Blockchain. Unless you’ve managed to escape the mania surrounding the crypto-craze, chances are you’ve heard of it. Bitcoin – its most favoured child – occupies daily headlines and trading within crypto-exchanges has never been more popular. But, while the mainstream media focuses on keeping up with currency fluctuation, the real substance is the underlying technology.
The Promise of Blockchain
Blockchain is a continuously-growing, publicly-available list of digital transactions, which are linked and secured using cryptography. Touted as a solution to virtually every payment system problem, the technology facilitates the secure transfer and payment of digital money, managed by a peer-to-peer network of computers.
The technology has gained traction within the business world due to its benefits over traditional payment systems, such as increased visibility, rapid transaction processing, reduced costs, and, perhaps most important of all, decentralisation.
Instead of transactions being at the mercy of governments, financial institutions, big tech companies and credit bureaus – all of whom have access and control to your money and information – all data is public, visible, and most importantly immutable.
Blockchain Allows for Pseudonymity
While transparency is a core element of the blockchain technology, in that transactions are recorded and visible to everyone – it does provide pseudonymity. Digital wallets are identified only via the wallet’s public key, and the key is not connected to a person’s or company’s identifiable information, such as name or address. This allows participants to transact privately and reputably with data remaining secure.
A payment process works like this:
- A virtual transaction is requested
- A peer-to-peer network of computers verifies and time stamps the transaction
- The transaction is recorded to a “block”
- The new block is chained to a previous block using cryptography (hence blockchain)
- The new blockchain is then distributed to the entire network
- Every node’s copy of the blockchain is updated
- The transaction exists in the public domain
- No identifiable information is publicised in the process
In a business sense, upending existing, centralised payment models to increase transaction transparency, reliability, and security is a no-brainer. But it also has a more general business role: as an irrefutable and immutable record, it can track just about anything of value.
But the incentives for dipping into crypto don’t stop there.
The Power of the Blockchain Name
The acclaim of blockchain has reached such a dizzying height that the mere mention of the technology can drive up company value. This was demonstrated most recently when Long Island Iced Tea Corp. shares rose as much as 289% as a result of the New York-based company rebranding itself Long Blockchain Corp.
And it’s not the first example of this type of behaviour. In fact, it’s just the latest in a near-daily phenomenon sweeping the stock market, where obscure companies – including makers of juice, sports bras and sofas – reorient to focus on some aspect of blockchain, to rocket-propel their share prices.
Beware of Blockchain Bias
However, according to experts, these companies should be exercising a little more caution. This type of behaviour has been likened to the dot-com boom, and respective bust, some twenty years ago. At the height of the boom, an organisation could simply announce its ambitions of becoming an internet company, without any real aspiration, and watch their share prices soar.
Today the parallels are striking, but this warning has not discouraged cloud computing companies investing in the technology.
Blockchain in the Cloud
Current Blockchain solutions
Cloud giant Oracle was among the first to offer a blockchain cloud service as part of their platform-as-a-service offering. Microsoft and ConsenSys entered a partnership to create Ethereum-blockchain-as-a-service (EBaaS) on Microsoft Azure. Rubix, by Deloitte, provides solutions for clients to understand and capture the power of blockchain for their businesses. IBM made code available to the Linux Foundation’s open-source Hyperledger Project to help developers easily build secure distributed ledgers. And, most recently, CRM monolith Salesforce announced their intent to join the blockchain revolution by creating a new proprietary blockchain currency.
While all these decisions helped to cement blockchain as a technology already integrated within the cloud industry, Salesforce’s decision to announce a native blockchain currency has redefined the expectations of blockchain in the cloud and generated a whole heap of interest in the process.
Many have ridiculed the company for not embracing existing solutions, both in terms of blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. But others have praised the decision, as it raises the profile of blockchain technology and provides an alternative payment method that adds value, security and visibility for the consumer.
The Future of Blockchain and Cloud
Whichever way you cut it, it’s a decision that marks a new level of blockchain influence. In contrast to the rest of the field, which has focused on creating the tools needed for programmers to develop crypto apps, Salesforce has laid down a blockchain marker. This move is one that lets their consumers purchase infrastructure in a secure form of currency and one that is bound to have a profound impact on the future of the market.
Whether or not the native blockchain solution that Salesforce is touting takes off, or whether existing cryptocurrencies will continue to grow and eclipse the value of any proprietary coin, remains to be seen. However, what we can say for certain is that blockchain technology, while still in its formative stages, is here to stay.