Blockchain has been a hot topic in the tech world and popular culture for several years now, especially with the rise of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency trends. Enterprises have taken notice and are working to implement blockchain technology in their own business models. But how can a company integrate this kind of encryption technology into their business without in-house expertise or experience? Several major tech companies and other lesser-known providers are offering solutions in blockchain as a service (BaaS) platforms.
Read on to learn more about some of the top blockchain providers in the field and how blockchain can benefit enterprises across different operational objectives.
Choosing the Right Blockchain as a Service Provider
In virtually every business process or transaction, enterprises must jump through several layers of bureaucratic tape and meticulous steps to accomplish their goals with compliance and transparency. Blockchain technology simplifies some of this process, removing several middleman technologies and companies and allowing businesses to complete transactions and transfers of data over the blockchain.
Blockchain works by using cryptography to develop a distributed trust network. Any and all authorized participants can make changes to the digital ledger without additional permissions, and those changes are all time stamped and documented. Each change or transaction is documented on an encrypted block that is saved and linked to the previous block in the transactional chain, creating a chain of blocks, or “blockchain,” over time.
Anyone can use blockchain technology for transactions and other business goals that require agentless documentation, and several third-party software companies offer blockchain as a service to help you get started or to launch a private blockchain network. This approach is adapted from other software as a service (SaaS) models, where third-party vendors take existing technology and help companies to optimize it for their needs. Here are just a few of the ways that BaaS providers help businesses with their blockchain goals:
- Development: Brainstorming the right blockchain protocols and other details for a given business’s needs.
- Implementation: Assistance with hardware provision, software installation, certificate development and management, and other network configuration requirements.
- Consultation: Guiding in-house teams as they manage or add to their blockchain strategy.
- Maintenance: Many features of blockchain implementation need to be updated and closely monitored for security over time, but also need to keep up with an enterprise’s growing blockchain infrastructural needs.
- Hosting: Several BaaS providers host private blockchain networks for their customers who want to separate and privatize their blockchain needs.
Kaleido is one of the most comprehensive blockchain as a service solutions on the market that considers cross-cloud and hybrid deployments from the outset. While many other BaaS solutions focus on quick start scripts, templates, and other basic needs at the launch/implementation phase of blockchain development, this private blockchain network moves past the basics with robust native and API integration offerings and advanced digital governance technologies. Kaleido is also known for its user-friendly interface and codeless development options, originally only offered in Ethereum but now also offered in Corda and Hyperledger Fabric protocols.
Beyond the advanced features of their platform solution, Kaleido boasts top-rated, hands-on support for its customers. 24/7 support, innovation labs for testing new solutions, and detailed documentation and FAQs round out their support features.
- Instant borderless chains configurations
- Multi-party control pane and consortium management
- Over 400 available APIs
- 24/7 support available
- ISO 27000 certified, includes secure key management
Pro: The access and variety that Kaleido provides for digital assets includes native token services, atomic swaps, and zero knowledge proofs.
Con: Kaleido moves quickly with new innovations and updates, so some users have trouble keeping up with the changing Kaleido environment.
One of many AWS SaaS solutions, Amazon Managed Blockchain is a fully managed service that allows enterprises to either join public networks or set up and manage private blockchain networks. As one of the largest technology companies in the world, Amazon and AWS offer a competitive blockchain hosting solution that makes it easy for users to quickly create blockchain networks across several pre-existing AWS accounts. This infrastructure allows for easy transactions and data sharing.
Amazon Managed Blockchain is a great solution for enterprises already immersed in AWS environments, but users will benefit from other AWS tools regardless of their previous engagement with the company. For example, the Hyperledger Fabric solution’s existing ordering service is supported by Amazon QLDB technology, which enables an immutable change log and stronger data storage and security.
- Hyperledger Fabric or Ethereum options
- Supported by AWS Key Management Service
- Amazon Virtual Private Cloud endpoint security
- Augmented ordering service through Amazon QLDB
- Centralized AWS Management Console
Pro: An extensive list of other AWS solutions are included as support for security and management needs in Amazon Managed Blockchain (example: Amazon QLDB).
Con: Initial setup of different features is confusing for some users, and occasionally leads to them being billed for solutions that they misconfigured or did not know they were using.
