The Launch of Amazon Managed Blockchain

Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services, delivers his AWS re:Invent 2018 keynote, featuring the latest AWS news and announcements.

In this segment, he announces Amazon Managed Blockchain as a fully managed service that makes it easy to create and manage scalable blockchain networks using the popular open source frameworks Hyperledger Fabric and Ethereum.

The idea is to make it much easier to use the two most popular blockchains.

For private network capabilities, with a specific number of members, Hyperledger Fabric is available now.

Ethereum will be available in a couple of months and is often selected for a public decentralized ledger with an unknown amount of members.

ETHEREUM

Ethereum is an open-source, public, blockchain-based distributed computing platform and operating system featuring smart contract functionality.

Ether is a cryptocurrency whose blockchain is generated by the Ethereum platform. Ether can be transferred between accounts and used to compensate participant mining nodes for computations performed.

“Gas”, an internal transaction pricing mechanism, is used to mitigate spam and allocate resources on the network.

Ethereum was proposed in late 2013 by Vitalik Buterin, a cryptocurrency researcher and programmer. Development was funded by an online crowdsale that took place between July and August 2014.

The system went live on 30 July 2015, with 72 million coins “premined”. This accounts for about 70 percent of the total circulating supply in 2018.

In 2016, as a result of the exploitation of a flaw in The DAO project’s smart contract software, and subsequent theft of $50 million worth of Ether, Ethereum was split into two separate blockchains – the new separate version became Ethereum (ETH) with the theft reversed, and the original continued as Ethereum Classic (ETC).

HYPERLEDGER FABRIC

Hyperledger Fabric is a permissioned blockchain infrastructure, originally contributed by IBM and Digital Asset, providing a modular architecture with a delineation of roles between the nodes in the infrastructure, execution of Smart Contracts (called “chaincode” in Fabric) and configurable consensus and membership services.

A Fabric Network comprises “Peer nodes”, which execute chaincode, access ledger data, endorse transactions and interface with applications as well as “Orderer nodes” which ensure the consistency of the blockchain and deliver the endorsed transactions to the peers of the network.

Fabric supports chaincode in Go and JavaScript (via Hyperledger Composer, or natively since v1.1) out-of-the-box, and other languages such as Java by installing appropriate modules. It is therefore potentially more flexible than competitors that only support a closed Smart Contract language.

Hyperledger Fabric Explainer Video

Hyperledger Fabric is an enterprise grade, permissioned, distributed ledger platform that offers modularity and versatility for a broad set of industry use cases.

The modularity is represented by plug-and-play components, such as consensus, privacy and membership services.

One of its features is the enablement of a network of networks. This allows businesses to work together while maintaining privacy of pertinent information.

Hyperledger Fabric allows confidential information to be managed and transacted between parties without all information passing through a central authority. That way, personal data isn’t available to the entire network. In other words, if a network member is not a part of an agreed-upon transaction, the information would not appear on their ledger.

This allows solutions developed with Hyperledger Fabric to be adapted to any industry.

Hyperledger is an open source global collaboration, hosted by The Linux Foundation, including leaders in finance, banking, Internet of Things, supply chains, manufacturing and Technology.

Blockchain and the Role of Open Source Software

Arnaud Le Hors, Senior Technical Staff Member of Web & Blockchain Open Technologies at IBM, speaks about blockchain and the role of open source software at Money20/20, Europe 2017.

Open source is a term denoting that a product includes permission to use its source code, design documents, or content. It most commonly refers to the open-source model, in which open-source software or other products are released under an open-source license as part of the open-source-software movement. Use of the term originated with software, but has expanded beyond the software sector to cover other open content and forms of open collaboration.

Le Hors notes that open source provides a richer community, with more input from many backgrounds, knowledge and experience.

It’s important from a security perspective to have many eyes viewing the technology to ensure bugs are found and remedied.

As a network, blockchain benefits from many developers.

Additionally, open source gives those who inspect the code confidence that it can perform as intended.

IBM decided to create an open blockchain and looked for partners. They were comfortable with the Linux Foundation and decided to create the Hyperledger project under them by contributing code, but there are other good projects, as well. The growth of members has been tremendous.

Introducing HyperLedger Project

This 20min video was published by The Linux Foundation in early 2017 as a keynote address by Brian Behlendorf, Executive Director of Hyperledger Project, formally introducing the project.

The Hyperledger Project is a collaborative effort created to advance blockchain technology by identifying and addressing important features for a cross-industry, open standard for distributed ledgers that can transform the way business transactions are conducted globally. The Project is a Linux Foundation Collaborative Project and implements many open source best practices familiar to other leading projects.

