What is Hyperledger Fabric?
Hyperledger is an enterprise-grade, open-source distributed ledger framework launched by the Linux Foundation in December 2015. Within the Hyperledger framework, Fabric, a highly-modular, decentralized ledger technology (DLT) platform, can be deployed for industrial enterprise use.
Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) are terms often associated with cryptocurrency; however, we see them as a technology that solves major problems in the areas of distributed data and applications. To put it broadly, DLT is the general term for the technology and blockchain is one specific implementation type of DLT.
DLT technology has been used successfully to implement production-ready, distributed business applications that automate trust through transactions. The technology also enables secure data sharing between multiple businesses.
There are different definitions of DLT. Some are technical and sophisticated, while others are simple, but incomplete. One of the more accurate descriptions can be found on Wikipedia:
- A distributed ledger (also called a shared ledger or distributed ledger technology or DLT) is a consensus of replicated, shared, and synchronized digital data geographically spread across multiple sites, countries, or institutions. Unlike with a distributed database, there is no central administrator.
- A peer-to-peer network is required as well as consensus algorithms to ensure replication across nodes is undertaken. One form of distributed ledger design is the blockchain system, which can be either public or private.
Peer-to-peer networks and distributed database concepts are not new and there are plenty of mature implementations and products available (e.g., P2P file sharing, modern Distributed DBMS).
Peer-to-peer networks enable distributed application architecture that runs loads and tasks among peers. Those peers are equal participants in the application, and they form the so-called peer-to-peer network of nodes.
On the other hand, distributed database stores data across different physical locations, computers, or interconnected computers. Usually, distributed databases require central control and management.
The key breakthrough with DLT is that there is no need for central administration and the data is distributed across the network participants who operate their own network nodes. In other words, there is no central point of control and failure. This concept is extremely important when we use DLT and blockchain technology in the real business world where secure, consistent, and traceable transactions are key to success.
What value will Fabric DLT add to my business?
What is the value of DLT compared to solutions based on other technologies? Let’s focus on a few key problem areas that DLT can help solve.
If you have trust issues in your business partner network, DLT is a great solution. The DLT applications probably won’t be required to replace existing systems, but instead integrate and work together. A trust issue doesn’t necessarily mean there is no trust among partners or nodes in a business network; it can be a data-related problem where one party receives incorrect information from the other party. In those cases, it is difficult for the receiving party to validate the truthfulness of the received data.
For example, when a company pulls a credit report for a customer from their credit bureau partner, the quality of the received data is not guaranteed and the receiving party has no easy way to validate the consistency of the data. Frequently, companies implement complex and expensive business processes to mitigate those cases – for example, using manual audits and verification.
If there is a struggle to trust the data exchanged within a business network, a DLT-based solution is a great approach!
Transparency and Traceability
Business partners use their own internal software stack based on systems and applications provided and maintained by their software vendors and it is often impractical to have those systems integrated. Most of the solutions and concepts we currently use to make systems talk/exchange data are complex and expensive to implement and maintain (i.e., ETL, Web APIs, message queues, etc.). A single and simple bug in the communication chain may bring production systems down and significantly harm business network operations. One of the major problems in such cases is that business partners lack transparency on the business transactions and data being impacted.
The root cause of the transparency and traceability issue is the missing mechanism of performing deterministic and finite transactions within a business network. A DLT application where the network nodes are owned and operated by the participating partners can deliver full, real-time transparency and traceability of the transactions and data exchanged.
In other words, transparency and traceability are provided and embedded within the DLT technology itself. Best of all, a DLT business network won’t need long and expensive audits. The consistency and transparency of the data is in place in the instant the transaction is committed in the distributed ledger.
DLT has the potential to add value to a variety of industries and operations. A business network is not necessarily only an external network connecting partners; it could also be used internally where data needs to be verified and validated within a single organization. Here are a few industries where DLT could be useful:
- Supply Chain – Build a supply chain network with real-time data on the orders, shipments, deliveries, and payments.
- Healthcare – Securely share patient, research, or any other sensitive data among the participants of a single network.
- Telecom – Enable secure sharing of sensitive customer or business data; use cases include both business-to-business and business-to-consumer.
- Public Sector – Improve government operations and collaboration with the private sector.
- Digital Identity & Privacy – Store and keep private any personal data. Enable users to give consent before the data is shared with participants in the network.
Why choose Hyperledger Fabric over the alternatives?
Hyperledger is an open-source community, focused on developing a suite of stable frameworks, tools, and libraries for enterprise-grade blockchain deployments. Hyperledger hosts the most prominent open-source projects under the Linux foundation. Hyperledger Fabric is one of the most popular projects under the Hyperledger hat.
Hyperledger Fabric is intended as a foundation for developing applications or solutions with a modular architecture. Hyperledger Fabric allows components, such as consensus and membership services, to be plug-and-play. Its modular and versatile design satisfies a broad range of industry use cases. It offers a unique approach to consensus that enables performance at scale while preserving privacy.