BaaS: Solution Bringing Blockchain to The Masses
The blockchain hype has reached fever pitch levels making the latest developments in the sphere an inseparable part of the daily news flow. Anyone outside the technical field already knows or at least has heard about the wondrous, numerous benefits of blockchain. However, how can businesses actually integrate blockchain?
Here, I don’t mean using cryptocurrencies to make purchases. Cryptocurrencies are just one of the many things you can create with a distributed, decentralized ledger, or blockchain. No, I mean actually integrating a blockchain into your business to save time and money.
Would you know how to implement all the necessary hardware? The software? Would you really want to worry about its ongoing performance and maintenance?
What is Blockchain as a Service (BaaS)?
Most of us would not know how to incorporate a blockchain into our personal and business systems. Even if you have the knowledge to deploy your own blockchain, you may not have the resources to purchase servers, and then install and configure the network and infrastructure. Just like outsourcing accounting and consulting services, it is often best to just pay a company to handle the messy, complicated work for you.
In order to enjoy the benefits of blockchain, companies such as Microsoft, Amazon and IBM offer blockchain technology through their cloud-based platforms “as a service.” For a predictable price, the BaaS models provided by these companies allow businesses to access and develop blockchain tech and applications without having to invest in in-house developers and servers.
A similar example of the power and convenience these companies provide could be found in the history of the Internet itself. When the internet was in its infancy, many companies resisted creating websites that were connected to a public Internet, or creating email addresses connected to centralized software companies like Google. In fact, mostly due to trust issues, they experimented with setting up their own email servers and infrastructure. Of course, now most of these same companies have email addresses that are part of another company’s servers.
Advantages of BaaS
Despite its growing pains, blockchain use is increasing at a parabolic rate. Once we take a step back and appreciate all the industries that blockchain can make better, BaaS becomes a necessity. In fact, Baas will be the catalyst that brings blockchain to the masses.
The benefits are numerous, with the only real downside being the BaaS model creates more centralization, since enterprises will have to rely on a centralized third party. All actions would need to be funneled through the host platform’s blockchain services. However, how is this any different from using Google docs?
Some of the benefits of BaaS include:
1) Predictable low-costs. For many BaaS providers like AWS, costs will generally be based on a monthly billing model. For more decentralized blockchains like Vechain Thor, the costs are increasingly based on the price of using its native cryptocurrency. Either way, costs are more predictable, since you wouldn’t have to worry about managing software and hardware.
2) Skills. With an industry in its infancy, there is always a shortage of talent. BaaS has capable staff and developers ready to handle initial configuration and infrastructure maintenance. BaaS allows companies to hit the ground running.
3) Scalability. All projects using BaaS can be rapidly scaled up or down to meet requirements. That is the main selling point of all of them.
4) Increased data security. BaaS providers are able to pool resources to move and store data with far more security than a company acting alone.
5) Compatibility. Nearly all BaaS deployments are template driven based on the particular industry’s needs. Therefore, templates can be deployed accurately and rapidly.
6) Highly Accessible. As long as the servers are running, the blockchain can be accessed anywhere in the world. Just like the Internet itself.
7) Expertise. Sometimes, it is better to trust the entities that already have amassed experience and proven their worth. For instance, a company may neglect to implement an important feature that can disrupt its network reliability.
8) Stronger IoT connection. In the future, it has been repeatedly predicted that nearly everything will be connected to the Internet in some way. This includes not just money, but cars, house appliances, etc. If we want to connect this new IoT world to blockchains, we wouldn’t be able to rely solely on direct node connection. For instance, it would be quite a burden for every car computer to carry the load of connecting to the blockchain. Instead, it would be far less costly and more secure to have a BaaS provider do the dirty work.
In time, BaaS will allow blockchain to be used in every corner of our lives without most of us even knowing it is there. The technology will become relatively invisible. Look at the address bar at the top of the page. You enjoy the security that HTTPS provides without even knowing what HTTPS is, or that it keeps your passwords and other data safe.
Disadvantages of BaaS
As mentioned earlier, by hosting a blockchain on a single provider, the risks of centralization become a concern. For one, all data is kept on the provider’s property, which is governed by its own internal policy. You do not own this network, so you are required to put your trust into it. You have limited control.
Other concerns include costs. Although upfront costs may be low, the long-term costs of using a BaaS provider might actually end up being more expensive than self-hosting.
Lastly, it may be complicated and costly to switch BaaS providers, since flexibility is limited.
Let’s first mention the big hitters– the companies that are household names. These giant companies providing Blockchain as a Service include Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and Amazon Web Services.
For some time now, Microsoft has been adding BaaS modules to Azure, which is their cloud-computing platform. Their BaaS is focused on the Ethereum blockchain and Corda Blockchain. Microsoft offers a very simple interface to get enterprises started within minutes.
Oracle’s blockchain Cloud Service uses a blockchain based on open source Hyperledger Fabric. Hyperledger was developed in 2015 by the Linux Foundation. Since it is open source, the project allows anyone with developer skills to improve it.
IBM has also built a prominent BaaS service based on Hyperledger Fabric. Their BaaS system is based on the Bluemix Cloud Platform. IBM also offers integration with its other services to allow in-depth analytics. IBM is also partnered with Stellar Lumens’ blockchain.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a subsidiary of Amazon.com. AWS provides on-demand cloud computing platforms to individuals and institutions on a paid subscription basis. AWS entered this space relatively late, launching their BaaS service in April 2018. Their BaaS is also based on Ethereum and Hyperledger, with templates capable of being deployed within minutes.
Smaller names include Ardor and Vechain, which are also cryptocurrencies.
Ardor is a BaaS platform that will allow industries to use the NXT blockchain. The NXT blockchain incorporates “child chains” to make implementing BaaS services easier.
As stated on Ardor’s website, “It is a platform where businesses can set up their own chains without any need to code or secure it themselves. Ardor has a built in exchange between other chains on the platform, to easily exchange your token with others including fiat pegged ones like AEUR. Ardor offers Lightweight Smart Contracts that don’t require the whole network for each dApp. Smart Transactions make features like a Deadman switch easy to implement. Fully developed features like built-in Voting, Messaging, Marketplace, Basic Cloud Storage and more.”
VeChain is a BaaS company that first specialized in providing product tracking in the supply chain logistics industry. Though also a cryptocurrency, Vechain is one of the first BaaS ecosystems with evidence of actual enterprise adoption. Unlike the Ethereum Alliance, where many enterprise players are toying with blockchain technology but not actually implementing it, businesses are using VeChain’s ecosystem for logistics and supply chain tracking. However, that is just a start. With a long list of notable billion-dollar partnerships, Vechain hopes to work with fortune 500 enterprises to create decentralized apps and ICOs using their blockchain.
BaaS offers companies, individuals and governments a secure cost-effective opportunity to immerse themselves in this new, exciting technology without having to know much about blockchain itself, how to implement it or worry about infrastructure and performance related issues. By using a BaaS model, we can all now focus on the functionality of blockchain itself.
BaaS may be the necessary catalyst that leads blockchain technology to mass adoption across the world. This is a lot like the way Internet providers, website hosting companies and email providers gives us the ability to “outsource” the technical work and allows us to just well… write an email.
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