Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Aruna Ravichandran, Cameron Van Orman

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Machine Learning , FinTech Journal

@CloudExpo: Article

The #Blockchain Question | @CloudExpo #FinTech #AI #DX #MachineLearning

One of the challenges is determining, ‘when should I be thinking about blockchain?’

The Burning Blockchain Question - Should I Be Thinking About It?

Shiny new toy syndrome. We all see it, we all experience it. Who doesn't like the shiny new toy?  Whenever a new technology hits the high points of hype, everyone starts talking about it like it will solve all their business problems. Sadly, frequently without even looking at what problem they are trying to solve. Blockchain is one of those technologies. According to Gartner's latest report on the hype cycle of emerging technologies, blockchain has just passed the peak of their hype cycle curve. If you read the news articles about it, one would think it has taken over the technology world. The reality is, as Gartner put it, that ‘most initiatives are still in the alpha or beta stages' and ‘Enterprises are still deciding how to navigate this technology.'

One of the challenges is determining, ‘when should I be thinking about blockchain?' It's a question I get asked frequently, both from the business and from technologists as well. I have heard comments as far ranged as ‘I have no use for blockchain as my business has nothing to do with bitcoin' (a common misperception I wrote about a while back Blockchain - Why its so much more than bitcoin) to ‘I want to use blockchain to replace all my database systems' (a definite case of shiny new toy reaction).The reality is, as is usually the case, somewhere in between the extremities. Let's talk about some of the things that might be reasons to think about blockchain as potential tool to help solve a business challenge.

Chain of custody
This is one of my favorite concepts when talking about blockchain. Anyone who has ever watched a police procedural understands the basic concept of chain of custody. If I have a piece of evidence, I need to ensure I can document the entire chain of people/places where that evidence has changed hands. For it to be valid evidence in court, that chain can not be broken. There can be no gap, or gray area, as to who had control at any point in time. This parallels quite nicely into the business world. You have assets, whether they be physical or digital in nature. You need to be able to adequately and reliably track those assets. If that chain of custody is important to the business, and you have had challenges being able to track that chain of custody, then blockchain may be an option. Let take a look at a couple of examples.

  • Mortgages: We are all familiar with mortgages. Banks buy and sell mortgages to each other all the time. Some of you may remember a little problem with mortgages and the economy back in 2009? One of the many problems that occurred was that some banks were selling the same mortgage to multiple other banks. Suddenly home owners had multiple banks and mortgage companies claiming ownership of their mortgage and demanding payment (I had several friends live that problem). The challenge was forensically tracking down who was the true owner of the mortgage. Chain of custody, pure and simple. There is a great blog that discusses how blockchain might have helped in that situation here.
  • Supply Chain: Ultimately, if you think about it, supply chain is all about chain of custody. I have product that originates at its point of .creation. That product moves through various channels, handled by various entities, until it reaches its destination or consumer. For any industry, knowing where that product has been, where it currently is, and where it is going is crucial, and can be a challenge. Some recent examples across industries looking at blockchain as a solution include:

Chain of events
Chain of events is similar to chain of custody and could overlap (such as in supply chain, which as well as tracking the asset, is tracking events that occur with the asset during its lifetime). I call it out separately as there are other business scenarios specific to this concept. Chain of events is exactly like it sounds, tracking a series of events where it is important to know when the events occurred, and have a trusted way of verifying the event and where it occurred in the sequence of events. For example:

  • Coursework and transcripts: There has been a lot of discussion and investigation into using blockchain to help maintain and track course work, ultimately providing the information in college transcripts. University of Texas recently did a fascinating POC in that space
  • Electronic Health Records: Probably the best example of a chain of events. Your health care is a series of events, treatments, medications, tests, etc., that are sourced from many locations. Having a way of ensuring the valid sequence of those events is a critical part of your health care. I recently wrote about how that industry is looking to blockchain as a possible way of solving the challenge.

Trust and Multiple parties
Inherent in both of the discussions above is that there are always multiple parties involved, and, due to that fact, being able to trust the information is key to the success of the system. Invariably in most systems today, all the parties have their own copy of information, whether it's a transaction, an asset, or an event. Duplication of information, discrepancy in the information, causes significant time, resources, and money being spent on reconciling and re-confirming the information.

