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Blockchain needs Linux-style open community to succeed in the enterprise, says IBM CTO

Matthew Finnegan | Oct. 7, 2015
"For any kind of blockchain technology to prevail it has to be open: it has to be built around a community where this is a governance model, similar to the governance model with OpenStack Cloud Foundry, Docker and Linux," says Jerry Cuomo.

blockchain

A growing number of banks, startups, and service providers are investigating how to use blockchain technology to streamline business processes, rather than its original role as the distributed ledger for bitcoin.

But replicating the openness of Linux and OpenStack communities will be key to the success of the blockchain within the enterprise, according to IBM Middleware CTO Jerry Cuomo.

IBM recently revealed that it is working on its own blockchain system that it plans to release as open source code in future, as it seeks to spur wider adoption and cement its place with the emerging technology. And according to IBM Fellow Cuomo, adopting the approach taken by open source communities in the past will be key to its success among the wider businesses.

"Blockchain has to take a page out of the book of OpenStack and some of the communities like that," Cuomo, told Computerworld UK.

"Right now when you look at [open source blockchain startups] Ethereum and Ripple - these are LGPL [Lesser General Public License] based licences, which means that if you are to use it and use derivative works you have to give it back to the owner. That may hinder businesses' ability to do things with it."

He added: "For any kind of blockchain technology to prevail it has to be open: it has to be built around a community where this is a governance model, similar to the governance model with OpenStack Cloud Foundry, Docker and Linux."

While concerns around the use of cryptocurrencies among businesses continue, at least in some areas, more and more attention is being directed at the potential for the blockchain database to transform transaction and authentication processes.

Some of the first use cases outside of bitcoin have been targeted at financial services. 

According to Spanish bank Santander, blockchain technology could save the financial sector tens of billions of dollars a year by streamlining processes. But there is discussion that blockchain distributed ledgers could be used to authenticate anything from online voting to purchasing of digital music.

However, use of the blockchain is still in its infancy and organisations are generally looking at proof of concepts [PoCs].

Enterprise-friendly blockchain?

Cuomo says that IBM's blockchain work is seeking to create a more enterprise-friendly version of the technology that can spur wider adoption of the technology, and make it "more suitable for business".

"We have looked at all of the major open source projects out there and have done PoCs with all of them including the bitcoin mainnet, doing what they call Sidechains and building out PoCs for customers on that," he says,

"What we notice is that these are interesting technologies, but they are built on an implementation of blockchain that assumes some things that we are not so comfortable with, and we don't think that businesses - especially regulated businesses - will be comfortable.

 

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