Building on Blockchain for Businesses: What You Need to Know About Hyperledger Fabric

According to a recent report by research firm International Data Corporation (IDC), global spending on blockchain solutions is expected to reach $2.1 billion this year. However, there’s a void of blockchain expertise in enterprises.

A Gartner Research survey shows that around 60 percent of IT leaders find blockchain interesting, but aren’t clear on what exactly they should do with it. Enterprises want to hire developers with blockchain experience, although candidates for those roles are few and far between.

Educational resources are popping up to fill the skills void in blockchain development, including a few recent sessions at SHARE Sacramento. Several of those sessions specifically focused on Hyperledger Fabric, an open source blockchain development framework that was designed with businesses in mind. The message coming from the sessions was simple: If you want to build blockchain apps for businesses, it’s worth your time to learn about Hyperledger Fabric and other related concepts. Here’s what we picked up.

The Terminology

Barry Silliman, an IBM Blockchain subject matter expert on the zEnterprise Applied Technologies Team at the IBM Washington Systems Center, offered a glossary of terms during his session at SHARE Sacramento earlier this year. Important terms to know include:

  • Hyperledger is a Linux Foundation-hosted collaborative effort that formed in December 2015, which includes individuals and corporations that contribute to the development of projects, frameworks, and tools.
  • Hyperledger Fabric is one of the frameworks within the overall Hyperledger project, and it’s essentially a foundation for developing blockchain applications or solutions. Silliman likened it to an operating system or middleware for creating blockchain-based apps.
  • Hyperledger Composer is one of many tools that support or complement one or more frameworks.
  • IBM Blockchain solutions and services are typically built using Hyperledger Composer and Hyperledger Fabric.

Why Hyperledger Fabric Works for Businesses

Hyperledger Fabric is a popular framework to work with because it’s designed to support the development of business applications. According to IBM Blockchain product manager Matt Hamilton, Hyperledger Fabric includes a number of characteristics that make it a good fit for businesses:

  • Flexibility: The framework is designed to be modular, Hamilton wrote, allowing users to tailor algorithms and trust models to suit their business’s specific use case.
  • Privacy: Unlike other blockchains, there isn’t one single public Hyperledger Fabric network that the public can access, Silliman said. Any company or group of companies can get together to create a private network based on the framework.
  • Permissions: Similarly, Hyperledger Fabric supports industry-standard identity management, meaning companies can always know exactly who has access to their network. 

The Ideal Environment

There are several ways for developers to start working with Hyperledger Fabric. An ideal environment would be a Linux on Z instance, Silliman suggested, which at minimum would require include 2 IFLs, a 10-20 gigabyte hard disk, 4-5 gigabytes of memory and your choice of operating system (Silliman recommends Ubuntu 16.04+, RHEL 7.3+ or SuSE 12 SP2+).

If you want to get started with Hyperledger Fabric right away, you could run Fabric and Composer on nearly any platform, including Linux and Mac OS X. Fabric can also be run in a Ubuntu guest on Windows machines via VirtualBox, a free hypervisor from Oracle, and Vagrant, a command line utility that supports VirtualBox.

Along the way, you can lean on a number of tutorials and guides to understand more about Fabric; this introduction from Hyperledger is a good place to start.

Looking for an intro to blockchain? Check out this mindSHARE post: Blockchain 101: How Mainframes Can Power Blockchain for Businesses

To take a deeper dive into blockchain, check out the following video presentations from SHARE Sacramento:

Be sure to join us at SHARE St. Louis, August 12-17, for even more on blockchain. 

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