Whether you've participated in the trademarked fruit punch, everyone can agree that one of the biggest blockchain exporters these days is hype. It seems that this method of archiving and organizing data is the perfect answer for everything. Some call it the next internet. Others say it's the answer to all your database and IT security needs. If you listen to enthusiasts, then it's better than night baseball. (But it's not: nothing is better than night baseball, except perhaps afternoon baseball.)
As an IT manager, you're likely to be inundated with questions from others in your organization, wondering if a blockchain solution should be distributed. Or maybe complain that you have not already done so. And of course everyone wants a blockchain strategy, and they want it yesterday.
So, to start things on the right foot, let's start with the strategy question. An easy way to answer because it will always be "no". Not because you do not want blockchain, but because the question does not make sense. The engineer does not tell the captain how fast the ship will travel. The captain understands where he is going and then tells the engineer to set an appropriate speed.
What Is Blockchain?
Start the process that way, like any new technology, and contrary to marketing hype, blockchain is not magical. It is essentially an accounting method; in this case, a distributed ledger. The exaggeration would say that blockchain is somehow safer than other types of storage, which is safer, or that it is more reliable. None of these statements is true.
When implemented correctly, a blockchain is a collection of information organized in blocks. Each of these blocks is created through a process of solving a cryptographic puzzle that depends, in part, on the value of the previous block in a chain. This ensures that you can not change the contents of a block because this would change the encryption value, which, in turn, would affect the values of all other subsequent blocks in the chain.
So, well done, the content of the distributed ledger can not be changed once written. And this is further assured by the distributed nature of the blockchain, which means that there are many copies of the blockchain and all must be agreed. Furthermore, it is assumed that a blockchain is configured so that entries are only sent by authorized users and that, once published, they are verified as correct.
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Common Blockchain Myths
But those are a lot of "if". In some blockchain applications, in particular, the blockchain used to define Bitcoin's cryptocurrency, the process of creating a Bitcoin guarantees the accuracy of the ledger. But it is important to know that, just because there is a blockchain voice, this does not mean it is correct.
This is complicated by the fact that a blockchain can be much more than a financial instrument. The blocks in the chain can contain any type of information, including programs and data. This is one of the reasons why it has been suggested that blockchain is the next big database technology.
But the flexibility of the blockchain is also its greatest risk. Because a blockchain can contain anything;
"Blockchain has no security, it's just a general accounting app," said George Waller, CEO of Blocksafe Technologies, which manufactures security products for blockchain implementations.
"The myth is that the blockchain is secure and while the blockchain is immutable, the access to it is not," Waller said. Instead, he said that the blockchain used by your business must be at least as well protected as your company's network, if not more. "It could be catastrophic if a hacker reached him," he said
Waller said that a particularly worrying scenario is the malware that is somehow placed in the blockchain, at which point its greatest strength – the fact that it is immutable – it becomes its greatest weakness. It is worried that too many organizations are implementing blockchain without implementing adequate access controls and adequate security.
Approach with caution
But all this does not mean that using a blockchain is automatically a bad thing. If you need a way to store data of any kind so that it is protected, but also immediately available to anyone who is authorized to view it, then using a blockchain makes a lot of sense. You just have to remember that it's not a silver bullet. Making blockchain correctly means that you have to spend some time planning before making the move. You have to decide exactly what you plan to use it, who will have access to it, how you will check that access and, above all, how you protect it.
A good way to get started is to work with a supplier who not only has real experience, but can also provide the necessary support to help you in the whole development process and beyond. IBM, for example, has a blockchain platform and a staff of trained professional services. In the case of IBM, you can use it with IBM Cloud (previously, IBM / SoftLayer).
So, the next time you're asked about your IT blockchain strategy, remember that you do not need to look for an answer. As with any other key technology, IT strategy is secondary to business strategy, so just ask the question. What is their blockchain strategy ? What do they expect to do with a blockchain? And why should it be blockchain and not some other data management method? Blockchain can be powerful and extremely useful, but just like everything else, it has its strengths and its risks. You need to look at both sides of the equation before jumping on the wagon cart