Hyperledger, the open source blockchain collaboration, has released its production-ready Fabric 1.0.
Hosted by The Linux Foundation, Hyperledger Fabric is a blockchain framework implementation and intended as a foundation for building blockchain applications. Following over a year of testing, proof of concepts and pilots, consumers and vendors of technology based on Hyperledger Fabric can now advance to production deployment and operations.
Hyperledger Fabric offers a modular architecture allowing components, such as consensus and membership services, to be plug-and-play. It leverages container technology to host smart contracts called "chaincode" that comprise the application logic of the system. The project has grown to more than 145 members since its inception, spanning various industries including finance, healthcare, the Internet of Things, credit card services, supply chain and aeronautics, among others.
Brian Behlendorf, executive director at Hyperledger, said of the 1.0 architecture: "Rather than saying every node is 100% equal, there are some nodes that are endorsers of transactions, there are other nodes that focus strictly on the ordering of those transactions in the ledger. Then there are other nodes that contribute to the consensus, but are basically mostly about providing scale – so you can have a lot of different clients reading that data and pulling it out."
Another component of the Fabric 1.0 architecture is its privacy channels. Sometimes there is a requirement to be able to share data privately between two or more participants and still get the transactional benefits and the veracity and the integrity benefits of writing things to a chain, said Behlendorf.
Fabric's private channels concept allows users to do that on a one-to-one basis, so two participants can share all the details between them, and share some other cut of the details with a market regulator that might be plugged into the network, but not with everybody else. By recording transaction signatures to the ledger, integrity can be retained in the information that was shared privately between two nodes.
Behlendorf said it's still incumbent upon companies to test this out the technology themselves and look at their own capacity planning; are they ready for a lot of the kinds of transactions they want to put on this network, "but it's a pivot point for the software, and a sense of confidence among the developers that the number of bugs, of known bugs, is low enough, the stability in the API is there; a stable platform companies can build upon for really the next few years.
"There will be updates, there will be evolution of that, but this is now something that is recommended for production use."
The release drives forward Hyperledger's goal to be general purpose blockchain tool which will span many sectors. It's about powering private networks and reimagining their potential, as opposed to running public chains with tens of thousands of nodes.
"There hasn't been really specialisation or a sense of this will work better for the medical industry, or for certain types of financial transactions," added Behlendorf. "This is really based on IBM and other companies going out and selling this to their customer base across a large base of different sectors.
"It probably maps more closely to the transaction networks that are out there today. Most transaction networks are comprised of dozens to hundreds, sometimes thousands, of different independent actors: think of a stock exchange, or think of a health information exchange.
"Most of those kind of networks are actually architected as hub and spoke networks, where everyone has got APIs that call into some central service run by an organisation of some sort, who then answers those questions, brokers data between the different parties and ends up being a cost on the overall network because they have to scale up as the central system.
"A distributed ledger gives us the chance to go into those kinds of business networks. There is still a role for the middlemen; there is still a role for a central market actor to set the terms under which all of us work together to define the technology stack that we use to talk to each other. And maybe to play policemen from time to time, as a kind of private market regulator perhaps, but not to have to be operationally the hub at the centre of this market place."
Other interesting things in the pipeline include Hyperledger Indy, a platform for building identity networks. It provides tools, libraries and reusable components for digital identities rooted in blockchains so they are interoperable across administrative domains and the like.
"We have been looking at distributed identity networks which allow for the kind of things that you see with the national ID system in India, or other countries, and yet allow for that in a decentralised way. Do it in a way that also protects personally identifiable information so that the individual is in a position to decide when and with whom their personal data is shared," said Behlendorf.