6 min read
Although Bitcoin might not be quite as widespread as some once thought it would be, blockchain — a technology invented to support it — has emerged as an unlikely agent of change.
Outside of cryptocurrency, blockchain is used in a number of industries, including medical, financial, and security.
Here, we'll learn what blockchain is, what it can be used for, and how it's transforming enterprises from the inside out.
While it may sound complicated, blockchain is actually based on a fairly simple concept. It accomplished its original purpose of tracking transactions between Bitcoin users by recording data in individual "blocks" that were linked together in a chain. Thus, blockchain was formed.
Essentially, blockchain is a type of digital ledger. You can think of blockchain like a self-updating spreadsheet. Unlike normal spreadsheets, however, the information that blockchain contains is both public and verifiable, and it's also not stored in a single location, thus making it nearly impossible to corrupt.
"[Blockchain] really is as simple as it sounds. It is a ledger, like used for accounting purposes. The key detail of a ledger is that you can't go back and change a single item without having to rewrite the entire ledger. This proves useful when dealing with regulatory bodies as the amount of work required to falsify information is immense. The distributed part of the definition is critical to business processes in that it ensures high availability and redundancy for cases like disaster recovery. The final piece is it being shared."
Scott also mentions in an interview with TechRepublic that, while "the concept of a ledger has existed ever since accounting was created," blockchain has introduced an incredibly "important detail to light," which is "the concept of irrevocable proof." Essentially, since blockchains are transparent and public, they are able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that something occurred as well as when it occurred.
It isn't hard to imagine why it might be useful for enterprises to have a fully transparent and incorruptible ledger. However, organizations that are involved in industries with regulatory requirements can find blockchain technologies to be particularly valuable.
As Scott says, "the core concept of irrevocable proof is ultimately what people want out of a blockchain solution."
Additionally, blockchain technology acts as a smart contract platform. Scott explains in an article for DZone that although blockchain wasn't originally designed to be a smart contract platform, it can function as one, nonetheless.
"To be plain and simple, it is a mechanism for ensuring that software runs, is completely audited and can be proven that it ran, in addition, to identify what it actually produced. This can be any function of code to do some type of work when triggered to run (Function as a Service)."
Finally, since no single person can own or control a blockchain, the implementation of blockchain technology requires that a system of consensus be implemented as well.
"Within the enterprise, consensus may look a lot like voting, or even a request for approval and a sign-off approving a said request. It could be a group vote where a quorum is required or even something more like a two-thirds vote."
As the DZone article illustrates, developers also reap a specific set of benefits from blockchain:
Luckily for MapR customers, the MapR Data Platform makes it easy to use blockchain technology.
As the Dataversity article explains, one MapR client relies on its technology stack as part of its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) solution, which Scott says is "a vast topic for privacy and proof of information." He goes on to say that "this is exactly the type of problem blockchain assists in solving." The article elaborates:
"A consensus workflow implemented atop a MapR-ES (Now called MapR Event Store) distributed ledger can provide proof of history for auditing purposes, logging that consent to an individual's data to use for marketing [that] comes from that person's email address."
Another client of ours uses blockchain to provide its users with incontrovertible evidence that their security logs are properly managed, maintained, and accounted for.
Additionally, since blockchain can also provide a clear history of employee history, HR systems can greatly benefit from it as well.
In the end, there are hardly any enterprises who wouldn't benefit from blockchain. As Scott puts it,
"I think you can literally just continue with use case after use case. If a company finds it useful to require an irrevocable history of transactions then blockchain is applicable."
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