Does Blockchain as a Service really make sense? [interview with blockchain developer]
Blockchain sells. When we are talking with the potential clients, they often imagine DLT as a boxed solution - a platform or a database like any else, that you can store on your server. Microsoft, IBM, Amazon, and Oracle realize it well enough and use it to leverage their marketing.
But how does it work in practice? Can it benefit your business? To get into the tech details, I invited Patryk Odziomek, a practitioner and one of our most experienced Blockchain developers, to discuss this issue.
Aleksander Olszewski: I have to admit, that I have a problem with Blockchain as a Service. Simply put - I can’t see value here.
Blockchain is not simply “a better database”, it’s a whole different data organization and processing model. It can be described as a structure - a system containing a network of agents and participants, that share responsibility and keep each other in check. It is all about participation, and adding your own little value to the whole network to co-create the big picture.
It means that it isn’t something that you can outsource without using the crucial values. It influences the structure of your business. To embrace this technology, you have to change your own approach, and adjust the business to this opportunity.
Can it really work in practice?
Patryk Odziomek: The first essential question to ask is do you need a blockchain or a distributed ledger?
These two are often used interchangeably which may lead to confusion or an idea that they are one and the same thing. Well, they are not.
A distributed ledger may use blockchain technology but does not need to, and vice versa. The idea of Distributed Ledger Technology is that it should be DISTRIBUTED to different parties, which host and govern the network nodes by themselves. If nodes of one distributed ledger are used and governed simply by one party, then we’ve only achieved replication of the ledger but not the distribution.
If one of our business model’s requirements is to have a secure and tamper-proof data storage with full transaction history and with full control over it, the use of distributed ledger in that case is most probably not an optimal solution. The distributed ledger uses more resources and time for consensus mechanisms for securing the transaction validity when distributing transactions to (by assumption) untrusted nodes in the network - simply speaking, this architecture centrally-governed by one entity is not the use case for which the DLT was intended for.
As said before, when we talk about Blockchain, in most cases we have an idea of a ledger which records are immutable and tamper-proof. There are a lot of DBMSs that fulfill this requirement but are not distributed ledgers and because of that they can achieve much better performance than DLs.
Of course there is also a case when some providers offer popular public networks’ nodes like Bitcoin or Ethereum as a service. But to be honest, I wouldn’t use for example an external Monero node when I know it does not fully belong to my infrastructure. These are just security and privacy concerns as well as costs of such solution. In my opinion there are not many entities that cannot afford setting up a public blockchain node as so basic hardware as our home desktop is perfectly suitable for such tasks.
AO: Right, but not everybody can see the big picture while striving for the use of Blockchain in their company. That’s why we are such careful Blockchain evangelists here at 4soft - actually, if you ever meet our team on a fair or talk to us on a call, there’s a fat chance that we advise you not to use it at all, as I’ve seen you or Mateusz Fejczaruk do. That's the role of Blockchain experts - to promote the REAL benefits and use cases.
From my point of view, it can be dangerous if you approach it without proper knowledge. BaaS may provide you a solution, that will be a centralized decentralized ledger - a technology that does not fit your purpose at all, chosen just because the buzzword lured you into that trap.
So, to sum it up, does Blockchain as a Service make sense from your point of view?
PO: YES, when we talk about a DBMS that utilizes blockchain technology or features but not necessarily a distributed ledger.
When we talk about a distributed ledger, the answer is still YES - for testing purposes or when it is only a formal prerequisite or when we do not want to or can not provide architecture and software.
But in most cases NO. If we just need a database that is tamper-proof, replicable, cryptographically secured and centrally-governed, try to think of a DBMS rather than a DLT.
Want to consult your idea with Blockchain developers?
Let’s talk. Our developers will gladly tell you, if it makes no sense, share their insights and help to evaluate your project.
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