Considerations for choosing a Blockchain-as-a-Service Provider
A relatively new off-spring of the Blockchain technology, one that has begun manifesting in multiple industries is Blockchain as a service, better known as BaaS. Similar to cloud computing in concept, here vendors offer end-to-end management solutions as Blockchain service providers. If this is the first time you’ve heard of this phrase, then our beginners’ guide on the subject would do you a favor.
The science behind this ledger technology has matured to such an impressive extent that if you have a blockchain inspired business idea today, it can take off tomorrow with Blockchain as a service.
A more pressing question, however, for businesses is the criteria they adhere to for choosing a blockchain-as-a-service provider. That, friends and folks, is the topic we’ll cover today, illustrating the parameters to partner with a reputed BaaS solution provider.
*Note*: This article has been written for entrepreneurs who are planning to go solo and not partner with a Blockchain development agency. The ones who have partnered with a skilled agency wouldn’t have to worry about the choice since the agency would make a sound decision on the basis of best idea fit.
Why You Should Care About Blockchain-as-a-Service?
As things currently stand, Blockchain as a Service model is dominated by legacy IT corporations that boast an appreciable market share of cloud computing. As a result, their entry in the race to become the de facto Blockchain as a service provider of the market has been fast and furious. Their clientele majorly includes big businesses. But this status quo is expected to change. Technology is always adopted first by those closest to realizing or envisioning a future outcome.
Later, with increased consumerization, it penetrates the upper layers and becomes inclusive for everybody. In the foreseeable future, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) will realize Blockchain as a Service benefits for their bottom lines and will see blockchain creating systematic value chain for better digital economy. If you are an SME or a startup dealing in Blockchain solutions, then based on the pointers mentioned above the cost of BaaS offering would only add to your profit margins.
How to Choose a BaaS Provider?
Amongst all the ways to select blockchain as a service partner the following have been proven ironclad. The centrality of choosing a BaaS provider must revolve around them for better results:
- Top end Blockchain as a Service frameworks offer ample room for adapting to the latest technologies. For instance, Solidity is the go-to choice of Ethereum developers for creating smart contracts. But it wasn’t until Ethereum came with its proof of concept for smart contracts and adopted it, that it was recognized by the developer community. Yes, it’s hard to predict the to be or not to be of the technological future. Serving food for thought is the culmination of Blockchains with IoT, making it the Blockchain of Things. Considering such an unpredictable pace of exponential evolution, BaaS platforms should have the buffer for adopting something suited to typical Blockchain environments.
- Smart contracts integration is what makes blockchain so unique and transformative in nature. It is their ability to enforce the terms and conditions of an agreement between two parties that is so widely appreciated. The fact that they are automated and non-terminable further solidifies their application due to which BaaS platforms should readily include them in their catalogue.
- A major aspect of IT security is managing identities. The industry, therefore, perpetuates best practices for deploying Identity Access Management platforms (IAM). Our personality identifiers may be limited to data such as name, address, blood group etc. But this doesn’t hinder us from creating multiple digital identities. Think email addresses. IAM platforms give you the power to define access controls for digital identities. Blockchain Technology, in and of itself, has a strong case to hold for security. Nevertheless, BaaS platforms must install robust IAMs to provision information deemed fit for user consumption as per the access rights. Is the run of the mill employee privy to confidential business information. Certainly not. This is what an IAM platform prevents and must be one of the USPs of the Blockchain as a Service provider.
- BaaS platforms must be scalable in that they should be able to meet the demanding increase in the number of nodes as and when the business expands. But how can such a scalability issue be resolved when the blockchain is running a Proof of Stake or a Proof of Work protocol? Such a consensus feeds on heavy computational power and no matter the record of the vendors, the number of nodes in their network at any time would be finite. As a result of which it is highly recommended for you to shortlist BaaS platforms that run on Identity-based consensus mechanisms.
- If the tagline of your prospective BaaS vendor is “till death do us part”, then you’re better off keeping from them with a 10-foot pole. In other words, what will happen if at a future date you’ve had a change of mind or a venture pivot that forced you to switch between BaaS providers? One of the wisest ways to select Blockchain as a Service partner is to ink such contingency plans as part of the T&Cs.
The BaaS Platform Marketplace
The top players in the BaaS market were bound to be the ones that had their foothold in cloud services for years. With little surprises, these are the largest ICT conglomerates that are going toe to toe in order to capture the largest B2B consumer share. We’ll propound our logic while faring their services against one another, and let readers decide for themselves who is the best. Make the most of this mini-feasibility study on blockchain service providers.
Microsoft released Azure in 2010 and stemmed out its blockchain development services wing in 2016. Since then, the Microsoft Blockchain Azure platform has earned a reputation as a leader among Blockchain service providers. The relative ease and high technological sophistication have got Azure the backing of the cream of businesses that include enterprises like Ripple GE Aviation, Starbucks, 3M, Nasdaq and XBOX. Its flagship platform for developing, testing and deploying blockchain applications is called the Azure Blockchain Workbench (ABW).
- You can use ABW to push consortium blockchain applications onto the production stage with a couple of clicks, saving time on infrastructural development and directing resources towards app development. You can define the protocol of your ledgers, send member invites to increase the network and also define the permissions workflow.
