Enterprise blockchain created a lot of buzzword. However, its adoption was slow due to technical complexities, operational overhead, challenges in maintenance of the infrastructure and lack of skilled resources. These challenges acted as deterrents to adoption of enterprise blockchain for a while, until many small and large cloud providers jumped into offering BaaS solutions.
Customers can build, deploy and use their own blockchain applications and chaincode on blockchain using Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) offerings. All the necessary activities and tasks like scalability, infrastructure agility and infrastructure operationally are taken care by the cloud service provider. Indirectly it is boosting a lot in terms of blockchain adoption. Many cloud vendors have included blockchain service as there PaaS offering.
The cloud service provider take care of the blockchain infrastructure for you, in return to subscription and usage fee. Cloud service provider will take care of the setup and maintenance of your blockchain network, connected nodes and all the complexity of blockchain infrastructure for you and your customers. With all the complexity of blockchain network setup and maintenance, security, performance and scalability being shift to cloud service provider, you can concentrate on building distributed applications using chaincode (smart contacts)
Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) is a blockchain platform that hosts a consumer’s blockchain applications and solutions. The blockchain platform (BaaS) provider, for a fee, handles the setup, maintenance, and support of the blockchain infrastructure. It is a boost to businesses and entrepreneurs as it offloads a lot from customers and allows them to focus on identifying use cases and developing blockchain applications and solutions. Things such as network availability, scalability, performance, and so on stay with the service provider.
Blockchain touches on a wide range of audiences, which includes architects, designers, developers, enthusiastic evangelists, business and process owners, IT strategists, and economists. In addition, BaaS, being a full-stake cloud-based solution, empowers entrepreneurs, enthusiastic evangelists, enterprises, and so on to grasp the potential of DLT and blockchain in a timely and efficient manner. BaaS is turning into a true catalyst to expand the adoption of DLT and blockchain.
The following are some of the qualifying factors to look at when choosing a BaaS provider:
- Standard: These include the following:
- Solution provider is an established cloud provider?
- Baas provider has blockchain platform based on industry standards?
- Baas Solution is compatible and interoperable? Is it interoperable with other ledgers too?
- Quick setup: Does it allow for the quick provisioning of a blockchain network?
- Integration and other service offerings: These include the following:
- Does the BaaS platform support REST proxies for integrating OBP with SaaS, PaaS, and other on-premises applications?
- Does data security, integration services, and object/document storage are offered as services by the BaaS Platform?
- Are containers and compute and storage services, offered as services by the solution provider?
- Security and privacy: These include the following:
- Does BaaS provider offer integrated identity management and security?
- Does it take care of privacy, data partitioning, and private channels?
- Is it resilient: These include the following:
- Does BaaS solution offer high availability?
- Are backup and disaster recovery solution provided?
- Does the solution offer enhanced performance (both blockchain network and consensus)?
- Smart contract/chaincode—deployment, versioning, standards, auditing, and testing: These include the following:
- Does BaaS provider offer the deployment of chaincode in standard languages such as Java and Node.js?
- Is rollback to the previous version of chaincode allowed by the solution?
- It offers/support tools to test chaincode?
- Does the solution provider team have a credible development community and do they contribute to the main blockchain community example hyperledger fabric community?
- Eat your own pill: Does it offer applications on the marketplace and build on its own BaaS?
- Monitoring: Does it offer transaction monitoring and dashboards?
BaaS use cases
To keep it simple, BaaS solves cost, efficiency, and transparency challenges. It allows the business to explore, experiment, experience, and then engage in blockchain. It takes away the intricacies of implementation and allows the business to focus on the core. It’s analogous to an aged whiskey. You can trust its manufacturer and pay for it to enjoy it. You do not need to get into the details of where it was manufactured, under what conditions, how it was treated, and so on. Blockchain enables product provenance.
There is an explosion of ideas around use cases, which can be advantageous for DLT, and blockchain and BaaS will drive the wave in the adoption of DLT and blockchain, thereby realizing and fulfilling these ideas for enterprises, customers, and entrepreneurs. Following are few use cases that can be addressed by leveraging BaaS:
- Prowess (education and profession): A ledger of prowess can act as a single source of truth for certificates, assessments, skills, and so on. It offers prowess ownership, full authority on the asset (certificate, transcripts, skills, evidence, and so on), and offers a solution to fully track and trace an individual’s certificates, skills, and knowledge. There are various use cases beyond certificates. For example, while hiring someone, organizations need authentic and trustworthy information about the credentials of an applicant. A ledger of prowess will offer the ledger that holds the applicant’s certificates, skills, experience, expertise, and other relevant reports, immutably. In addition, as these records are immutable, even the applicants cannot fabricate it to meet specific job requirements. We easily calculate the risk involved in hiring an applicant who has fabricated his/her skills.
- Supply chain: A ledger of supply can act as a single source of truth for asset management, procurement, product life cycle management, logistics, provenance, fraud detection, and so on. It can go beyond the provenance (tracking of products) to a full life cycle of SCM on blockchain.
