Everything you needed to know about hyperledger technology

June 29, 2018
Chris Wheal

Hyperledger is the collaborative effort across a broad number of sectors to advance cross-industry blockchain technologies. It is not a company, a currency (crypto or otherwise) nor is it a blockchain. It is essentially a hub for open industrial blockchain development.

Hyperledger is a global collaboration hosted by The Linux Foundation and includes leaders in finance, banking, Internet of Things (IoT), supply chains, manufacturing and technology.

Why is hyperledger technology important?

Blockchain technology itself is changing, and will continue to radically change, how we transact with businesses and organisations. Essentially a blockchain is a peer-to-peer distributed ledger in which transactions made in bitcoin or another cryptocurrency are recorded publicly and ordered.

The theory is that transactions via blockchain are accountable, transparent and swift, streamlining business processes and legal procedures. Retailers, data-sharing networks, micro-currencies, and decentralised digital communities are all able to operate within the blockchain system.

However, to support the blockchain technology so it can operate transparently, smoothly and securely, an Open Source, collaborative software development resource is necessary. This is where hyperledger comes in, communities of software developers building blockchain frameworks and platforms.

How long has hyperledger been around?

Hyperledger launched in 2016 with 30 founding corporate members. Initially, the Hyperledger Technical Steering Committee accepted two business blockchain framework codebases into incubation: Hyperledger Fabric, a codebase combining work by Digital Asset and IBM; and Hyperledger Sawtooth, developed by Intel.

Hyperledger Sawtooth was developed by Intel. Credit: Shutterstock

Hyperledger Fabric allows components, such as consensus and membership services, to be plug-and-play. Hyperledger Fabric leverages container technology to host smart contracts called “chaincode” that comprise the application logic of the system.

Hyperledger Sawtooth is a modular platform for building, deploying, and running distributed ledgers. These ledgers provide a digital record (such as asset ownership) that is maintained without a central authority.

“The vision for Hyperledger is to be a business blockchain umbrella”.

Brian Behlendorf, Hyperledger executive director.

Over the remainder of 2016 and 2017 seven more business blockchain codebases were added and membership grew to nearly 200.

For instance, Iroha was designed to be simple and easy to incorporate into infrastructural projects requiring distributed ledger technology.  Iroha was initially contributed by Soramitsu, Hitachi, NTT Data and Colu.

Burrow executes Ethereum EVM smart contract code (usually written in Solidity. Burrow was originally contributed by Monax and co-sponsored by Intel.

Indy is a distributed ledger, purpose-built for decentralised identity. It provides tools, libraries, and reusable components for creating and using independent digital identities rooted on blockchains so that they are interoperable across administrative domains, applications, and any other ‘silo.’ The Indy code base was introduced by the Sovrin Foundation.


Tangible benefits

  • In the finance sector, Hyperledger helps to ensure streamlined settlement, improved liquidity and increased transparency.
  • In healthcare, it helps increase data flow, liquidity, reduce costs and improve patient experience and outcomes.
  • For supply chains, Hyperledger technology enables service provision and parts to be tracked efficiently. It also helps ensure authenticity of goods, blocking counterfeits.
  • Businesses, due to protection laws and regulation on confidentiality of personal data, insist on the need for privacy of certain data. This can be achieved through data partitioning on the blockchain.

As Brian Behlendorf, Hyperledger executive director explains the most valuable role Hyperledger can play is to: “Serve as a trusted source of innovative, quality-driven open source software development community; creating modular, open source components and platforms; all focused on distributed ledger and smart contract technologies.”

He argues that if Hyperledger can forge a brand that is widely seen as the accepted default ‘safe’ deployment platform for enterprise teams; and be seen as a great home for active collaboration around new technologies, then those behind the project could claim ‘mission accomplished’.

Effective collaboration

Of equal importance, Hyperledger is in a position to address one of the biggest challenges open source blockchain efforts face – that is the tremendous rivalry amongst developers. On the one hand this rivalry can be healthy but it can make sharing codes or constructively tackling common obstacles very difficult.

Even if the result is less duplicated code and more time spent on improving security and other things, the tribal element can put the kibosh on progress. Consider the rivalry issue with regards to holding currency where its value is directly coupled to the software in question, or open source project brands tightly associated with commercial brands in which developers own equity – collaboration is not always that simple.

“The Hyperledger Project is gaining traction on a daily basis, displaying how vital this effort is in advancing distributed ledger technology. Uniting the industry to drive this initiative forward is paramount to the success of distributed ledger technology.”

Blythe Masters, CEO of Digital Asset Holdings,

The Hyperledger ‘hub’ can provide a solution to this by providing a consistent approach to intellectual property, establishing community collaboration standards and overall.

The theory is that Hyperledger encourages rivals to either work together or usefully differentiate. By removing barriers to collaboration, developers have the opportunity to work on common code and avoid unnecessary duplication.

Essentially Hyperledger is designed to provide a neutral community-driven infrastructure supported by technical and business governance. It also plays an important role in educating the public about the market opportunity for blockchain technology in general.

Post written by Chris Wheal
Chris Wheal is editor of OpenLedger's news and features service. An award-wining business journalists himself, he runs a team of freelance journalists from across the UK and north America.

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