Although much of the initial excitement for blockchain technology centered around bitcoin and financial services, it’s quickly showing applicability to other areas for increased business value.
For example, Walmart has invested in blockchain to improve its supply chain operations. In initial tests, the retailer says the technology reduced the time it takes to track food as it moves from farms to stores — from six days to two seconds.
That’s all due to the decentralized nature of blockchain. It’s often referred to as a distributed consensus model, consisting of nodes or blocks of encrypted information. Each node contains the exact same data and transaction history, and that information is secured with cryptographed hashes and digital signatures.
Combined in a shared peer-to-peer network, the nodes create a distributed ledger system where each node has equal rights. Furthermore, they are not dependent on each other; if one node leaves the network, the others still function because they have the same secured data.
The savings result from not having to deal with intermediaries or third parties, such as servers, which transmit the info back and forth, waiting for authentication and verification each time.
Blockchain + storage
Now, apply this model to data storage. By decentralizing storage, it no longer exists on a server, rather across a network of shared ledgers, each containing the same encrypted data.
From a security standpoint alone, this has significant ramifications. Data breaches and hacks have typically focused on a centralized database — either on premises or in the cloud. Once the database or server is hacked, business is at least temporarily brought to a halt. In the blockchain model, if an attacker was able to breach one node, the others would still function, and so business continues. The same principle applies if there is a power outage.
That said, when large volumes of data in the storage chain must traverse and sync each node in the network, although secure and resilient, the process can be slow. This scaling issue is now being worked on, according to Vitalik Buterin, the creator of Ethereum, an open-source blockchain platform. In a blog post earlier this year, he addressed the need for scaling as being “more and more clear and urgent.”
Despite the need to overcome capacity and scaling issues for storage, the belief is that it’s only a matter of time. Raphael Davison, Worldwide Director for Blockchain at HPE, recently said: “I truly believe blockchain will disrupt the exchange of value as fundamentally as the internet has disrupted the exchange of information.”
To that end, some of the biggest names in technology are investing heavily in blockchain and are already seeing customer results. For example, HPE’s blockchain solutions — including Mission Critical Distributed Ledger Technology and HPE Pointnext — are running workloads at enterprise scale.
In the storage space, HPE is working with partners to offer innovative blockchain solutions. Its ProLiant microservers are behind Minebox’s peer-to-peer cloud storage network that is powered and secured by blockchain technology.
You can find out more about blockchain and its possibilities at HPE Discover, which takes place from June 18 to 21, where there will be at least a dozen sessions on the topic.