VMware brings blockchain to the enterprise to support decentralized apps

The service offers a new option for sharing data among multiple parties in a way that scales and preserves privacy.

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Image: Pavel_R, Getty Images/iStockphoto

VMware's new blockchain offering is the company's first product designed to bring distributed ledger technology (DLT) to the enterprise.

The new product released on Wednesday features Scalable Byzantine Fault Tolerance (SBFT), maintains decentralized trust, and supports data sharing in multiparty networks. VMware Research laid the groundwork for the product with Project Concord. The research group launched that open-source initiative in 2018 and built a generic machine replication library.

Brendon Howe, vice president and general manager for VMware Blockchain, said that the goal was always to build an enterprise-grade product.

"We focused on predictability, scale, and Day 2 operations to make monitoring and troubleshooting easy," he said.

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Howe said customers are thinking about DLT in the context of application development, not as an infrastructure retrofit. 

"Every customer engagement that I've been part of has been with a new application initiative in mind," he said.

He sees the new blockchain service as a platform for decentralized apps, which builds on VMware's track record of building virtualized environments for the enterprise.

"The real engagement with the enterprise around private enterprise environments, decentralized apps, and multiparty workflows," he said.

David Furlonger, distinguished research vice president at Gartner, said that a clear goal of blockchain inspired solutions is an ability to achieve market efficiencies, such as through enhanced data management and shared technology use. 

"The more complex the business context, the more available those efficiencies may be. However, it is important that any blockchain Inspired solutions remain open (non-proprietary) and have clear roadmaps for interoperability," he said. 

Howe said that although some customers are skeptical about blockchain and cryptocurrency, many more see the business need to build custom contract agreements with customers that include data from multiple sources. These solutions also require privacy and the ability to control access to the data on a need-to-know basis. Distributed ledger technology meets most of those requirements. 

"With the problems they are trying to overcome, there is no common data model for sharing in that way, and other solutions are usually riddled with really complex workflows that require manual reconciliation," Howe said.

Financial services have been the quickest to adopt this new way of managing, verifying, and sharing data. Howe said that he sees use cases in healthcare and for federal agencies that have significant asset control and inventory tracking responsibilities.

The coronavirus pandemic also has influenced the uptake of distributed ledger technology.

"One thing I did not anticipate was that most projects related to this tech and what this pandemic has done is accelerated the need for those projects to bear fruit," he said.

Built for ease of use 

Howe said that the blockchain solution is built on VMware foundational elements to make it easy for existing customers to implement the new service. VMware engineers used digital asset markup language (DAML) to build the contract layer of the service.

"If you're running VMware, you have a running start already or if you've built a multiparty workflow community on digital assets, we can bring our platform to that," he said. 

This first phase of SBFT is built for on-premises deployment. Howe said that the next phase for the product will be to offer the platform in a SaaS model that could be deployed in the cloud.

"The distributed ledger approach is scalable which is why so many customers are looking at it with core management systems," Howe said.

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