Making the Case for a Comprehensive Blockchain Reference Architecture
Blockchain is a hot topic of discussion in many mainstream business boardrooms these days. Though it was once seen as part of an altogether alternative technology universe, its unique cardinal features of trust, immutability, peer-to-peer networking efficiency are now compelling businesses to rush to adopt it for transforming their large-scale business functions.
Distributed Ledger Technology and Blockchain: A Quick Overview
Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) is an electronic distributed ledger, which uses peer-to-peer (P2P) networks and cryptographic functions to distribute the ledger to participating parties in an efficient and secure way. The ledger maintains record of all transactions happening on a network. By definition, the ledger is append-only record of transactions as they happen and thus provides immutable and verifiable record of the transactions. Depending upon the DLT platform, the participating parties may get access to the full ledger or an access-controlled subset of the same.
Blockchain is a class of DLT that maintains the growing list of records of transactions in a chain of blocks that are linked using cryptography. Each block contains a record of a set of transactions, cryptographic hash of the previous block, and a timestamp. Once a block is published and validated by the participants through mechanism called consensus, it becomes immutable and can’t be modified. In some Blockchain protocols, this process is called mining.
An enterprise-ready DLT/Blockchain implementation would involve multiple components and roles with their own rights and responsibilities. All these components must be configured and orchestrated properly so that the DLT/Blockchain network works as intended. The figure below depicts the key components. The components on the surface of iceberg are visible to the users or consumer applications; while those below largely remain invisible and provide the required functionality from under-the-hood.
Figure 1: Components of DLT/Blockchain SolutionVarious members who would participate in an enterprise DLT/Blockchain solution include:
Figure 2: Members in a DLT/Blockchain Solution
Challenges of Implementing DLT/Blockchain
There are many intricacies that need to be considered while implementing DLT or Blockchain-based solutions:
- As the DLT/Blockchain technology is maturing, the platforms and frameworks are evolving rapidly. The development team must deal with dynamic technology that is constantly changing and growing
- Dearth of readily skilled resources
- Open Source development model and distributed computing platform are both a strength and a challenge
- A large number of supporting technology elements needs to be combined precisely. The need to make diverse technology set work in harmony leads to unnecessary reinvention and experimentation. This, many-a-times, result in inconsistent, non-standards based, and sub-optimal design and implementations.
- Too much focus on technology detracts from required business focus
Need for Blockchain Reference Architecture
To ensure a predictable, consistent, and efficient implementation of a DLT/Blockchain solution with minimal effort, a comprehensive business-ready Blockchain Reference Architecture offering along with pre-assembled DLT/Blockchain components such as the one from NIIT Technologies is the need of the hour for the development teams. It goes a long way in ensuring the successful realization of a standards-based implementation. When the development teams are equipped with a well-conceived reference architecture with accompanying technical framework, they can focus on exacting business scenarios instead of having to constantly iron out technical plumbing.
3 Guiding Principles
The Blockchain reference architecture has many dedicated technical sub-components: Architecture services, Administrative services, Security services, Asset services, Integration services. However, the overarching guiding principles of our Blockchain reference architecture are to:
- Provide a standards-based implementation across all projects
- Deliver the scaffolding code that would support the development teams to be productive quickly and to reduce their time-to-market
- Abstract the application code from the platform-specific idiosyncrasies so that development teams can follow consistent design patterns across all DLT/Blockchain development platforms.
- Efficient standards-based implementation
- Accelerated time-to-value
- Easier adoption of Blockchain into existing infrastructure
- Reusable components providing pre-built interfaces for different DLT/Blockchain engines
- Pre-configured networks
- Common interface to multiple DLT/Blockchain engines
- Ease of integration with all enterprise applications
Blockchain has now matured to a point that it has become quite attractive and viable for businesses around the world. However, the need for technical expertise is quite steep and dynamic. It is not ideal if the technical teams get bogged down in teasing out the technical nitty-gritty instead of designing the critical systems. The Blockchain reference architecture with pre-assembled components as designed and delivered by NIIT Technologies is production-ready with enterprise-grade capabilities. With its easier adaptability and faster development capability, the reference architecture fills the critical gap in expertise. Actually, it makes a lot of sense for you to equip yourself for your DLT/Blockchain adoption journey in order to drive solutions to the market quickly, cost-effectively, and successfully.