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AWS Launches Managed Blockchain Service

Hyperledger Fabric now, Ethereum "coming soon"...

By CBR Staff Writer

AWS has released Amazon Managed Blockchain, a fully managed Hyperledger Fabric service, saying it will add a managed Ethereum service later this year.

The service removes the burden for customers of provisioning hardware, installing software, managing certificates for access control, and configuring network settings, AWS said. The service was first announced in November 2018.

Customers are charged for network membership, peer nodes, peer node storage, data written to the network, and data transfer. The costs are included in AWS’ hourly network membership rate; billed per second. (The cost of running a basic production network would start at roughly $1.93/hour, AWS estimated.)

Hyperledger Fabric suits applications that require stringent privacy and permission controls with a known set of members. Ethereum is suited for highly distributed networks where transparency for all members is key, AWS said.

Read this: AWS Wants It All: From Blockchain to Windows Workloads, Cloud Giant Spawns New Services Galore

AWS joins IBM in offering a managed Hyperledger-based blockchain service. The IBM Blockchain Platform, for example, provides a managed offering delivered either on IBM Cloud itself or third-party clouds, like AWS itself.

Microsoft Azure meanwhile says it supports blockchain network deployments for HyperLedger Fabric, R3 Corda, Quorum, Chain Core, and BlockApps, but not as a managed service, instead, offering a “topology” to enable developers to get started with the protocol and application development.

(It is unclear what uptake has been like of Azure’s “Confidential Consortium Blockchain Framework”, first announced in 2017, although the company periodically drips out updates including the recent open sourcing of a new component to its blockchain cloud infrastructure, an “enclave ready Ethereum Virtual Machine”.

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Amazon Managed Blockchain

While managed services like AWS today are a far cry from blockchain’s promise of true decentralisation, enterprise customers looking to explore the virtues of Hyperledger Fabric may find it a compelling opportunity to test the technology.

As AWS puts it: “For customers in businesses like finance, logistics, retail, and energy that need to perform transactions quickly across multiple entities, blockchain gives them the ability to execute contracts and share data, with an immutable record of the transactions, but without the need for a trusted, central authority. ”

(The latter point is one that some blockchain purists may see as moot, if AWS is managing everything as a de facto trusted, central authority…)

Amazon Managed Blockchain can also replicate an immutable copy of customers’ blockchain network activity into Amazon QLDB; AWS’s managed ledger database that provides an immutable, and cryptographically verifiable transaction log, ‎replete with a “familiar SQL-like API”. (Think blockchain, sans blocks, or chain…)

The service may tempt corporate customers wanting to test virtues of a service like Hyperledger Fabric; a blockchain framework implementation with a modular architecture that is hosted by The Linux Foundation.

Hyperledger Fabric uses container technology to host smart contracts called “chaincode” that comprise the application logic of the system. Its code was initially contributed by Digital Asset and IBM.

Amazon Managed Blockchain: AT&T, Nestlé Singapore Exchange Limited Using the Service

The company put AT&T, Nestlé and market infrastructure provider Singapore Exchange Limited forward as early adopters.

Andy Daudelin, Vice President, Alliances Business Development, AT&T Business said in a release: “Amazon Web Services 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.”

Global food and beverage company Nestlé has begun to release information on its supply chains for its 15 key commodities; using blockchain technology enables more precise tracking, said Armin Nehzat, Digital Technology Manager, Nestlé Oceania.

“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.”

Nestlé did not detail how widely it is using the service; the company has been testing the technology on discrete products, for example most recently announcing that it was putting its instant mashed potato product on IBM’s blockchain.

It is clear that while cloud providers like AWS are aiming to get ahead of the curve and make sure the portfolio of managed offerings are as substantial as possible, enterprises are largely still dipping their toes in and assessing business value.

Banner image credit: Zulmaury Saavedra, Creative Commons, Unsplash. 

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