  • This challenge is well known in the financial services world, which is why there are third-party clearing houses whose sole purpose is to validate and reconcile business transactions, providing that extra level of trust needed between parties. This is probably the most well-known and understood use case in the blockchain space. (and why many third-party clearing houses are spending a lot of time and energy on investigating blockchain)
  • I recently had a conversation with someone in the specialty pharmacy space. One of the challenges they have is that multiple entities are involved in tracking the events that occur with a customer. The simple example they gave me was verifying health insurance. Throughout the process, as each business entity processes the flow for the customer, a check is done with the health insurance for coverage. Even if that check has been done previously, it's done again, because that check was done by someone else. This is time-consuming and costly. They are looking at blockchain as a way of possibly dealing with that rework and trust issue. This falls both into the supply chain as well as the EHR both discussed above.

Technology is the vehicle, not the destination
Those of you who know me, know one of my favorite mantra's is ‘Technology is the vehicle, not the destination, figure out where you want to go first, then choose the vehicle that will get you there.' Blockchain is a fascinating technology that could potentially have transformative impact on a variety of industries. That being said, it's still just a vehicle, just a tool. When to use it should be based on business needs and goals. The scenarios I described don't mean ‘If this happens you should use blockchain.' They are meant to be guidelines as to when you might want to be considering blockchain as the possible vehicle. As technologists, it's our responsibility to help the business understand what vehicles and tools are available, and what the tradeoffs involved are. I am thankful to have blockchain as one of those tools and options available to me. Where it goes is still up in the air, and time will tell if it is transformational or not.

