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Blockchain: 'Overhyped' buzzword or real-deal enterprise solution?

Lucas Mearian | April 20, 2017
Even so, IT vendors are rolling out blockchain-based capabilities, often in response to high levels of customer interest.

"We deal with data management, effectively we're backup, but eventually data management software, and data management software needs to make sure that the data is immutable and you can control access to data in some smart way," Beloussov said. "So it's about controlling access to data in a smart way."

Beloussov sees Bitcoin's use of blockchain technology as its most basic capability -- as a way to make digital objects unchangeable. But eventually he sees it having merit as a way to efficiently create smart contracts.

For example, HealthCoin is a blockchain-based database that can be used by physicians and other healthcare providers to confirm that patients are following treatment regimes to avoid complications from long-term diseases such as congestive heart failure and diabetes.

That Healthcoin network creates a marketplace for employers, healthcare plans, hospitals and life insurers to financially reward employees for taking part in proven prevention methods. Employees' actions can be tracked through wearables and rewarded with the Healthcoins, which are placed in a digital wallet.

Blockchain allows a set of users on unrelated servers to control digital records, which it calls blocks, in a distributed manner. Each block has a timestamp and is linked to a previous block, creating an unbroken chain -- meaning each block is its own unchangeable record linked to that user.

Blockchain can only be updated by consensus between participants in the system, and when new data is entered, it can never be erased. The blockchain contains a true and verifiable record of each and every transaction ever made in the system.

 

A constantly evolving technology

Like the internet itself, blockchain's capabilities are continually evolving with new features or add-on applications. Since it is not regulated by a single control center as there might be with a system administration, there's no single point of failure. In an enterprise, theoretically, there would be no need for an IT professional to monitor security on a blockchain database.

There are several general uses for blockchain platforms. There are public blockchains, which allow anyone to see or send transactions as long as they're part of the consensus process.

There are consortium blockchains where only a pre-selected number of nodes are authorized to use the ledger. For example, a group of banks and their clearing house might use blockchain as part of the trade clearing process where each node is associated with a step in the verification process.

And, then there are private blockchains, where the ability to write to a ledger is restricted to a single organization.

Acronis' version of the distributed database software is based on Ethereum, a custom-built platform that was introduced in 2013 by developer Vitalik Buterin. At the time, he was just 19.

 

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