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Blockchain Trends Disrupting IT and DevOps Industry

Blockchain trends continue to influence innovations happening around the world. Blockchain technology has made inroads into the mainstream in the last year. Bitcoin has been adopted by large banks and governments, including the Middle East and Africa, where technology penetration has been very limited. As a result of its adoption by financial institutions, blockchain has become almost synonymous with financial technology (fintech) in the minds of many people. Blockchain is a bit of a no-show in the world of technology, even outside of fintech.

However, the blockchain has many other applications, both with and without financial transactions.

What is the Blockchain?

The blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that powers cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin as well as platforms such as Ethereum. It offers a method for recording and transferring data that is transparent, secure, auditable, and resistant to outages. Organizations that use this technology can become more transparent, democratic, decentralized, efficient, and secure. It is expected to disrupt many industries over the next 5 to 10 years.

Payments and Banking, Information Security, Management of the Supply Chain, Prediction, The Internet of Things and Networking, Insurance, Ride-Sharing, and Private Transportation, Storage in the Cloud, Generosity, Voting, Administration, Medical Care, Energy Administration, Online Music, Retail, Real Estate, and Crowdfunding are some of the other industries that are already suffering.

Blockchain is already changing IT operations

Blockchain technology is already influencing these three key components of computing infrastructure:

  1. Data storage
  2. Data processing
  3. Communications

The projects will transform computing’s three core elements: storage, processing, and communications.

Processing

Processing, one of the first industries to be disrupted by blockchain, has the most mature ecosystem.

CPUs and graphics processing units (GPU) handle processing logic (including modern, cloud-based distributed processing) in traditional computing, in collaboration with high-performance processing algorithms, models, and tools like MapReduce, Spark, and TensorFlow.

Hyperledger Fabric and Ethereum

Ethereum revolutionized blockchain by allowing users to run transactions other than financial transactions on a blockchain, and it underpins many of the other options described below.

Blockchain in smart contracts— this novel idea was conceived by Ethereum that introduced smart contracts to the blockchain frameworks. To handle logical processing and verification, many blockchain-based projects today use Ethereum or something based on it.

Hyperledger is made up of eight different tools and projects. It’s difficult to know which to use where, but you should start with Hyperledger Fabric, which provides foundations for identity, privacy, and processing, and then build components on top of it. The good news is that the Hyperledger project as a whole is geared toward enterprise users, and the tooling reflects this.

For example, Ethereum can operate as a public or private blockchain, whereas Hyperledger Fabric is only available as a private blockchain. It provides a selection of enterprise-friendly programming languages for smart contracts, whereas Ethereum employs its own JavaScript-like language. It also allows you to define your definitions of “consensus” and “currency.” That may appear to contradict blockchain purists’ principles, but widespread adoption must occur.

Computing at high speeds

Blockchain’s decentralized nature should make it ideal for massive-scale processing systems, but its current design limits scaling.

Golem and iEx.ec, ambitious projects that aim to create decentralized supercomputers or cloud computing without vendor lock-in, are still in their early stages.

TrueBit is an attempt to address this issue by offloading consensus to specific computers in a network.

The project’s website is sparsely detailed, but it has published a TrueBit whitepaper that explains how it might work.

Storage

Storage is a major area where blockchain is causing havoc. Several provide a viable option for large-scale storage, though they share some of the blockchain issues discussed above.

Traditional computing storage is divided into two categories: file storage and database storage. Both camps have a plethora of options, ranging from projects for individual desktop machines to large-scale storage projects like HDFS, S3, MongoDB, and Cassandra.

Among the key projects currently underway are:

Storage of files

InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) is a project that combines storage and communication. IPFS is a fairly mature application with a developed ecosystem. It was one of the early applications that looked at blockchain in a new light.

Unlike the HTTP protocol, which downloads a single file from a single machine at a time, IPFS downloads file fragments from multiple decentralized machines at the same time. It’s similar to torrenting in some ways, but with additional ideas thrown in, such as Git. It’s a promising technology with considerations for convenient file naming and solid use cases built-in. Client libraries are available for JavaScript, Python, Swift, C++, and other programming languages. The project team is working hard to make IPFS use as simple as possible.

Swarm is an Ethereum component that functions similarly to IPFS but handles file communication and storage. It does not provide such an easy way to get started, but if you are already researching Ethereum for its other components, read the documentation for more information.

Databases

BigchainDB is one of the more intriguing approaches, allowing an existing database (MongoDB and RethinkDB) and a blockchain layer to focus on what they are both goods at. This provides you with provable large-scale storage with a long track record, as well as the accountability and transaction support that blockchain provides. The project has been in development for some time, but it does not claim to be ready for production.

Communication

TCP/IP and HTTP, two venerable protocols, underpin the vast majority of online communication, with additional protocols and models built on top of those. Although blockchain will not replace either protocol, some projects are working to develop standards for communication among blockchain-based applications.

This is especially beneficial for competing organizations that are developing their applications. However, some members of the community believe that this deviates from the technology’s original intent and that standard method for keeping blockchains aware of each other are needed.

The following are the most important blockchain-related communication protocols and projects:

Interledger protocol

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The Interledger Protocol (ILP), developed by payment solution Ripple, aims to connect different cryptocurrencies but not more general blockchains. It abstracts individual wallets, payment gateways, and banks, allowing developers to create connectors between them.

