Intel’s Hyperledger Blockchain Is Now Ready for Business

Long considered one of the most promising codebases hosted by the Hyperledger blockchain consortium, Intel’s Sawtooth software is officially ready for enterprise use.

Revealed today, version 1.0 of the technology provides what might be expected, features inspired by bitcoin and other public blockchains, but repositioned for enterprise. Yet, what its team of 50 contributors (from startups Bitwise and R3, to corporates Red Hat and Capital One) hope will distinguish the solution is its modular functionality, designed to give enterprises across industries a head-start on meeting consumer and regulatory demands.

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Among the early companies already using Hyperledger Sawtooth are telecommunications giants Huawei and T-Mobile, who are building a decompiler for the software, and e-commerce giant Amazon, which now lists Sawtooth among its blockchain partners.

Indeed, Intel venture technical lead and Hyperledger Sawtooth maintainer Dan Middleton positioned the software as a way for enterprises with demands that exceed the capabilities of available public blockchains to capitalize on its benefits.

Middleton told CoinDesk:

“We feel that if companies really want to adopt blockchain, or a distributed ledger, then we shouldn’t forgo the basic blockchain properties in taking something from a public chain to enterprise usage.”

 

Stepping back, Hyperledger Sawtooth is the second open-source blockchain platform to emerge with an enterprise-ready 1.0 version, following closely on Hyperledger Fabric, which was contributed by IBM and launched last year.

From a development perspective, the launch of 1.0 software solutions is an important step to any codebase, as it signifies that the maintainers are committed to the core features, giving coders a sense of confidence that anything they build won’t break as a result of future upgrades.

“For us, it’s a big event, both for the Sawtooth team because of stability milestone. But for Hyperledger, it’s evidence of a growing community of developers working on blockchain,” said Kelly Olsen, another Sawtooth maintainer and member of the Hyperledger consortium’s technical steering committee.

A familiar touch

But beyond the potential importance to developers, there’s another key differentiator highlighted by the Sawtooth team in the launch: the innovative method by which computing networks running the software will be able to forge consensus on mission-critical events.

Specifically, Sawtooth marks the business debut of a consensus mechanism called PoET — or proof of elapsed time — a variation on an older system called Byzantine Fault Tolerance that lets users reach consensus, even in an environment where counterparties don’t know each other.

By comparison, other permissioned blockchains require that users know and trust each other. In this way, the blockchain platform is designed to resist denial-of-service attacks that become more likely in a more public blockchain, or one in which unknown parties might interact.

Still, compatibility is also being sought with other blockchains of this nature. Notably in the final version is support for the Solidity smart contract language, pioneered by the ethereum blockchain.

Smart contracts can also be written in Go, JavaScript, Python and more.

“The maintanters aren’t promoting an unpermissioned version of Sawtooth,” said Olsen. “But we’re trying to make the resiliency still available.”

Hardware integration

In addition to certain public blockchain features, Hyperledger Sawtooth has become known for the ease with which it can be integrated with hardware security solutions.

And central to Sawtooth’s PoET consensus mechanism in a streamlined ability to integrate with hardware security solutions called “trusted execution environment,” among which Intel’s newly launched scalable Xeon processor.

The potential hardware integration was originally seen as a controversial solution because it places the security considerations of a decentralized ledger behind the protection of potentially fallible hardware. But the Sawtooth maintainers emphasized this is part of a balancing act between leveraging the strengths of public blockchains with transaction volume and security demands of enterprise companies.

Further, they clarified that while a single company may provide the hardware that creates these trusted execution environments, Sawtooth hasn’t restricted that company to Intel.

Olsen concluded:

“Sawtooth is a hardware-agnostic platform. There is no dependence of Intel hardware.”

Intel chip via Shutterstock

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