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Five years ago, the topic of conversation at nearly every tech holiday party was blockchain, blockchain, blockchain. VCs, CTOs, and CIOs had visions of cryptocurrencies and industry disruption dancing in their heads. But some saw potential for the technology to be applied to the enterprise, not as a disruptive force, but one that could facilitate greater levels of collaboration and trust than ever before. To achieve the levels of performance and scale needed for enterprise use, new approaches to blockchain consensus were needed.
Around this time, IBM recognized the need for a blockchain platform that was suited for use in the enterprise and could be used in highly regulated environments. Our research and software organizations collaborated to begin developing this kind of platform. As we prepared to introduce our platform to the market, a discussion ensued about whether the platform should be open sourced. We recognized that to succeed, a blockchain platform whose nature was intended to be decentralized could not also be proprietary.
We worked with the leadership at the Linux Foundation on a proposal for a new blockchain platform that was supported by industry leaders in banking, securities, healthcare, manufacturing, supply chain, regulatory bodies. Hyperledger was launched five years ago with a mission to “advance blockchain technology by identifying and addressing important features for a cross-industry open standard for distributed ledgers that can transform the way business transactions are conducted globally.”
By all measures, Hyperledger’s first five years have been a roaring success. Following its launch, it was the fastest growing project hosted by the Linux Foundation, growing from an initial cohort of 21 sponsors to well over 200 from a wide variety of industries around the globe in a few short months.
Exponential growth from an active community
Since its inception, Hyperledger grew quickly with the help of an active, openly governed community. From its initial project — Hyperledger Fabric, contributed by IBM and arguably the most widely adopted enterprise blockchain platform — it has grown to 16 top-level and 38 labs projects.
The over 100,000 commits and 16 million lines of code represent collaboration of hundreds of individuals from dozens of companies large and small.
The milestone achievements of Hyperledger are too numerous to list here, but even in its fifth year given all the challenges this year has brought, the community is still delivering significant innovation:
- Formal release of Hyperledger Fabric 2.0 earlier this year, and the project’s second long-term support (LTS) release, Hyperledger Fabric 2.2
- Graduation of Hyperledger Besu, a Java-based Apache 2.0 licensed Ethereum client
- Incubation of Hyperledger Cactus, an integration/interoperability framework for enterprise blockchain
Real-world implementations of Hyperledger
The Hyperledger Vendor Directory lists 57 vendors delivering Hyperledger Fabric-based solutions, and there are 20 Hyperledger Fabric Certified Service Providers (CSP). These companies are all deriving real value from Hyperledger Fabric and using it in their solutions. It’s now the top open source framework for enterprise blockchain.
The use cases for blockchain are almost limitless, with uses in healthcare, supply chain, pharmaceuticals, financial services, digital identity and learning credentials. With the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, there was even more urgent interest in using blockchain for credentialing and supply chain management.
- we.trade is a blockchain platform created jointly by 12 major European banks to reduce friction and ease the trading process for participating companies. we.trade worked with IBM to develop a solution using Hyperledger Fabric to reduce the friction involved in cross-border trade.
- IBM worked with Walmart and a collaborative network of growers, processors, wholesalers, distributors, manufacturers, retailers, and others, to develop IBM Food Trust, a solution for enhancing visibility and accountability across the food supply chain. IBM Recently expanded that solution to other industries thru an IBM Blockchain Transparent Supply offering.
- Maersk and IBM collaborated on development of the TradeLens It uses the IBM Blockchain Platform to offer immutability, privacy, and traceability of shipping documents.
- Telefonica used IBM Blockchain to build a B2B Marketplace based on TrustOS, a framework enabling any customer easily consume blockchain services via rest API’s. This allows their customers to rapidly integrate immutable trusted transactions into a variety of business solutions including track and trace, identity verification, token management, settlement and reconciliation
- BBVA is using Hyperledger Fabric deployed across Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Mexico, USA and Spain for blockchain applications such as Supply Chain Finance, Know Your Customer (KYC), Trade Finance from Working Capital lending to Invoice factoring to name a few.
These are just a few examples of the types of solutions enabled by enterprise blockchain technology developed in Hyperledger. Be sure to check out more of our use cases.
What’s next for Hyperledger?
Hyperledger has experienced so much progress, but there’s still plenty of innovation to come.
The need to integrate blockchain solutions running on different platforms is growing and will be a focus in the coming years. Projects such as Hyperledger Cactus will become important to enabling such integrations. Identity management will also become an important focus as we seek to integrate solutions and differing platforms; Hyperledger Aries and similar projects will become increasingly important for this area.
Further, while there are many blockchain use cases, some are still out of the reach of any blockchain-based technology because they demand performance and scale that none has yet achieved. In five years, we’ve been able to achieve so much in the Hyperledger community, so I have no doubt that we will be able to address this requirement — and many more.
If you are interested in applying IBM Blockchain to enterprise-scale problems and use cases, I encourage you to get involved in Hyperledger and help us build a secure, robust and resilient future for the distributed ledger technology.