More Stories By Ed Featherston

Ed Featherston is VP, Principal Architect at Cloud Technology Partners. He brings 35 years of technology experience in designing, building, and implementing large complex solutions. He has significant expertise in systems integration, Internet/intranet, and cloud technologies. He has delivered projects in various industries, including financial services, pharmacy, government and retail.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@MicroservicesExpo Stories
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, will discuss some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he’ll go over some of the best practices for structured team migrat...
As people view cloud as a preferred option to build IT systems, the size of the cloud-based system is getting bigger and more complex. As the system gets bigger, more people need to collaborate from design to management. As more people collaborate to create a bigger system, the need for a systematic approach to automate the process is required. Just as in software, cloud now needs DevOps. In this session, the audience can see how people can solve this issue with a visual model. Visual models ha...
We all know that end users experience the Internet primarily with mobile devices. From an app development perspective, we know that successfully responding to the needs of mobile customers depends on rapid DevOps – failing fast, in short, until the right solution evolves in your customers' relationship to your business. Whether you’re decomposing an SOA monolith, or developing a new application cloud natively, it’s not a question of using microservices – not doing so will be a path to eventual b...
Enterprises are adopting Kubernetes to accelerate the development and the delivery of cloud-native applications. However, sharing a Kubernetes cluster between members of the same team can be challenging. And, sharing clusters across multiple teams is even harder. Kubernetes offers several constructs to help implement segmentation and isolation. However, these primitives can be complex to understand and apply. As a result, it’s becoming common for enterprises to end up with several clusters. Thi...
Containers are rapidly finding their way into enterprise data centers, but change is difficult. How do enterprises transform their architecture with technologies like containers without losing the reliable components of their current solutions? In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Tony Campbell, Director, Educational Services at CoreOS, will explore the challenges organizations are facing today as they move to containers and go over how Kubernetes applications can deploy with lega...
Today most companies are adopting or evaluating container technology - Docker in particular - to speed up application deployment, drive down cost, ease management and make application delivery more flexible overall. As with most new architectures, this dream takes significant work to become a reality. Even when you do get your application componentized enough and packaged properly, there are still challenges for DevOps teams to making the shift to continuous delivery and achieving that reducti...
Transforming cloud-based data into a reportable format can be a very expensive, time-intensive and complex operation. As a SaaS platform with more than 30 million global users, Cornerstone OnDemand’s challenge was to create a scalable solution that would improve the time it took customers to access their user data. Our Real-Time Data Warehouse (RTDW) process vastly reduced data time-to-availability from 24 hours to just 10 minutes. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Mark Goldin, Chief Technolo...
Is advanced scheduling in Kubernetes achievable? Yes, however, how do you properly accommodate every real-life scenario that a Kubernetes user might encounter? How do you leverage advanced scheduling techniques to shape and describe each scenario in easy-to-use rules and configurations? In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Oleg Chunikhin, CTO at Kublr, will answer these questions and demonstrate techniques for implementing advanced scheduling. For example, using spot instances ...
Digital transformation leaders have poured tons of money and effort into coding in recent years. And with good reason. To succeed at digital, you must be able to write great code. You also have to build a strong Agile culture so your coding efforts tightly align with market signals and business outcomes. But if your investments in testing haven’t kept pace with your investments in coding, you’ll lose. But if your investments in testing haven’t kept pace with your investments in coding, you’ll...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Michael Burley, a Senior Business Development Executive in IT Services at NetApp, will describe how NetApp designed a three-year program of work to migrate 25PB of a major telco's enterprise data to a new STaaS platform, and then secured a long-term contract to manage and operate the platform. This significant program blended the best of NetApp’s solutions and services capabilities to enable this telco’s successful adoption of private cloud storage and launchi...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm. In their Day 3 Keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, a Solutions Marketing Manager at Nutanix, and Mark Lav...
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to w...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Academy has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloud Academy is the leading technology training platform for enterprise multi-cloud infrastructure. Cloud Academy is trusted by leading companies to deliver continuous learning solutions across Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and the most...
The last two years has seen discussions about cloud computing evolve from the public / private / hybrid split to the reality that most enterprises will be creating a complex, multi-cloud strategy. Companies are wary of committing all of their resources to a single cloud, and instead are choosing to spread the risk – and the benefits – of cloud computing across multiple providers and internal infrastructures, as they follow their business needs. Will this approach be successful? How large is the ...
Many organizations adopt DevOps to reduce cycle times and deliver software faster; some take on DevOps to drive higher quality and better end-user experience; others look to DevOps for a clearer line-of-sight to customers to drive better business impacts. In truth, these three foundations go together. In this power panel at @DevOpsSummit 21st Cloud Expo, moderated by DevOps Conference Co-Chair Andi Mann, industry experts will discuss how leading organizations build application success from all...
DevSecOps – a trend around transformation in process, people and technology – is about breaking down silos and waste along the software development lifecycle and using agile methodologies, automation and insights to help get apps to market faster. This leads to higher quality apps, greater trust in organizations, less organizational friction, and ultimately a five-star customer experience. These apps are the new competitive currency in this digital economy and they’re powered by data. Without ...
A common misconception about the cloud is that one size fits all. Companies expecting to run all of their operations using one cloud solution or service must realize that doing so is akin to forcing the totality of their business functionality into a straightjacket. Unlocking the full potential of the cloud means embracing the multi-cloud future where businesses use their own cloud, and/or clouds from different vendors, to support separate functions or product groups. There is no single cloud so...
For most organizations, the move to hybrid cloud is now a question of when, not if. Fully 82% of enterprises plan to have a hybrid cloud strategy this year, according to Infoholic Research. The worldwide hybrid cloud computing market is expected to grow about 34% annually over the next five years, reaching $241.13 billion by 2022. Companies are embracing hybrid cloud because of the many advantages it offers compared to relying on a single provider for all of their cloud needs. Hybrid offers bala...
With the modern notion of digital transformation, enterprises are chipping away at the fundamental organizational and operational structures that have been with us since the nineteenth century or earlier. One remarkable casualty: the business process. Business processes have become so ingrained in how we envision large organizations operating and the roles people play within them that relegating them to the scrap heap is almost unimaginable, and unquestionably transformative. In the Digital ...
These days, APIs have become an integral part of the digital transformation journey for all enterprises. Every digital innovation story is connected to APIs . But have you ever pondered over to know what are the source of these APIs? Let me explain - APIs sources can be varied, internal or external, solving different purposes, but mostly categorized into the following two categories. Data lakes is a term used to represent disconnected but relevant data that are used by various business units wit...