Blockchain-as-a-Service

9-minutes Read

Blockchain-as-a-Service

What is BaaS  

One of the biggest challenges is what is meant by BaaS, what does it cover? The term is used rather loosely. The only aspect that the phrase always seems to include is the ability to set up a server or node from a template. But, provided your comfortable with Linux servers, the basic installation process for most of the blockchain protocols isn’t that hard without a template. 

So while the above graphic is useful, one shouldn’t choose a provider based on the availability of a protocol at a cloud provider. The trickier parts are what comes after the basic installation, including configuration. 

But the ‘as a Service’ can also encompass maintaining servers, monitoring and managing the entire blockchain network, and integration tools. There’s tremendous variability in the availability of all three. 

Some blockchain companies which are Distributed app (Dapp) companies call their services BaaS because a user can use their app straight away. Here BaaS refers to hosting solutions for the leading enterprise protocols. 

Tools Offerred by BAAS 

The deepest set of tools by far is for Ethereum. 

Azure’s Blockchain WorkBench is in public preview mode and for now only available for Ethereum. Workbench provides a web page so a developer can deploy a blockchain network, pre-integrated with a set of cloud services for data ingestion, key and identity management and off-chain storage needed to build a multi-party application. 

While AWS started very late, they took a shortcut to catch up. AWS Marketplace partner Kaleido, a Consensys startup, provides a web-based user interface for configuring a consortium blockchain for both Ethereum or JP Morgan’s Quorum. And there’s soon to be further competition in the Ethereum space from Clovyr founded by ex-Quorum lead Amber Baldet. 

For Hyperledger Fabric, most cloud providers have a BaaS offering, but the only one that additionally offers Hyperledger Composer is IBM. However, that does not stop you from installing Composer yourself on any cloud platform. 

While AWS offers open source Corda, the network management tools and extra features that come with the Enterprise version are currently only available on Azure. 

Major cloud players 

Outside of blockchain, in cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Amazon’s AWS is still the market leader by a significant margin. Microsoft’s Azure is in second place. It’s hard to know how far behind Azure is because they only publish Azure growth rates, not the figures. 

The only other company that made it into this year’s Gartner‘s leader magic quadrant was Google, and only just. 

SAP and Oracle are hoping to attract customers to their blockchain cloud offerings by offering tight integration with their respective platforms. 

Below is a deeper dive into the choices available from AWS and Azure. 

Blockchain Software As A Service (BSAAS) 

If we say the current BAAS is more focus on the infrastructure of a blockchain, e.g. networking, monitoring and node management, there is another trend of building a more high level service on top of BAAS. This is the a software as a service (SAAS) on top of the current BAAS, we can call it Blockchain Software As A Service (BSAAS).  

One example is Kaleido backed by Consensys and another example is Blockchain Based Service Network (BSN) backed by China government. These network owner just catered all the administration and management of BAAS. All the members of the network just needs to focus on the application or DAPPS management and development work.  

Main Features BSAAS Differentiating From BAAS 

  1. Borderless Blockchain Network 

One of the core concepts of the BSAAS is to support as many blockchain frameworks as possible. The current technology stack is diverse without a single standard. Also the transfer of data / tokens across chains are still in difficult situation. This leads the initiative to have a standardized way for token and data exchange across network. 

  1. Permission Network and Authority Chain 

To bring the blockchain technology to enterprise grade, access control and authorised role based network becomes a hot topic for long time. While there are multiple technology used by different blockchain stack to enable permission network, this leads the problem the application may need to maintain the authority and identity management on a particular network and this information cannot be shared. In order to minimize the effort for administration if an application using cross chain technology, a single source of permission and member management becomes crucial. This leads to the development an authority chain for cross chain authority and identity management. 

  1. Oracle / External Data Management 

Technology enables communication between blockchains and the outside world using a solution called oracle. A famous example of oracle is the price feed of stock market from stock exchange which is required for smart contract calculating the asset value. While there are diverse technology stack on handling oracle, there is a need to standardize the way to handling these type of communication. A BSAAS normally should provide a simple service interface for the application provider to easily manage the use case of oracle.  

Conclusion 

While the current BAAS focus more on the node management and administration, BSAAS becomes crucial for next generation of blockchain DAPP development. By enabling cross chain technology and communication, single source of identity and authority management and oracle management, application provider can definitely beneficial from the effort reduction for managing the infrastructure and enhance the time-to-market of the DAPP product. 

AI Link Group Limited, through its operating affiliates, AI Link Finance Limited (collectively “ALG” or “AI Link”) provides TradeFi, an integrated platform which allows holders of Ethereum-based stablecoins to earn interest income generated from trade finance assets.

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