Both Hyperledger Fabric and Corda have seen important new releases in recent days. Hyperledger Fabric 1.2 adds private transactions to the platform’s already comprehensive list of privacy features. R3 on the other focuses on an additional layer of security in their new Corda Enterprise version of their platform.
Both releases are significant contributions to the enterprise blockchain ecosystem. Enterprise-focused blockchain applications are moving from the proof of concept state to everyday use. The new platform releases address the privacy and security concerns companies might have with regards to this development.
Business applications of distributed ledger technology are usually based on permissioned blockchains. Consortiums of companies collaborate in a network specific to a joint use case. In contrast to public blockchains, permissioned blockchains only allow authorized authenticated nodes to participate in the network. This protects the network from incidents, such as information leaks and denial of service attacks.
In addition, limiting participating nodes to known entities with an interest in the network’s correct operation allows for more efficient consensus protocols. Voting protocols based on Practical Byzantine Fault-Tolerance are often used to create consortium blockchain solutions many times more efficient than public blockchain solutions.
Companies usually participate in consortium blockchains because they have an advantage from collaborating and sharing data. However, not all data is meant to be seen by the whole consortium.
Let’s look at a simple example. In a supply chain network, it makes sense for all partners to be able to track an item through the whole supply chain process. However, not all information is relevant to all partners and some data is considered sensitive. Pricing information, for instance, should be visible to the buyer and the seller in a transaction. However, competitors, also participating in the consortium should not see the private agreement between buyer and seller.
To this end, permissioned blockchains aimed at enterprise applications tend to provide a number of privacy features. The just released version 1.2 of Hyperledger Fabric adds private transactions to the already existing privacy features of the platform. Hyperlegder Fabric already supports data channels, which allow subgroups of a consortium to communicate privately.
Private transactions add a finer level of granularity to this, allowing nodes to grant other nodes access to their private data at an individual level.
The final piece in Fabric’s privacy support is zero-knowledge proof technology. Zero-knowledge proofs allow nodes to prove certain properties of data, without actually revealing the data itself.
Blockchains are secured through cryptography and the permissioned nature of enterprise blockchains adds a layer of authentication to this. R3’s Corda Enterprise release provides a third layer, a so-called Blockchain Application Firewall.
The idea behind this feature is to place nodes securely behind an organization’s firewall, whilst letting it participate in the Blockchain network. The measure is aimed at fulfilling the stringent security requirements of financial institutions.
Ready for Real-World Enterprise Applications
The new releases can be taken as a sign that enterprise adoption of blockchain technology is entering a new phase. Instead of new feature supporting more complex proof of concept applications, companies now focus on how to make the technology work with their real-world privacy and security requirements.