Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

AWS service helps set up and manage blockchain networks

Steve Rogerson
May 2, 2019
 
This week, Amazon Web Services announced the general availability of Amazon Managed Blockchain, a fully managed service that makes it easy to create and manage scalable blockchain networks.
 
Those who want to allow multiple parties to execute transactions and maintain a cryptographically verifiable record of them without the need for a trusted, central authority can quickly set up a blockchain network spanning multiple AWS accounts with a few clicks in the AWS Management Console.
 
The service scales to support thousands of applications and millions of transactions using open-source frameworks such as Hyperledger Fabric and Ethereum.
 
For businesses such as finance, logistics, retail and energy that need to perform transactions quickly across multiple entities, blockchain lets them execute contracts and share data, with an immutable record of the transactions, but without the need for a trusted, central authority. They typically create blockchain networks using frameworks such as Hyperledger Fabric and Ethereum, but setting up the networks using these frameworks is difficult and time consuming.
 
Each member of a blockchain network has to provision hardware, install software, create and manage certificates for access control, and configure network settings. As usage of a blockchain application grows, there is a lot of work involved in scaling the network, including monitoring resources across all nodes, adding or removing hardware, and managing the availability of the entire network. This complexity is the reason many typically need the help of consultants to make blockchain work.
 
Amazon Managed Blockchain is a fully managed blockchain service that makes it easy and cost effective to create and manage secure blockchain networks that can scale to support thousands of applications running millions of transactions. Users simply choose their preferred framework (Hyperledger Fabric is supported at launch with Ethereum support coming later this year), add network members, and configure the member nodes that process transaction requests. The service takes care of the rest, creating a blockchain network that can span multiple AWS accounts and configuring the software, security and network settings.
 
“Customers want to use blockchain frameworks like Hyperledger Fabric and Ethereum to create blockchain networks so they can conduct business quickly, with an immutable record of transactions, but without the need for a centralised authority,” said Rahul Pathak, general manager for Amazon Managed Blockchain at AWS. “However, they find these frameworks difficult to install, configure and manage. Amazon Managed Blockchain takes care of provisioning nodes, setting up the network, managing certificates and security, and scaling the network. Customers can now get a functioning blockchain network set up quickly and easily, so they can focus on application development instead of keeping a blockchain network up and running.”
 
The service also provides simple APIs that let users vote on memberships in their networks and scale up or down more easily. It provides a range of instances with different combinations of compute and memory capacity so users can choose the right mix of resources for their blockchain applications.
 
The service secures certificates for access control using AWS key management service technology, eliminating the need for users to set up their own secure certificate storage.
 
Unlike existing blockchain technologies that require custom development to extract blockchain network activity data, the service makes it easy to replicate transactions to Amazon Quantum Ledger Database (QLDB), which will offer a fully managed ledger database with a central trusted authority when it becomes generally available in the coming months. This provides the ability to gain advanced insight into key trends, such as who is transacting and what is the rate of their transactions.
 
Amazon Managed Blockchain is available immediately in US East (North Virginia) and will expand to additional regions in the coming year.
 
Among users, AT&T Business offers a range of edge-to-edge technologies including mobility, cyber security, networking, voice and collaboration, cloud and IoT services to match its customers’ technology needs.
 
“Blockchain is far more than just bitcoin or cryptocurrency,” said Andy Daudelin, vice president at AT&T Business. “It’s changing the way companies do business and giving us a new way to solve complex business problems. AT&T’s suite of blockchain solutions now includes Amazon’s Managed Blockchain. AWS customers can integrate their blockchain solution with AT&T Business’s IoT and edge-to-edge portfolio. This allows them to automate data collection to improve their ability to manage complex supply-chain processes, monitor environmental conditions, improve security, gain real-time insights and so much more.”
 
Nestlé is a global food and beverage company with more than 2000 brands and global distribution across 189 countries worldwide.
 
“Transparency in supply chains is increasingly important to consumers, who want to know what is in their food and where it comes from,” said Armin Nehzat, digital technology manager for Nestlé Oceania. “While Nestlé has begun to release information on its supply chains for its 15 key commodities, using blockchain technology enables a more precise tracking. With Amazon Managed Blockchain, we are able to set up our Hyperledger Fabric network and easily invite our partners to collaborate in our supply chain transparency efforts. Amazon Managed Blockchain will enable our customers to track their products on the blockchain from the farm all the way through to consumption.”
 
Singapore Exchange (SGX) operates equity, fixed income and derivatives markets to high regulatory standards.
 
“Ever since overcoming the physical limitations of open-outcry trading pits, technology has been fundamental to the transformation of critical financial-market infrastructures,” said Andrew Koay, head of blockchain technology at SGX. “SGX sees blockchain technology as a way to bring innovation to our distributed financial marketplace, and we have developed delivery-versus-payment capabilities for the settlement of tokenised assets across different blockchain platforms. We are working with AWS to move our existing investments in Hyperledger Fabric to Amazon Managed Blockchain. Amazon Managed Blockchain offers businesses the opportunity to eliminate the heavy lifting typically required in infrastructure setup. This allows us to focus on adding business value and not worry about managing or scaling the underlying platform.”
 
Mobi, the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative, is a non-profit foundation formed to accelerate adoption of and to promote standards in blockchain, distributed ledgers and related technologies.
 
“Blockchains will increasingly impact the provisioning of mobility services since they enable business networks to reduce the cost of coordinating their activities,” said Chris Ballinger, founder and CEO of Mobi. “Mobi hopes to build a worldwide network of cities, infrastructure providers, consumers and producers of mobility services in order to realise the many potential benefits of blockchain technology. Since Amazon Managed Blockchain is a fully managed service, users are able to set up a Hyperledger Fabric network in minutes and easily invite other partners to join. Also, since Amazon Managed Blockchain’s ordering service ensures reliable sharing of data across the network, our participants don’t need to worry about managing infrastructure and building a blockchain from the ground up. Instead, they can now focus on building applications for connected car payments, autonomous and electric vehicles, and peer to peer ride-sharing services.”
 
TrackX is an enterprise asset management company deploying SaaS-based services for the tracking and management of physical assets.
 
“Returnable asset tracking including movement and transportation tracing, invoicing, billing, payment, and remediation is complicated and time sensitive,” said Eddie Shek, chief strategy officer at TrackX. “Blockchain technology has the potential to increase the speed at which we track and reconcile returnable and reusable assets such as beer kegs, intermediate bulk containers and plastic pallets. Before Amazon Managed Blockchain, we had spent a huge effort building and managing our blockchain infrastructure. Now, we can use Amazon Managed Blockchain to quickly and easily create blockchain networks with Hyperledger Fabric and easily enable our customers to monitor and maintain accountability throughout their entire supply chain. Amazon Managed Blockchain fully manages our blockchain infrastructure and shared network components, enabling us to focus on developing smart contracts to deliver additional value to our customers.”
 
Accenture is a global professional services company, providing a broad range of services in strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations.
 
“At Accenture, blockchain is driving business transformation in virtually every industry from aerospace to not-for-profits,” said Prasad Sankaran, senior managing director of Accenture’s intelligent cloud and infrastructure group. “Blockchain’s unique characteristics are helping to reinvent complex supply chains, improve business processes, and expand the reach and veracity of our digital identities. As the technology continues to take hold, services such as Amazon Managed Blockchain can drive both cost saving and revenue generating opportunities.”