The Enterprise Blockchain Gap
A number of large corporations, including Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, and SAP, have started to take notice of, and invest in, blockchain technology. Enterprise customers are interested in the blockchain because it can help reduce fraud, increase transparency, and provide secure record keeping. Blockchain technology has started showing up in such diverse fields as cybersecurity, insurance, and supply chain management.
Less technically savvy corporations are starting to dip their toes in the water, but there’s a huge gap between the desire to invest in blockahin technology and developers with the skills to implement it. Not being able to meet the demand in-house, some companies are looking to find service providers who can make the task easier. A number of companies have sprung up in this “Blockchain-as-a-Service” market, which is predicted to grow to $20 Billion in size by 2025.
Here’s a look at some of the existing players in this space, and some new contenders that will become operational in 2018.
The NEM Foundation, based in Singapore, exists to promote the use of the NEM platform. NEM started back in 2014 as a fork of another project, but since then has ‘grown up’ by targeting the Enterprise blockchain market and establishing partnerships with many other organizations.
NEM is a good solution for Enterprise customers interested in running a private blockchain entirely on their own servers, or connecting their in-house software to the public NEM blockchain. Since NEM has a RESTful, JSON-based API, it’s easy to connect to it from any modern programming language. NEM doesn’t offer full Smart Contracts like Ethereum, but it does have very simple to create Smart Assets (think digital identities or tokens) which may cover the majority of use cases an Enterprise customer is interested in.
NEM has an existing customer base and is growing rapidly in the South-east Asia and European markets. It recently set up shops in New Zealand and Malaysia as part of a $40 million expansion plan.
OnChain, based out of Shanghai, was founded by Da HongFei and Erik Zhang, the same two who started NEO. OnChain exists to help government and Enterprise users establish private blockchains using NEO’s technology. NEO got started back in 2014, and with OnChain’s help has grown to be one of the largest blockchains in the world.
A number of successful ICOs have been launched on NEO, including Red Pulse (focused on news about China) and Deep Brain Chain (AI on the blockchain). OnChain has also reached deals with local and provincial level governments in China, and has started expanding into Europe.
VeChain, one of the newest Blockchain-as-a-Service offerings, is backed by the VeChain Foundation, a non-profit based in Singapore founded in 2017. VeChain’s founder, Sunny Lu, previously worked at Louis Vuitton, and has experienced the hassle of leading an organization trying to combat counterfeit luxury goods. Originally focused on supply chain management with RFID chips tied to the blockchain, VeChain has grown to become a general distributed application blockchain targeting Enterprise customers, and is already working in industries such as luxury goods and pharmaceuticals.
VeChain started as a fork of Ethereum, which means that developers who have used Solidity, Ethereum’s Smart Contract language, will be able to easily make the shift to VeChain. The VeChain foundation now has over 40 developers working to improve and extend its code base, and make VeChain the “Ethereum for the real world”.
Stratis, backed by the Stratis Group out of London, is focused on the C# .NET developer market. It allows Enterprise users to spin up a side chain that can be used to handle internal blockchain needs, and then record the results on the main Stratis blockchain. There’s also Cloud Stratus, similar to Microsoft Azure, for customers who want to run their entire blockchain system in the cloud.
Stratis also offers the ability to host ICOs, and recently announced they’d be hosting one for Gluon, “an intelligent connected automotive marketplace.”
Ardor allows Enterprise customers to run child chains which connect to the main Ardor blockchain. Jelurida, a company formed in the Netherlands in 2016, controls the Ardor main blockchain and sells licenses for those private child chains and also provides software development for Enterprises that don’t want to, or can’t, do the job in house. Ardor child chains have the benefit of being “prunable”, meaning that transactions can be removed from the record when it’s not necessary to keep them, allowing Enterprises to keep their child chains from becoming bloated.
Ardor is based off of NXT, an existing blockchain, which gives Ardor a solid foundation despite being relatively new. The first child chain of Ardor, Ignis, was launched recently and allows for anyone to create and exchange digital assets directly in the Ignis chain.
Coming in 2018
There are new Blockchain-as-a-Service companies coming to market in 2018.
DragonChain, based out of Bellevue, Washington, USA, started life inside of Disney. They’re working to create a more scalable, secure, and “business-ready” blockchain. A working release is expected this spring. Being close to Microsoft and many other tech companies in the Bellevue area, along with being the only BaaS company on this list based in the United States, may be a big advantage.
Neblio is building a blockchain platform for “next gen distributed apps” targeted towards Enterprise customers. They have a working blockchain and several wallets available, but the full API they’re building won’t be ready until the end of 2018.
SophiaTX is built around integrating a blockchain with existing Enterprise APIs, like those from SAP. They’re currently working on a Testnet, with a full release in Q4 of 2018.