryptocurrency to be able to use it which is simply not an option for a number of organizations.
Private blockchains, on the other hand, are run by consortia and support greater performance, finer grained permissioning and more privacy options than their public counterparts. Hence most people start with a private network. Given their consortia-driven nature, they often align with a specific industry or niche. As its name implies, a private blockchain keeps all the information on the ledger private among participants, it is not visible outside of the consortia (unlike public blockchains).
When it comes to choosing a platform that is both private and permissioned, there are three dominant platforms:
- Ethereum - Quorum and Hyperledger Besu. Used by companies like Ant Financial, BMW, General Electric, UBS, Microsoft and others.
- Hyperledger Fabric, created by IBM. Companies like Broadridge, China Construction Bank, Dole Foods, Honeywell, HSBC, and even Microsoft and Nasdaq have all developed solutions on Fabric.
- Corda, created by R3, a consortium of banks focusing on blockchain solutions. Aon is using it for their insurance operations, Daimler is tracking contracts along the supply chain with blockchain, while Credit Suisse, HSBC, and ING Group have all implemented Corda within their financial use cases to try and eliminate heavy paperwork.
In our experience, these are the platforms that the most companies are using. This is also supported by the Forbes annual Blockchain 50 list which provides an excellent grounding in which platforms are being used by the world’s largest companies.
Are there other high quality blockchain platforms out there? Absolutely! But these are the most established and widely used. Keeping to a tested, well-established platform will increase your chance of success with blockchain.
On the other hand, there are some common misconceptions surrounding blockchain platforms.
- What about this other platform? It says it is superior to Ethereum, Corda, Fabric... There will always be other platforms that claim to offer improvements on limitations with the existing platforms. However, remember that the most advanced platform doesn’t always win - Windows didn’t achieve dominance of the operating systems market because it was the most superior operating system. It’s no different here. That’s not to say you shouldn’t explore them, just be mindful of the fact that you could end up having to find and fix issues yourselves with these platforms that were addressed a long time ago in the more established offers. The platforms we’ve presented are chosen because they’re the most mature and widely used in the enterprise blockchain landscape, with significant ecosystems. This increases your likelihood of success when you choose them as your platform.
- Doesn’t the Ethereum platform use a lot of power? Public networks, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, use large amounts of electricity to reach consensus among participants, since everyone has a say. However, creating a private, permissioned network on top of Ethereum or other platforms means you can choose which members can participate in the overall consensus, which lowers the energy consumption. Additionally, the public Ethereum network is moving towards a new consensus mechanism in their Eth2 network - you can read more about that here.
Selecting the right blockchain platform for your business does not have to be a chore. By keeping it simple and staying with the most tried and trusted solutions, you can both get your platform up and running in a reasonable timeframe and maximize your chances for success.
What do you think about this choice of platforms? Please do let us know your thoughts! If you want to learn more, you can sign up for one of our upcoming Principles of Successful Blockchain Deployments Webinars. There you will learn more about what the blockchain deployment process entails.