field of dreams

Enterprise Blockchain progress and challenges

IBM is a leader in the enterprise blockchain world. Regular readers of our research will know we don’t use the term ‘leader’ very often; it has a lot of often unwanted connotations. But even IBM’s most prominent critics have to acknowledge that IBM is at the core of Hyperledger and was the first to seriously get out of the gate and herald the potential of enterprise blockchain. It’s work in developing the FoodTrust & TradeLens initiatives alone give the claim credence. But being first out of the gate and taking a leadership a role can come with baggage. The most apparent baggage is that you learn the hard realities of the market before everyone else, at times giving others a chance to learn and adapt before jumping into choppy waters.

This week we published a Vendor Vignette that details the technology and strategy of the IBM Blockchain Platform, and we hope you take a moment to read it. What is interesting though (beyond the report itself) is that the enterprise blockchain market is still in its infancy; as such, it is finding some things easy that it expected to be difficult, and other things challenging that it though would be a walkover.

It turns out that building a global blockchain infrastructure, though not cheap or straightforward, is very do’ able. What was impossible to access just five years ago is now accessible from any connected laptop with the swipe of a credit card. Though admittedly, there is more to be done, the global blockchain backbone exists today and is available to anyone that wants to use or develop upon it.

To be clear, this is quite incredible. Blockchain is complicated stuff, and there is a shortage of experienced developers and engineers available. So the fact that so much progress was made in such a short time is impressive. Getting folks to use it though, is proving to be more of a challenge. I can’t help but to minded of the phrase from Field of Dreams “If you build it and they will come.” Just like in the film, yes, they will eventually come, but enterprise blockchain is still something of a leap of faith.

The challenges are not so technical; instead, they rest on the need to educate and evangelize the promise and reality of blockchain. We can argue that most enterprise buyers have gotten past the BitCoin argument and realize that blockchain is much more than crypto-currency for money launders. Many potential buyers and users still struggle to grasp why it would be of value or relevance. That may be frustrating, but its also understandable, and much work needs to doing to codify and propagate the business case for enterprise blockchain. More also needs to be done to spell out its core value in layman’s terms.

Today then to torture the field of dreams analogy a little further, the cornfield is clear, the baseball field built. The work now really starts, and it will not just IBM that will do this work, others are also rolling up their sleeves from Oracle to Salesforce and beyond. But such massive initiatives need industry and government support too. China already has that and is running ahead; we may not get the government support we need in the US. Indeed few would want to wait for the US Government to catch up with technology trends. But better marketing and support into specific industries and programs to support their interest, tests, and adoption are needed. The great hope in the US was that industry consortiums would lead the way, maybe some will, but many that were once off to a good start have faltered into endless meetings and document compilation exercises. Even so, enterprise blockchain is coming. Once it picks up a head of steam, it will be unstoppable; the hard lifting and speed of building the backbone have been impressive, to say the least, this next stage of explaining, educating, and deploying needs to equal it.

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