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IBM introduces enterprise ready blockchain service

Steve Rogerson
March 23, 2017
Announced this week, IBM Blockchain is said to be the first enterprise-ready blockchain service based on the Linux Foundation's Hyperledger Fabric version 1.0. The service lets developers quickly build and host security-rich production blockchain networks on the IBM Cloud, and is underpinned by the company’s LinuxOne secure Linux server.
Hyperledger Fabric v1.0 is being developed by members of the Hyperledger consortium alongside other open-source blockchain technologies. The consortium's technical steering committee recently promoted Fabric from incubator to active state and it is expected to be available in the coming weeks. It is designed to provide a framework for building enterprise-grade blockchain networks that can quickly scale as new network members join and transact at rates of more than 1000 transactions per second among large ecosystems of users.
IBM's blockchain services are designed to help developers create, deploy and manage blockchain networks on the IBM Cloud, and the company said it was first-to-market with its high-security business network services for regulated environments.
Clients ranging from start-up Everledger to financial services companies Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ and Northern Trust are among the organisations running their blockchain applications on the IBM Cloud.
"IBM has applied decades of experience running the world's largest transaction systems for banks, airlines, governments and retailers, to build the most secure blockchain services for the enterprise," said Marie Wieck, general manager of IBM Blockchain. "IBM's blockchain services are built on IBM's high-security business network and designed for organisations that require blockchain networks that are trusted, open and ready for business."
Many think blockchain is an inherently safe technology, but blockchain networks are only as safe as the infrastructures on which they reside. IBM's network is claimed to provide the world's most secure Linux infrastructure that integrates security from the hardware up through the software stack, specifically designed for enterprise blockchains by providing:

  • Protection from insider attacks to help safeguard entry points on the network and fight insider threats from anyone with system administrator credentials.
  • The industry's highest certified level of isolation for a commercial system – Evaluation Assurance Level certification of EAL5+ is critical in highly regulated industries such as government, financial services and healthcare, to prevent the leakage of information from one party's environment to another.
  • Secure Service Containers to help protect code throughout the blockchain application, effectively encapsulating the blockchain into a virtual appliance, denying access even to privileged users.
  • Tamper-responsive hardware security modules to protect encrypted data for storage of cryptographic keys. These modules are certified to FIPS 140-2 level four, the highest level of security certification available for cryptographic modules.
  • A highly auditable operating environment – comprehensive log data supports forensics, audit and compliance
IBM also announced this week the first commercially available blockchain governance tools, and open-source developer tools that automate the steps it takes to build with the Hyperledger Fabric from weeks to days.
The blockchain governance tools make it easy to set up a blockchain network and assign roles and levels of visibility from a single dashboard. They help network members set rules, manage membership and enforce network compliance once the network is up and running.
Once set-up is initiated, members can determine the rules of the blockchain and share consent when new members request to join the network. In addition, the deployment tool assigns each network a Network Trust Rating of one to 100. New network members can view this before joining and determine whether or not they can trust the network enough to participate. Organisations can also take steps to improve their trust ratings before moving into production.
To make it easier for developers to translate business needs from concept to actual code, IBM Blockchain includes open-source developer tools for Hyperledger Fabric. Called Fabric Composer, this tool suite can help users model business networks, create APIs that integrate with the blockchain network and existing systems of record, and quickly build a user interface. Fabric Composer helps automate tasks that traditionally could take weeks, allowing developers to complete them in minutes.
IBM Blockchain for Hyperledger Fabric v1.0 is now available through a beta programme on IBM Bluemix. Hyperledger Fabric is also available on Docker Hub as IBM-certified image available for download at no cost.
IBM and Canadian company SecureKey Technologies announced they were working together to enable a new digital identity and attribute-sharing network based on IBM Blockchain. The network will be designed to make it easier for consumers to verify they are who they say they are, in a privacy-enhanced, security-rich and efficient way. When launched later this year, consumers can use the network to verify their identity instantly for services such as new bank accounts, driver's licences or utilities.