- Azure cloud services extend its Azure Active Directory to allow a hassle-free sign-in procedure that is safeguarded with industry-standard identity checks. The Azure Key Vault is used to store your private keys, transmit messages to nodes connected to the network and data synchronization.
- Microsoft makes it easy for enterprises to verify the credibility of participating nodes in the network allowing end-to-end interaction of the Azure Blockchain Workbench with the ABDK, a REST API.
- The fact that Microsoft supports a number of Blockchain development platforms such as Ethereum, Quorum, Corda, and the Hyperledger Fabric makes it the default choice of most customers.
IBM hosts its BaaS platform on the acclaimed IBM cloud using the open-source Hyperledger Fabric. It offers flexibility to users for choosing their preferred type of blockchain service be it private, public or consortium.
- Their clients (nodes) can operate in any environment from public to private.
- Their ability to commercialize Blockchain ideas has been recognized by Juniper Research and HFS Research that rank IBM atop other BaaS providers.
Hewlett Packard BaaS
- Their Blockchain solution is known as the Mission Critical Distributed Ledger Technology (MCDLT) as a Service. Blockchain developers can use SQL to work on HP’s flagship Blockchain platform.
- They partnered with R3, that is a well-known DLT and Blockchain software development company and introduced a 100% fault tolerance dApp development platform. This platform is hosted on the parent company’s HPE Integrity NonStop Platform.
- Since launching operations in 2017, they have forged partnerships with Streamer and Global Blockchain Technologies. The disadvantage of BaaS as offered by HP is the Blockchain frameworks or the lack of it that it supports, wherein it offers only the Corda framework.
- SAP offers two dedicated units for Blockchain-focused businesses. First is the SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain Services that is an open Blockchain platform for cloud deployment of applications with app extension capabilities. The second is the SAP HANA Blockchain as a Service that can be used to connect SAP HANA databases to enterprise Blockchain platforms.
- Launched in 2017, SAP HANA BaaS supports Stellar Consensus Protocol (SCP) Blockchain. Its cutting edge advantage is that it can be hosted on a third-party cloud of the users’ choosing.
- SAP HANA registers network-wide Blockchain transactions in 3 types of databases namely SAP HANA, SAP Leonard Blockchain and the SAP Blockchain Platform.
- Amazon is a leading force in the BaaS marketplace. The company launched its BaaS business based on Hyperledger with two dedicated divisions, Amazon Quantum Ledger Database (QLDB) and Amazon Manager Blockchain.
- Amazon QLDB is equipped with the powering characteristics of a distributed ledger type database. Its USP lies in its transparency and immutability. The developer community shares rave reviews of the QLDB that allows them to create an application in relational and blockchain databases.
- Amazon QLDB runs its Journal ledger to track all the interactions between network nodes. The transactions are saved as blocks, with the ledger’s immutability ensuring structural safety.
- The ergonomics of the Amazon Managed Blockchain (AMB) allow installing a full-fledged network within 10 -15 minutes.
- It supports Ethereum, Hyperledger Fabric, Corda, and Quorum for application development.
- Oracle added the Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service (OBCS) to its already existing fleet of as-a-service businesses that includes SaaS and PaaS. The cloud-based Oracle Blockchain Platform is hands-on with rapid provisioning of blockchain-based networks. The company has loaded the platform with Identity Access Management software that makes digital identities and permissions to be tracked and defined respectively.
- It is built on the open-source Hyperledger Fabric and showcases all the properties of interoperability so that you can avail the services on third-party clouds. Developers use REST APIs and Fabric System Development Toolkits to access the network from an on-premises location.
- The Oracle Blockchain Platform archives data for rapid data recovery post a system failure. It offers parallel execution of processes with record-level locking.
- Although downtimes are few and far when your vendor is someone as big as Oracle, yet in case that happens, Oracle offers automated downtime protection, with automatic recovery of data.
The Ball is in Your Court
That Blockchains can be used to transform your business, is a well-proven theory. At the same time, experts concur that the BaaS model will penetrate multiple industries. Missing a day of updates in this industry is akin to missing a heartbeat. Stay sharp and be sure to check our resources for the latest on Blockchain to stay ahead of the curve.
1. How to Handle Security Concerns Related to BaaS?
Installation of an Identity Access Management software in a BaaS platform ensures that the network permissions remains restricted and the privacy is protected. BaaS vendors deploy in-house solutions to protect private keys such as IBM’s SecureKeys Technology and Amazon’s Key Vault Technology.
2. Why Do Organizations Need Blockchain as a Service (BaaS)?
Developing a Blockchain from scratch requires both high financial inputs and a skilled talent pool. Hiring a BaaS vendor is like partnering with a cloud computing vendor, wherein the tech partner maintains and runs the infrastructure freeing enterprises to focus on the supply chain.
3. How to choose the right BaaS platform?
- The BaaS platform must be interoperable with multiple frameworks,
- It must deploy rigid security measures to verify identities and network transactions.
- The process of testing, developing and deploying applications on the platform should be seamless with a simple click and execute functionalities.
- The BaaS platform must have a buffer for incorporating multiple technologies.
- It should charge customers on a pay-as-you-go basis.
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