Cosmos

Cosmos aims to create an “Internet of blockchains” for broader blockchains. That’s a significant task, and the team raised $17 million in a half-hour through an initial coin offering (ICO).

Polkadot

The concept of parachains was introduced by Polkadot. While Cosmos focuses on a token exchange, Polkadot focuses on transaction finalization. Consider it similar to maintaining state in a distributed application. Parachains facilitate communication between blockchains but cannot complete transactions.

Interplanetary Database (IPDB)

IPDB is built on top of BigchainDB to provide a “network of databases.” Recognizing that blockchain projects are becoming more centralized, it wishes to encourage its users to store data in a governance model with no single owner or caretaker. A bold statement, but technical implementation, as well as the enthusiasm of private data holders, have yet to be defined.

These blockchain trends and projects also affect the IT operations:

There are a few other projects that, like Ethereum, fall into multiple categories. Here’s a list of a few of them.

  • Project Bletchly, in conjunction with Azure’s blockchain as a service, is Microsoft’s approach to blockchain networking, consensus, databases, and virtual machines.
  • Scuttlebot is a peer-to-peer log store that can be used for messaging as well as a basic database. It’s not a blockchain application, but the concept is similar.
  • Several businesses have created their forks of projects to include the features they require. JPMorgan Chase’s Quorum, for example, is an Ethereum fork that adds privacy and other consensus mechanisms.
  • Plasma is a new proposal that aims to address the core issues with scalability and speed in the blockchain. Consider it a simplified version of Polkadot, but one that connects state chains.

Blockchain is expanding. That is no longer news to us. What is surprising, however, is the rate at which this popularity is growing with each passing year.

According to a report published by Global News Wire, the blockchain market, which grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 35.2 percent in 2017, is expected to grow at a CAGR of close to 69 percent by 2025. Indeed, given its origin as one of the most disruptive technologies of 2020, the sudden increase in the percentage of Chief Intelligence Officers looking to incorporate blockchain into their organizational infrastructure may not be a coincidence. This brings us directly to the role of DevOps in Blockchain.

The culmination of DevOps and Blockchain

As you may be aware, DevOps is a collaboration of the development and operations teams during the creation, evolution, and expansion of the software. It is concerned not only with the initial coding phase of the process but with the entire product lifecycle, from running diagnostics and testing to operations and final deployment.

Bringing DevOps to the forefront to enable it to work in tandem with blockchain technology was considered nothing short of a brainwave at the time. And, the benefits of this combination became clear pretty quickly.

Say what you will about it, but it has played a significant role in the growth of several businesses as a result of these benefits.

The following are a few of the benefits that contributed to this success.

Decentralization

The data required to be transmitted to peers on your team or to a team working alongside yours to build a carefully created and optimally tested software is frequently much larger than your regular files. This makes the transfer more difficult and risky than usual.

However, when working on a decentralized network, such as a blockchain, the need for data sharing is automatically eliminated. This is because this chain is not only secure, but also completely transparent, and thus can be viewed by all parties involved. It also works to improve process quality by reducing the likelihood of miscommunication and misinterpretation.

Data Recovery

Blockchain is known to work in conjunction with Google Cloud Platform’s Cloud Spanner, which, among other benefits, offers the excellent option of import and export functionality. This allows users to complete even larger database restorations in hours rather than weeks.

This ensures that blockchain does not have to worry about growing datasets any longer than it did when it first started. It also eliminates the need to consume the entire chain from its point of origin to the current transaction.

Smart Contract Automation

Smart contracts are simply programs that are stored on a specific blockchain and run themselves as soon as a pre-established concern or condition is met. For example, crypto grid trading bots, which are frequently used for automated cryptocurrency trading, make use of such smart contracts to some extent to analyze and execute their options.

By making such functions automatic, the need for middlemen is eliminated, and all participants in the transaction can immediately gain an idea of the result without wasting time.

Logging Without Errors

Even if you are not in command of the chain or any of its nodes, gaining access to the logs that are constantly recording each action and transaction is a significant accomplishment. This is because detailed entries are sometimes the only way to figure out what an application is doing or how efficiently it is working.

As a result, the importance of these systematic rosters in Blockchain-based networks is critical to the overall success of software.

Troubleshooting

Testing is considered essential whenever an application is coded, regardless of the highly capable person who worked on it. This is because you do not want a buggy product with your name on it to enter the market. It could negatively impact the brand’s image and also its position. These could affect sales and product usage in the long run.

As a result, testing occurs at multiple stages before deployment, and if done through the blockchain, it can easily help determine which node the error occurs and not merely looking at a mistake through a myopic lens of pessimism.

Conclusion

Is it safe to assume that blockchain-based technologies will soon be replacing and managing today’s compute, storage, and communications technologies in IT?

Most likely not right away.

Despite some community members pushing for standards and collaboration, one of the most significant issues with blockchain technology is the number of projects competing to solve the same problems. For those technologies to become viable, they must each focus on resolving the issues that are preventing them from becoming widely adopted.

However, IT Ops professionals would be wise to keep a close eye on this space. Once those issues have been resolved, you may find yourself considering blockchain-based alternatives for replacing compute, storage, or communication technology in your enterprise.

[To share your insights with us, please write to sghosh@martechseries.com]

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