In December Bitcoin Magazine reported that IBM and a group of top tech and finance companies are joining forces to develop a new open source blockchain separated from the Bitcoin blockchain. The group will work with the Linux Foundation to create a public network that lets blockchain applications built on top of it communicate with each other.
Digital Asset Holdings, the fintech startup headed by the financial superstar Blythe Masters, is contributing its Hyperledger mark, which will be used as the project name, as well as enterprise grade code and developer resources. Digital Asset Holdings bought San Francisco-based Hyperledger in June.
Now IBM is starting to reveal some details of its blockchain projects and strategy.
In an interview with IT analyst David Strom published in IBM’s online magazine Security Intelligence, John Wolpert, IBM’s blockchain offering director, said that IBM will eventually have hundreds of developers working on various blockchain projects. IBM didn’t invent blockchain technology but plans to take a leading role in its development, with an approach similar to IBM’s Java developments.
“[Java] wasn’t our technology, but we got behind it and put an army against it,” Wolpert said. “At its height, thousands were working on Java-related projects.”
Wolpert is responsible for engineering, products and open source initiatives at IBM. Previously, he was head of products for IBM’s Watson Ecosystem – IBM’s ambitious Artificial Intelligence (AI) project – and a successful entrepreneur before joining IBM.
At the forthcoming Block Chain Conference on February 10 in San Francisco, Wolpert will give a keynote presentation titled “How to Make Block Chain Real for Business.” The address will focus on IBM’s point of view in this space and its contribution to the open source community led by the Linux Foundation. The open source community is aimed at accelerating the maturity of this shared ledger technology, through a collective, open and coordinated approach.
Wolpert said that Hyperledger code will become an open source industry standard, eventually available on Github just like other open-source software, and developers will be able to build applications on top of Hyperledger.
“There are going to be lots of people who will compete on providing solutions,” he said. “We will try to get the best minds across the industry to work together on this code.”
Developers will be able to deploy Hyperledger applications on the IBM Cloud, a collection of fully integrated services to help IBM clients use data across all digital channels to understand their customers and anticipate their needs. According to the company, IBM Cloud is the first full spectrum cloud built on open technologies, with the world’s most advanced analytics and cognitive computing toolbox.
“We intend to be the best place and fastest place to get blockchain technologies running,” said Wolpert. “We are moving assets on a massive scale in ways that we never thought of before and doing so automatically and without any human intervention. It isn’t just the data, but using the transaction log of the data in new and interesting ways.”
The recent U.K. Government Office for Science report ““Distributed Ledger Technology: Beyond Block Chain” noted that the strong association of blockchain technology with Bitcoin represents an important problem when it comes to communicating the potential benefits of distributed ledgers.
Wolpert agrees, and adds that many banks and other traditional financial institutions were hesitant to be associated with blockchains because of Bitcoin. But IBM’s strategy is more focused on non-banking applications of blockchain technology.
“Now people are talking about how they can use blockchains without endorsing any shadow currencies, and everyone is excited,” said Wolpert. “It has gone beyond being a fad.”
Wolpert is persuaded that blockchain technology could have many important non-currency applications, and, in particular, that it could be a solid foundation for more efficient supply chain networks.