The evolution of blockchain over the past year has been breathtaking. Although the technology is now more than ten-years-old, over the past couple of years its has moved out of a narrow use-case in cryptocurrency to a wider enterprise use-case where it is being used to store and protect data.
However, there are literally hundreds of public blockchains at the moment and although they can be broken down in four principle types and are built using different components and pieces of code taken from a variety of sources, there are signs that in the future, organizations will be able to buy full stack blockchain products from one of the big vendors like Amazon Web Services, IBM Cloud or, unsurprisingly, Microsoft Azure.
Single Stack Blockchain
The move to single, big stack, where organizations will be able to buy a ready-made product is not a surprise. Competition is stiff in the blockchain space and the vendor that can provide organizations with easy access to blockchain for data management or security or any other need that may evolve as data sets and use evolves. The recruitment market around blockchain is red-hot at the moment, a sure sign that the entire market is moving. So, is single-stack blockchain the way of the future?
Buck Flannigan is VP of global partners at Winston-Salem, NC. -based Fluree, which provides a blockchain-backed, fully featured graph database, allowing full stack developers to build responsive UIs for interactive apps. He said that already, full stack developers should be able to use their existing skills and familiarity with open standards to be able to incorporate blockchain technology into enterprise applications.
It is all about “using the right tool for the job,” and since full stack developers (by definition) embrace the full spectrum of technology they are in a unique position to ensure that blockchain (or more generally DLT,Distributed Ledger Technology) is utilized in the proper manner for which it is applicable.
Full stack developers should be able to use their existing knowledge of enterprise architecture, programming languages, and developer tooling to build decentralized applications (DApps) in a data-centric, web3 architecture.
Fluree, for example, provides the underlying platform with a blockchain-backed, fully featured graph database.... allowing full stack developers to build responsive UIs for interactive apps along with standard interfaces for autonomous actors (bots) and machine learning/AI applications.
All of this is accomplished without forcing new proprietary language(s) or a rip-and-replace of the technologies and standards that today’s full stack developers are invested in.
“The future will certainly be decentralized. Blockchain is an enabling technology in the Web3 stack that we believe developers will have an incremental, evolutionary path toward. Brand new projects can start today with the most modern technology stack to support a data-centric architecture for enterprises,” he said.
“Yet we need to respect and reconcile existing applications today that have modernization use-cases for which Blockchain/DLT can add significant capabilities and unlock value.
By definition full stack developers embrace the full spectrum of technology, putting them in a unique position to ensure that blockchain — or, more generally, distributed ledger technology — is utilized in the proper manner for which it is applicable.
Why Full Stack Is A Problem
There are problems though, according to John Wagster, who specializes in blockchain-based ventures for the Louisville, Kenn. -based legal team at Frost Brown Todd. He pointed out that a large, for-profit blockchain that dominates the market in the same way big tech companies dominate their verticals is antithetical to the blockchain mindset and therefore unlikely.
Most true believers in blockchain technology admire its decentralized nature. Public blockchains are not dominated by a central authority (e.g. a government, company or individual) but instead by a decentralized network of users, all of whom possess a vested interest in the blockchain's success.
“The strength of a blockchain lies in large part on the fact that no single party can control it. Indeed, most blockchains are developed using open source code that can be copied or duplicated by anyone. To the contrary, big tech companies like to control their networks and often modify them to their unique advantage,” he said.
There are use cases for private blockchains, access for which is controlled by a company or consortium instead of all users, but such use cases are limited, and for the reasons stated above private blockchains are not likely to dominate the market.
He added that big companies are trying to get on the blockchain bandwagon by creating their own protocols that work on top of a blockchain. Such protocols are an effort by existing companies to stay relevant by harnessing the power of the blockchain by controlling access to it with a system they can control. Protocols make it easier for uninitiated blockchain users to build applications on top of a blockchain, but they do not control the blockchain. “Time will tell whether these protocols get market traction or whether they fall by the wayside as blockchain technology becomes more ubiquitous,” he said.
The Future Of Blockchain
And make no mistake, they will become ubiquitous. According to Vlad Miller, CEO of Ethereum Express, the potential of blockchain technology is such that, in terms of value, it may exceed $3 trillion over the next 10 years as blockchain solutions will automate most business processes, optimize international financial flows.
Citing a BIS (Bank for International Settlement) study, he said 70% of central banks in the world are already exploring the possibility of issuing their own digital assets - CBDC. The number of outlets accepting Bitcoin as a means of payment is also growing exponentially.
“We should expect a constant increase in the number of projects until 2030, the emergence of new digital assets, the adoption of clear legislative regulation in most countries of the world,” he said.
And for the immediate future? Enterprise blockchain will continue to make great progress, and many of the innovations that are emerging right now will gain meaningful traction in 2020. This will include blockchain as a viable solution for smart city initiatives, consumer products and supply chain disruption, said Steve McNew, senior managing director FTI Technology.
More blockchain companies are going to enter the market with private distributed ledger technology software, SaaS and network solutions, and blockchain spending will increase significantly. Early adopter pilot programs will begin to show ROI and other measurable benefits, which will drive more adoption and interest. As the space grows, experts will build consensus for blockchain related information governance frameworks and