IBM Couples Docker Containers to Blockchain Database

IBM is employing Docker containers to make it easier for IT organizations to consume a blockchain service being hosted on IBM Cloud.

Launched this week at the IBM InterConnect 2017 conference, IBM decided to deploy an implementation of the HyperLedger Fabric software developed by The Linux Foundation as a Docker container running on IBM LinuxOne, a distribution of Linux that runs on an IBM mainframe, says Jerry Cuomo, vice president of blockchain technologies for IBM. In addition to making it easier to deploy a blockchain database, the Docker container exposes a standard set of Docker application programming interfaces (APIs) that can be invoked as an isolated microservice. To help construct those microservices, IBM has developed Fabric Composer to enable IT organizations to model business networks, create APIs and craft user interfaces.

As a distributed database, Cuomo notes, HyperLedger Fabric creates an opportunity to create a single system of record inside many organizations. Each block in that database has a time stamp and link to a previous block, which in effect creates an immutable ledger that can underpin any number of applications. Any subset of those records then can be exposed as a microservice via the Docker APIs, he says.

While blockchain databases are still on the bleeding edge in terms of actual deployments, IBM noted it has more than 400 blockchain projects in development. Cuomo says key to the projects is reliance on an open-source project in the form of the HyperLedger Fabric being developed by hundreds of vendors.

IBM is betting that soon there will be broad adoption of a database that makes it feasible to securely build a wide range of new types of applications based on what it describes as trusted transactions. Key to that security is an ability to onboard new users and entities using a SecureBoot facility as well as encrypt those records using a cryptographic engine embedded on a mainframe. Cuomo says the need for a mainframe is dictated by the combination of processing encryption within the context of a distributed database that needs to support large volumes of transactions. IBM claims its implementation of HyperLedger Fabric can process 1,000 transactions per second.

Adoption of HyperLedger Fabric might very well accelerate adoption of Docker containers across the enterprise. In time, many of the transaction processing applications that are at the core of many enterprise IT environments will be re-engineered using Docker containers to run on a distributed blockchain database. Cuomo notes that the challenge many of those IT organizations will face is building and deploying applications that require a significant amount of collaboration across multiple organizations to implement. That approach will present significant issues in terms of how those applications are both developed and maintained, as each application needs to be deployed across a distributed IT environment spanning multiple organizations, says Cuomo.

It may be a little while before blockchain databases get distributed across the enterprise. But the one certain thing: Wherever those databases show up, container applications based on Docker will not be very far behind.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.

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