Linux project releases first blockchain code for large businesses to build software

Brian Behlendorf. Picture: O’Reilly Media / Creative Commons.

The Hyperledger Project, a group led by the Linux Foundation, has released its first blockchain code that can be used by large businesses to build software. The group, whose members include IBM, Cisco, the Bank of England and JPMorgan Chase, said it was the first version of Hyperledger Fabric, a type of distributed ledger code.

More than 150 engineers from 29 organisations contributed to the project. The developers believe Hyperledger Fabric 1.0 is strong and secure enough to be used by corporations to build blockchain-based business applications, the group said.  “These kinds deep revolutions take some time, but I am confident that competent development teams inside organisations can start to look at that [Hyperledger Fabric] and go all the way to running it in production,” said Brian Behlendorf, Hyperledger’s executive director.

Blockchain, which first emerged as the system powering the cryptocurrency bitcoin, is a shared record of data that is maintained by a network of computers, without requiring a trusted third party to validate the veracity of the information. Banks and other large corporations have been investing hundreds of millions of dollars in developing the technology in the hope it can help them simplify some of their most cumbersome and costly processes, such as settling securities trades.

To speed the development of blockchain, many organisations have formed or joined industry groups. Earlier this year JPMorgan, Microsoft, Intel and others formed a blockchain group called the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance, while many of the world’s largest banks invested $100m in blockchain consortium R3. Despite their efforts, blockchain has yet to be deployed in scale by large companies, and sceptics have cautioned that its benefits may be overblown.

Hyperledger Fabric, for example, does not yet scale to handle as many transactions per second as the payment network of a major credit card company, Behlendorf said. Proponents note, however, that it is still early days for the technology, likening the current landscape to the early days of the Internet. “If this were the Web, what year would we be in?” Behlendorf said. “I’ve felt that we were in 1995, but with this release I am ready to say we are in 1996, when you started to see enterprises saying ‘Now it is not just a research project.'”