I would like to propose a series of articles to give knowledge around Blockchain. My participation in Blockchain Event Paris 2018 (November the 27th and 28th) led me to write an article that can be used as an introduction to this series of articles.
You can find a version of this article in French here: “Comment estimer la pertinence de la Blockchain pour vos projets”
How to evaluate the interest of Blockchain technologies for your projects?
The Blockchain technology looks like a revolution in project management. Usually, a given technology is developed to create software projects; but here, as for the Internet, the projects must adapt to the new Blockchain technology. If a majority of people has been able to integrate the Internet into their projects without worrying about the technical aspect, today, everyone seems to be willing to understand the technological aspects behind the Blockchain.
There are several Blockchains and frameworks, each including different features, so it’s easy to get lost in technological explorations and false promises.
The goal of this article is to help you evaluate if the Blockchain technology can make sense for your project!
1. Blockchain vs Database
The first step is to fight against this misconception. Do not compare Blockchains and databases, because it makes as much sense as comparing a database and a file-sharing folder on a cloud instance. Each technology exists for a distinct purpose. The Blockchain technology was not designed to replace the database technology.
While files are at the heart of the use of a cloud storage and data is at the heart of the use of a database, Transactions are at the heart of using a Blockchain.
This being defined, two important concepts related to the use of Blockchains must be introduced: transparency and decentralization.
2. Transparency and Decentralization
Several techniques can be used to make Blockchains carry additional data that can’t bne read by other users of these Blockchains. It is possible to limit access and other rights in some Blockchains. Anyway, you should keep in mind that the Blockchain is a transparent technology. The existence of a transaction between two actors will always remain writen in a ledger, and therefore will always be fully verifiable.
The Blockchain is made to manage a decentralized system, which is a system where actors from different universes directly interact with one another. The larger the number of actors, the more heterogeneous the environment becomes and the more complex the system becomes to satisfy the wishes and constraints of each actor in a single, centralized way. In this case, the Blockchain technology becomes an obvious and consistent tool for direct sharing between actors. In another way, if the final population targeted by a project is both small and homogeneous from an environmental point of view, or if the actions are centralized around one actor, then, generally, a traditional centralized system will be more adapted than a Blockchain. In special cases such as systems that need to be audited, the Blockchain will meet the level of immutability desired by the business and its constraints.
3. Is your project relevant regarding your company strategy ?
Prioritize the relevance of your project, then judge the interest of using the Blockchain technology. Relevance includes highlighting stakeholders’ benefits. Each actor is autonomous and will use the system only if he has something to gain from it or if he is forced by a regulation.
4. How do I estimate if the use of Blockchain is relevant to my project?
In order to evaluate the relevance of this new technology for a project, Worldline has created a specific modeling method: MoBlo for Blockchain Modeling (This modeling methodology will be presented in English later in this articles series, yet it is described in French here ).
Above all, it is important to ask yourself a few questions:
- In order to understand the heterogeneity of the system (the BlockChain project and all its dependencies including the BlockChain itself): “Who will consume and who will produce information?”;
- Evaluate the transactions to be processed: “What is the information, its nature and characteristics?”. For instance, in our car maintenance book project, Data is not managed in the same way as in our project using the Blockchain to manage people’s identity;
- Estimate the interactions between the various actors: “How can information be spread and used by the different actors?”;
- Anticipate the impact of its integration: “How can the system integrate into the environment (Hardware, Operating System, …) of use?”.
The answers to these questions will highlight the use and the need of Blockchain and the characteristics of the one that will be the best to use. They will highlight the need (or not) for private transactions, light nodes, smart filters, crypto-currencies, even smart contracts; as well as the technologies to be put in parallel with the Blockchain: Webservices, Database, FTP … Finally, all these elements will make it possible to evaluate the cost of the overall solution.
5. Test & Learn: Let’s start small!
Without going back on the opening of the system, a project will gain stability if it starts small, for example by offering a single service to a small group of users. The implementation phase can highlight some project architecture weaknesses (using load tests for instance), but a “real-life” deployment remains the best way to assess your project’s ability to answer your needs. For example, if the project consists in tracking food from South America to supermarkets in France, with boats in the middle of the ocean, then the system must run while taking into account the lack or change of telecommunication networks.
When the system is proven to be useful, the Blockchain shows its strength, especially in terms of scalability and integration of new information. Moreover, the designed system will be easily extendable to new users and products.
By following this method of implementation, behind “the mystery Blockchain”, a project using this technology remains an IT project 80% classic and 20% Blockchain specific. Most of the classical processes and methods still apply if the upstream methodological work on the Blockchain was performed as described above.
6. Last words
As I said at the beginning : I would like to propose a series of articles to give knowledge around Blockchain.
This article was a simple introduction to ask you questions. The next articles will propose you simple answers. The first one will be entitled: “What really is a BlockChain?”. I’m sure I can explain it simply with 3 to 5 pictures without talking about cryptography. Shall we start?
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