IBM, a New York-based tech firm with business operations in over 170 countries, has been developing a wide range of blockchain-based solutions – in order to streamline many traditional industry processes.
In October 2018, IBM officially launched its enterprise-level blockchain-enabled Food Trust platform. IBM’s Food Trust solution allows users to quickly track food products in order ensure food safety.
Due to operational inefficiencies which don’t allow existing systems to accurately track food items on a supply chain, there have been many critical outbreaks of E. coli romaine. While the majority of Escherichia coli bacterium may not be harmful, this particular strand led to five deaths and 200 affected individuals were hospitalized.
Walmart To Use IBM’s Food Trust Platform
In order to prevent food contamination, giant American retail firm, Walmart will require (by September 2019) all of its store locations that supply leafy green vegetables to register their sales transactions on IBM’s proprietary blockchain-powered Food Trust platform.
In addition to developing distributed ledger technology (DLT)-based software to track food shipments, IBM has launched TradeLens, which is a blockchain-enabled shipping platform.
Developed through a collaborative effort with leading shipping company, Maersk, TradeLens allows supply chain participants such as individual shippers, shipping companies, freight forwarders, and logistics operators to transact more efficiently by reducing operational costs.
On January 21st, Europa News reported that the Port Authority of the Bay of Algeciras (APBA), a major commercial port in Andalucia, Spain, had announced that it would start using IBM’s TradeLens platform to manage its shipping activity.
IBM’s TradeLens Solution Used By Over 100 Organizations
To date, IBM’s TradeLens solution has been adopted by more than 100 organizations and approximately 20 different port operators worldwide. Moreover, the TradeLens platform has helped process more than 230 million shipments and tracked about 20 million containers.
Other DLT-enabled solutions recently developed by IBM include its identity management platform, and World Wire – which aims to “redefine access to money for people and businesses everywhere.” As mentioned in IBM’s official blog post, the American tech firm is planning to improve “commercial operations” by making them “more efficient and secure” through blockchain technology.
IBM’s blog also states that enterprises are “increasingly managing” data for blockchain platforms in public and private cloud management systems. The firm’s proprietary storage solution has been designed to “enable flexible data management capabilities” across various cloud-based infrastructures, IBM’s blog notes.
Best Practices For Managing Data
Data for blockchain platforms may be kept on-chain as “part of the core ledger managed by the blockchain protocol.” Alternatively, a blockchain’s data may be transferred off-chain to more traditional data storage mediums, IBM’s blog explains.
“Off-chain data stores” should be used when storing large documents of “application artifacts when the only shared value of the application is the evidence of the artifact state at a point in time”, the blog mentions.
Digital signatures and other verification information related to documents can be stored on a blockchain, however the actual data should reside off-chain, IBM recommends.
Only Verification Information Should Be Kept On Blockchains
As explained in IBM’s post, a retail store can use a blockchain-based data management system
to store information related to an order’s “proof of delivery.” For instance, the order’s “purchase and delivery agreement” may be recorded on-chain, however the “photograph of the delivery person” and other details related to the actual product should be kept off-chain.
If implemented properly, a blockchain must only include “cryptographic hashes” which link to “corresponding data” that is kept off-chain. It may also be appropriate in some cases to store a “cache of the most recent values of the state of on-chain data” in an off-chain storage solution, IBM advises. “Sensitive data” should be saved off-chain as it (in principle) must not be deleted or altered, IBM’s blog notes.
Notably, Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Fabric solution comes with a “pluggable architecture” (referred to as private data collections) which features “built-in support” for handling off-chain “transactional data within the protocol.”
IBM’s blog further notes that firms are increasingly “deploying peers” (or clients) while keeping “supporting data” on local storage, or “on-premises” – as part of their Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) solution.
IBM’s Storage Solutions for Blockchain
As outlined in the tech company’s blog, “IBM Storage Solutions for IBM Blockchain” consist of various proprietary software products that help users manage “unstructured off-chain data” and provides support for applications requiring “high-performance” data management.
Other solutions which normally come with traditional data storage systems such as “backup-and-recovery via snapshot” are also available for IBM Blockchain clients.
Backing Up The Ledger
Although each peer, or client, keeps a copy of the ledger (or on-chain data), IBM recommends backing up the ledger on local storage, in order to “restore” critical information “safely and quickly.” Included in IBM’s documentation is “best practice” methods for planning and deploying blockchain-based software.
“Storage technologies” such as IBM’s proprietary NVMe effectively “reduce processor cycle requirements” for data storage, the blog states. The helps to “increase the cycles available for cryptosecurity-related calculations”, the blog mentions.
Providing A “Uniformed Storage Environment”
“Regardless of the type of storage used for your off-chain data store” IBM Spectrum Virtualize can help users manage different sets of off-chain databases. This is done by allowing users to keep all their data in “one uniform storage environment” – which has complete “data management capabilities.”
Finally, IBM recommends that blockchain data storage solutions should have “secure and automated workflows” which enable efficient “creation and management of data copies throughout the data lifecycle.”