- Government: Government agencies hold citizen data and various other kinds of sensitive information. The sensitivity quotient poses security and privacy risks. Blockchain’s public repository, along with hashing, cryptography, and other proven technologies, can take care of hacking, data modifications, loss of information, and so on. A ledger of trust can take care of citizen rights, votes, donations, and so on. A voting platform with ledger of trust can ensure fraud-free voting and fraud-free counting, and check vote rigging. Results are quick and the entire exercise of executing elections can be made cost-effective, timely, and trustworthy. A ledger of unique identity (UID) can digitize secure identity management.
- Real estate: A ledger of ownership can act as a truth for the ownership of properties, ease the listing of properties, allow the transferral of ownership in minutes, reduce the cost of listing properties, and so on.
- Healthcare: A ledger of wellness can evolve as a truth to track patient and doctor information. This will take care of drug counterfeits, secured and controlled exchange of information such as prescriptions and medical history, and so on. The current system stores medical information in silos with massive restrictions on sharing and its usage. A ledger of wellness will lead to storing information on an immutable and secure ledger, where discrete stakeholders have access to it based on their privileges.
- Blockchain and its chaincode can automatically keep audit and track an individual’s health and history, and can even allow patients to monetize their medical records for research, which is a huge gain for humanity.
- Insurance: A ledger of assurance can be a source of truth from policy sales to settlement, which includes sale of a policy, maintenance of a policy (renewals, terminations, adjustments, and so on), claims, evaluation and evidence, and settlements. This will eliminate cumbersome processes, reduce third-party involvement, allow for faster settlements, and so on.
- Intellectual properties: A ledger of IP can be a proven source for patents and trademarking of IP; it reduces IP abuse, ensures IP owners receive credits and monetary benefits for their IP, and so on.
- Fintech: A ledger of affluence can be the base for cross-broader payments and faster B2B transactions. It eliminates reconciliations, infuses trust among traders, and so on. It can also be used for clearing and settlements, trade finance, KYC, and AML.
- Other industries: These can use BaaS as well, and they are as follows:
- Travel: It can be used for passenger processing, travel trace and tracking, single source of truth for passenger identity, and so on. With critical documents being on the ledger, passport forging, pass-through, illegal immigration, and so on can be checked.
- Humanitarianism: It can be used for charity, donations, and so on.
- Transportation: The use cases include track, trace, and so on.
- Oil and gas: It can be used for freight management, payments, shipments, and so on.
- Analytics: I’m pushing analytics as a horizontal industry here, as I believe in the quote: Where there is data, there is analytics (Vivek Acharya). Referring to the aforementioned example on Healthcare—patients trying to monetize their medical records also serves humanity a lot. If that happens, it needs an efficient analytics platform to make sense of the blockchain data. Other than that, transactional data on ledgers can lead to greater insights. Blockchain, along with AI, can lead to better forecasting, effective predications, and answers to business and end-users questions in real time.
Key advantages of BaaS
BaaS is a platform with a magnitude of features on the top of a platform such as Hyperledger Fabric. Using BaaS offerings, customers can create networks and channels and build and deploy chaincode and dApps. Cloud service providers take care of the mundane necessary activities such as infrastructure agility, scalability, and operational efficiency. Customers can focus on building applications and chaincode. Adoption of blockchain is catalyzed with BaaS providers. Such cloud service providers like Oracle, IBM etc. are playing a major role in it.
With Blockchain Cloud Service Platforms, you don’t need to bring your own security, identity management, container management, admin console management, infrastructure, HA, and recovery. It is all with the cloud service provider. The following are a few of the key advantages of BaaS:
- Fast provisioning
- Ease to configure
- Quick on-boarding of members
- Embedded identity management
- Enhanced security and confidentiality
- Efficient development and testing
- Enhanced integration with processes and applications
- Better performance and scalability
- High availability and operational resilience
- Excellent scalability
- Decouples infrastructure from the customer’s primary task of developing smart contracts and applications
- Allows customers to explore the magnitude of possibilities with their legacy applications and business processes.
BaaS offers a lot on top of its base (also known as its core) example Hyperledger Fabric (base). Enterprise needs to build chaincode and benefit from Hyperledger Fabric; they need to set up the Hyperledger Fabric infrastructure, handle its prerequisites, and configure and maintain it. Enterprises needs to ensure the integration of the installed Hyperledger Fabric environment with a security stake. They should also manage the life cycle of all of the containers. They needs to handle the patching and upgrades. Also need to ensure the system’s huge availability, performance, business network management, and so on. BaaS solution are based on Hyperledger Fabric.
With BaaS Platforms, enterprise’s responsibilities to set up, manage, and maintain the blockchain platform will shift toward BaaS provider. Enterprise can continue to focus on building work class blockchain applications and solutions. Future is of enterprise blockchain and BaaS are going to be the drivers. Stay tuned for next blog on advance BaaS topics.