Only a few years ago, companies began to show interest in using blockchain as a technology that provides better trust, transparency, and collaboration for the many organizations that share sensitive business data. However, since the blockchain space has matured, some companies have begun to view blockchain not as a technology, but as an important commercial tool for digitization.
Alistair Rennie, General Manager of IBM Blockchain, noted this earlier this year. Cointelegraph was pleased to speak with Rennie to learn more about the evolving blockchain landscape, how blockchain plays an important role in IBM’s hybrid cloud strategy, and why Big Blue agrees with permissible private networking principles.
Cointelegraph: What is the strategy of the IBM blockchain?
Alistair Rennie: Now that the blockchain has been on the market for a reasonable number of years and we’ve worked with hundreds of networks, we’re wondering where the blockchain is on the journey of digitization.
For example, a lot of work is being done in financial services and supply chain networks. We also found that many of these networks are small and have a few players starting out with some important propositions. Networks can be created easily and can grow over time, and we will attempt to address some of these challenges through our suite of solutions.
We’ve also realized that blockchain fits within a company’s structure because it allows companies to digitize their business processes alongside other companies. This demonstrates that the blockchain is transforming from a technology to a real business tool, and its implementation can happen very quickly. For example, when COVID-19 began, we saw massive examples of data exchange between companies using the blockchain as a mechanism. But what really impressed me was the speed.
Blockchain doesn’t have to be a complex, long-term project. However, we are primarily working to make the blockchain a core component of our hybrid cloud platform for collaboration and trust.
CT: Can you explain the role the blockchain will play in IBM’s hybrid cloud platform?
A.R .: What defines blockchain is that it gives people the ability to integrate and manage workflows outside of the company. There are ways to do this today, but it is usually cumbersome and requires a lot of central software and process changes.
Blockchain technology has proven to be a fast way to integrate business data while using smart contracts to automate workflows. This creates opportunities for collaboration and trust when organizations deal with multiple parties.
CT: How can private networks ensure trust in end devices?
AR: Blockchain technology allows people to exchange information in a ledger, and smart contracts control the workflow. For example, farmers on the blockchain network don’t share all of their data with other farmers, as people can control who sees what on the private network.
This allows organizations to join the blockchain network with a relatively secure mindset that sharing data is okay and what can be gained from it. Finally, private networks allow people to see the data they want, while maintaining a high degree of confidence.
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A good example of this is what Atea ASA, the IT infrastructure provider of the Nordic and Baltic states, is doing. It uses the IBM Blockchain network to connect seafood growers, processors and vendors.
CT: How does the IBM hybrid platform differ from what the IBM Blockchain has already provided to customers?
AR: The big difference is how we talk to clients. We have passed the stage where the blockchain, like any other technology, is viewed through the lens of technology. But now we’re seeing that the conversation becomes relevant.
We’re talking to people in the financial services and supply chain sectors where the word “blockchain” doesn’t appear. All of these organizations are concerned with the principles, tips, tricks and dispute resolution. We’ll talk with companies about how to collaborate and create workflows outside of their own environments using the blockchain. IBM’s hybrid cloud offering also includes everything an organization needs to easily build a blockchain network. This makes a big difference when it comes to implementation.
CT: What types of organizations will use IBM’s hybrid cloud strategy?
A.R .: Supply Chain Management affects many companies. These organizations are trying to achieve the vision across the supply chain, which sounds good, but is actually very difficult because everything works in different systems.