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Open source unleashes blockchain's enterprise potential

Fahmida Y. Rashid | Dec. 18, 2015
Move over, bitcoin -- the Linux Foundation has big plans for an open distributed ledger system to track and record all sorts of transactions beyond currencies.

But blockchain can be used for a wider range of applications because the ledger provides transparency and accountability for every single transaction. It can help companies manage the flow of goods and related payments, let manufacturers share production logs with OEMs and regulators to reduce product recalls, help governments provide public records like vehicle registration, and allow systems to track individual device transactions.

"It's the list of things we can't even imagine that is going to make this technology transformative," Zemlin said.

Everybody has to chip in

Establishing an open distributed ledger demands a cross-industry, open source collaboration to advance the technology so that everyone can benefit from the underlying architecture. After all, there are significant overlaps in requirements across various use cases. Different groups have developed their own forms of distributed ledger systems, but the Linux Foundation can coordinate between different groups across multiple industries to combine development efforts. The collaboration will also identify and address important features and currently missing requirements.

"Even beyond building out standards, creating common code will allow organizations to focus on creating industry-specific applications that enhance the value of this technology," said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director of IBM Research.

There is a "lot of hard code that needs to be written" to create the underlying project, which can then support robust, industry-specific applications, platforms, and hardware systems. The collaboration will solve the underlying technology problem and free up developers to work on specific use cases.

Companies that want to build products and other technologies using blockchain need a strong foundation. Having a common underlying general architecture is incredibly beneficial. Zemlin likened the open ledger project to the Linux kernel, and how code submitted by the mobile device maker to save power and extend battery life can wind up benefiting servers in a large data center. "You are going to see that kind of unexpected innovation and cross-pollination with this project," Zemlin said.

The ultimate measure of the project's success will be the quality of the actual source code and the kind of applications that can be built on top of the codebase. The Linux Foundation plans to release the source code under Apache License v2.

Some of the code has already been written, and while Zemlin refused to commit to a specific release date or timeline, he expects the source code to be available on a public GitHub repository "very soon."

"I love this project mainly because it has all the makings of an open source success," Zemlin said.


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