The IBM Blockchain Platform extends a wide variety of blockchain solutions to customers, ranging from hosting and open-source development assistance to consulting and management services. Compared to many of the other top BaaS players on this list, IBM particularly excels in developing and managing blockchain for supply chain and manufacturing needs. Its other industry-specific specialties include healthcare, financial services, government, insurance, retail, and media and entertainment.
- 24/7/365 customer support
- Advanced developer and operator productivity tools
- Multi-cloud capabilities with advanced governance tools
- Interoperability between permissioned and public blockchains
- Free 30-day trial with Red Hat OpenShift
Pro: IBM’s blockchain technology is recognized as one of the quickest solutions on the market, making it a great solution for organizations with large amounts of data to process.
Con: Although IBM does not require vendor lock-in, several users comment that their user agreements and contracts could be more transparent to make it easier to enter and exit from platform use.
Oracle’s portfolio continues to show its strengths with Oracle Blockchain, which includes a cloud service, an on-premises edition, and a SaaS application for supply chain management. Distributed ledger transactions are a strong point with Oracle, as they offer features like near real-time processing, validation rules and controls in smart contracts, ERP integration, exception tracking, and netting-based settlement. Oracle has a strong commitment to innovating and advancing its blockchain solutions, so you can expect to see additional growth from them in the coming years.
- Open-source Hyperledger Fabric approach
- Workload and resource adjustments to individual business models
- Easy integrations with other Oracle applications
- RAFT consensus algorithm for management of multiple contributors
- Identity management and data access control
Pro: This platform includes strong built-in security features via additional Oracle integrations.
Con: Although Oracle Blockchain integrates well with other tools in the Oracle suite, it does not integrate as seamlessly with other blockchain solutions.
A top competitor in the blockchain development and deployment space, Dragonchain’s consensus mechanism technology originated in Disney’s private blockchain before it was launched as open-source software. Considered one of the most secure and compliance-oriented solutions in the BaaS market, Dragonchain is a strong bet for anyone looking to comply with GDPR, HIPAA, SOX, GLBA, and other industry-specific regulations while building out their blockchain capabilities.
- Fintech suite for fraud detection and stronger compliance (Dragonchain Proof Systems)
- Support for DragonFund incubation service and token launching
- Customizable verification levels through a context-based consensus mechanism
- GDPR and CCPA-compliant identity management platform
- Sensitive data protection via Quantum Safe products
Pro: Self-service support is offered through Lyceum, Dragonchain’s learning management system that offers continuing education units and certifications in blockchain technology.
Con: As a collection of decentralized applications, Dragonchain does not offer a unified application platform that some users are looking for.
R3’s Corda advertises itself as “the only multi-party app development platform purpose-built for highly regulated industries” and focuses primarily on banking, capital markets, trade finance, and insurance, industries where top-tier compliance and privacy practices are a must. R3 also includes Conclave, their confidential computing platform for application development.
Specifically for enterprises that choose R3’s Corda Enterprise solution, users can expect impressive features like 600 transactions per second (TPS) in performance, HSM security protections, and their “follow the sun” SLA approach to enterprise customer support.
- Support for industry standard enterprise databases
- Corda Enterprise Network Manager for private blockchain management
- Open-source and open-design environment
- Regular release schedule, driven by community feedback
- Official Docker images available
Pro: R3’s Corda is used and tested by more than 350 global institutions, so it’s constantly undergoing optimizations for the enterprise’s benefit.
Con: Although R3 uses blockchain terminology to advertise its product(s), Corda is not actually a blockchain solution. Each Corda node only sees some network transactions, while traditional blockchain has full transactional visibility.
First released in November 2020, VMware’s Blockchain solution is a strong BaaS competitor with deployment, monitoring, management, and support capabilities included in the VMware infrastructure. Their target industries fall in the financial services, healthcare, and federal agency sectors. To reach those audiences, VMware focuses on ensuring that speed and scalability are possible while also maintaining high levels of security through fault-tolerance preservation. For larger businesses looking for a big data-meets-blockchain solution, VMware Blockchain is a sure contender on the list.
- Support for a wide range of smart contract languages
- Byzantine Fault Tolerant state machine replication implementation
- Client data filtering and sub-transaction privacy
- Free hands-on lab for solutions testing
- 24/7 production and deployment support
Pro: The platform includes Scalable Byzantine Fault Tolerance (SBFT), an enterprise-grade consensus engine developed internally by VMware Research.
