Hyperledger and Enterprise Ethereum Alliance Join Forces In Enterprise Blockchain Boost


Symbolic coins of the Eretheum digital crypto currency on a metal surface. Both sides showing.

Initial coin offering and cryptocurrency markets may be stuck in a doldrums, but the enterprise blockchain space continues to plow new ground with Hyperledger and Enterprise Ethereum Alliance announcing a new collaborative framework on Monday.

Hyperledger, the umbrella project for open source distributed ledger technology frameworks such as Fabric and Sawtooth, and EEA – a standards body promoting the adoption of Ethereum by businesses, have respectively joined one another’s organization, with the shared goal of driving mass adoption of blockchain among businesses and fostering greater collaboration across the two communities.

“This is a time of great opportunity,” said Ron Resnick, executive director of the EEA, said in a statement. “Collaborating through mutual associate membership provides more opportunities for both organizations to work more closely together.”

The new arrangement will facilitate greater cross-pollination among the leadership and communities of the respective organizations. For instance, Hyperledger developers who join EEA can participate in EEA certification programs, and EEA members working on specifications and standards can work on Hyperledger to help implement those standards.

“Great open standards depend upon great open source code, so this is a natural alliance for both organizations,” Hyperledger executive director Brian Behlendorf said in a statement.

With Hyperledger serving as a storehouse for numerous DLT codebases and EEA focused on helping to adapt Ethereum for enterprise use, the announcement largely codifies collaborative work that has already been occurring in an informal capacity.

“There are already several organizations that belong to both Hyperledger and EEA, and good relationships among those in leadership positions,” said Amber Baldet, founder of Clovyr, a decentralized app store, and former blockchain lead at JPMorgan Chase who has been closely involved in both groups.

“It makes sense to work together toward the common goal of solving real business challenges with decentralized technologies.”

Burying the hatchet?

The new partnership also figures to put to rest the narrative that EEA and Hyperledger are in a knife fight with one another for enterprise blockchain supremacy.

While this may have been true in the past, explained Casey Kuhlman, CEO of Monax, it is not indicative of the current state of play:

“Historically, under previous leadership, the EEA seemed to view itself as being in competition with Hyperledger. I must say that was under previous leadership of that body.”

Monax became one of the first companies to join both organizations in early 2017.  An Ethereum-based contracting platform, it submitted a codebase to Hyperledger for incubation that eventually was eventually rolled out as Hyperledger Burrow – which is an Apache-licensed implementation of the Ethereum Virtual Machine bytecode interpreter. Support for the EVM is also now available on other Hyperledger frameworks like Fabric and Sawtooth. 

“My hope with this announcement is that the market will more keenly understand that asking ‘Will you use Hyperledger or Ethereum?’ for a particular use case is a nonsensical question – on both sides of the equation,” Kuhlman added. 

Bob Summerwill, a developer who has been involved significantly in both projects, concurred. “We are really seeing the bridging of a chasm which has existed for nearly three years – mainly in people’s minds, but that misunderstanding has been impactful in itself,” he said. 

“They were never directly competitive, but it looked that way to some people because the participants did not have a very broad overlap in their Venn Diagrams.”

Springboard for enterprise adoption

This new collaborative model featuring an open source codebase and third-party standards organization, which brings more vendors of choice and a certification program, figures to smoothen the onramp for companies looking to deploy blockchain but find themselves overly-hesitant to commit due to concerns over interoperability and vendor lock-in.

“I talk to biggest companies in the world, and they love the idea of what has been patterned in other market segments,” Resnick told Forbes. “What I typically get is: ‘We love it, we want to be part of it.’ Bringing in Hyperledger, all it does is build greater confidence among these enterprises.”

As such, the news is an indicator that the lines between permissioned blockchains and open, public blockchains are beginning to blur, and that enterprise blockchain could be the driving narrative of 2019 after taking a backseat to public blockchain momentum over the last 18 months – though further work on specifications and certifications is still required. 

Baldet predicts that leading incumbent institutions will be moving ahead with blockchain pilots over the next six months, though these will largely be focused around improving existing business process through mutualizing infrastructure and data sharing.

“The truly disruptive uses of blockchain technology, however, won’t happen until the vast majority of smaller businesses who can’t afford the high cost of experimentation now can begin to work together to challenge industry leaders.”

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