Con: The newness of this platform makes this a solution with little success rate data available to support it.
A Chinese company that has dominated the cloud deployment market since 2014, Alibaba’s Cloud Blockchain as a Service also performs well in the blockchain deployment, monitoring, and management spheres. Users have full access to the rest of the Alibaba software suite and with their included REST APIs, your organization can spend less time configuring SDK features for query and contract management. One particularly interesting feature included with this BaaS solution is fusion with Video DNA service, which makes it possible for users to analyze and trade copyright data for images, video, and audio.
- Support for Hyperledger Fabric, Ant Blockchain technologies, and Quorum
- End-to-end and chip encryption technologies for security
- Organization, permission, and consortium management
- Chaincode management of smart contracts
- Connection to CloudMonitor for real-time alerts and monitoring
Pro: Alibaba offers one of the strongest cloud setups amongst its BaaS competitors, which makes scalable storage one of its best features.
Con: As an international company with different data rules and regulations, some customers have concerns about overall security and data compliance offerings.
Symbiont’s Assembly is one of the top BaaS solutions in the enterprise finance sector, boasting customers like Vanguard, Ipreo, and Ranieri Solutions. Assembly advertises itself as one of the only distributed ledger technologies (DLT) that is truly decentralized, meaning that no third-party vendor holds the sole key to transactional security and each node executes transactions on an individual and independent basis.
Business logic and big data modeling are core focuses of Symbiont Assembly. State machine replication is used to manage data availability through decentralization, and on-chain data and logic features enable additional data visualizations beyond what many other BaaS providers offer.
- Management of financial instruments as smart contracts
- End-to-end data encryption stored on-chain
- Multi-user nodes, node management, and dynamic network membership
- Byzantine Fault Tolerance
- Advanced smart contract DSL and SDK
Pro: Smart contracts are written in SymPL, a domain-specific language designed with the business logic required in records of financial transactions.
Con: Symbiont specializes in financial services, so although certain features could work in other industries, this tool is hyper-focused on the needs of financial institutions.
We’ve covered how blockchain as a service works and what some of the top providers offer to their customers, but what tangible benefits does blockchain technology offer to enterprises that choose to invest in it?
Smart Contract Development
B2B transactions like mergers and acquisitions usually take a considerable amount of time and cost a lot of money, especially as both parties have to meet the expectations of outside institutions, such as law firms and banks. Blockchain technology offers ways to simplify these types of transactions and eliminate the middle institutions and individuals from the equation via smart contracts.
Smart contracts are contracts that are hosted, time stamped, and encrypted on the blockchain ledger, which certifies transactional changes by both parties without needing additional parties to sign on or certify the transaction. Blockchain also makes it possible to exchange assets in blockchain form, often as NFTs, or non fungible tokens, so buying and selling organizations can complete a transaction from any distance and on any timeframe.
Specialty Program Development
Blockchain can also benefit enterprises in customer-facing efforts, such as special program development. With NFTs, several companies are starting to gamify the customer experience and create rewards programs based on NFT ownership.
NFTs make it possible for enterprises to keep track of customer interactions with real-time, updated electronic ledgers that can integrate with other applications and databases. Using NFTs, then, enterprises can see how their customers behave with their brand and use that personalized data to track customer milestones and automate company loyalty programs.
Learn More: What is an NFT?
Some people have concerns about the security of blockchain since there is no central security hub guaranteed. However, many enterprises rely on blockchain precisely because its transparency and detailed tracking information on the ledger help to prevent unwanted interactions on the chain.
Especially in private blockchain networks, only authenticated users are able to access the chain and make changes to it. Even if a malicious or strange user somehow got into the blockchain, permanent timestamps and transaction recordings make it very difficult for them to alter ledgers that have already been stored.
More on Blockchain and Security: Blockchain Technology Can Have a Starring Role in Cybersecurity
Business Process Efficiencies
Most significantly to many enterprises, blockchain is a helpful resource for organizing and automating different business processes in areas like e-commerce, identity management, and supply chain management. With regular updates of the transaction ledger and the ability to track the whereabouts of assets at every stage of a product life cycle, many businesses are opting into this technology in partnership with or even in place of enterprise resource planning (ERP) and other business intelligence software.
More on Enterprise Resource Planning: Three Key Advances in ERP for 2021