HYPERLEDGER PROJECT GOALS

The goals of the project are delineated as such:

Build an open source, developer-focused community of communities to benefit an ecosystem of Hyperledger-based solution providers and users, focused on blockchain-related use cases that will work across a variety of industry sectors.

Through this, create a family of enterprise grade, open source blockchain frameworks, platforms and libraries, upon which anyone can build and run their own applications to meet real business needs.

Involve developers, service providers, solution providers and end users in the development and promotion of the software, using the best practices of multi-stakeholder open source community.

Host the collaboration environment for the community, establishing a neutral home for community infrastructure and technical governance of Hyperledger.

MANY BLOCKCHAINS

There will not be only one blockchain or a chain-of-all-chains.

There will be many public chains and millions of private chains, potentially each with a different consensus mechanisms, preferred smart contract language/mechanism and other characteristics.

The more common code underlying these chains, the better for everyone.

This is still early days – perhaps like 1994 and the web.

COMMUNITY OF MULTIPLE COMMUNITIES

The idea of Hyperledger is modeled after the Linux Foundation and Apache Foundation projects.

A Hyperledger project involves:

  • A team of volunteer developers
  • Building code in the open
  • Managing their own roadmap and release schedule
  • Responsible for following HL policies and requirements
  • Encouraged but not required to align their code with other projects

Across projects, we have:

  • Common software license
  • Common IP Framework
  • Common collaboration tools
  • Promotion and branding as an equal to other projects
  • Security processes and practices

TWO FLAGSHIP PROJECTS

Fabric: Uses Practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance, which was originally developed by IBM, who contributed to this project along with Digital Asset others.

Hyperledger Fabric is a blockchain framework implementation and one of the Hyperledger projects hosted by The Linux Foundation. Intended as a foundation for developing applications or solutions with a modular architecture, Hyperledger Fabric allows components, such as consensus and membership services, to be plug-and-play. Hyperledger Fabric leverages container technology to host smart contracts called “chaincode” that comprise the application logic of the system.

Sawtooth Lake: Like of Proof of work without requiring the same processing power. Hyperledger Sawtooth is a modular platform for building, deploying, and running distributed ledgers. Distributed ledgers provide a digital record (such as asset ownership) that is maintained without a central authority or implementation.

About Brian Behlendorf
Brian Behlendorf is a technology adviser and entrepreneur who has held founding and executive board positions in firms and non-profits focused on open systems, open standards and open source. Behlendorf organized and served as the Founding President of the Apache Software Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit that organizes volunteer software development projects around key Internet technologies, helping ensure an open and free marketplace. Behlendorf also founded and served as Chief Technology Officer of CollabNet, a company focused on bringing open source collaborative software development tools and methodologies into enterprise environments. Behlendorf currently serves on the Board of the Mozilla Foundation, the single largest open source project by user base, revenue and funded core headcount. Since retiring as Chief Technology Officer of CollabNet in 2007, he has focused on advising corporations, start-ups, investors, governments and NGOs on open source strategies.

Amazon Managed Blockchain


Jonathan Fritz presents a “Deep Dive on Amazon Managed Blockchain.” Before getting into the details of Amazon’s service, he addresses some of the basic concepts regarding blockchain.

Many business networks rely on central authorities, which can be inefficient, expensive and require time-consuming auditing.

An alternative would be a consortium, which could achieve better outcomes by sharing information.  However, they may not agree on how data can be secured and fairly shared.  

Multiple organizations need to independently verify transaction histories and need a single, up-to-date, accurate view of data.

Business logic among multiple organization could be simplified through automation.

Asset transfers require an expensive and inefficient escrow.

A public network needs a way to maintain a tamper-proof history of transactions and global state.

Blockchain resolves these points and eliminates the need for a central authority in business networks.

THREE MAIN BLOCKCHAIN COMPONENTS:

1) Distributed ledger (bottom layer)
2) Consensus mechanism
3) “Smart Contract” execution environment (top layer)

LEDGER DATABASE

The journal is the essence of a blockchain. The journal records an immutable log of all transactions and is maintained by nodes in the blockchain network.

CONSENSUS MECHANISM

This is how the network assures what data goes into the ledger and the data that it’s in their stays correct.

SMART CONTRACTS

Where the applications function and interact.

PUBLIC AND PERMISSIONED NETWORKS

Public networks allow anyone to participate. Members are incentivized to maintain the network.

Permissioned networks limit the members to known entities.

They both have applications in the world.

AMAZON MANAGED BLOCKCHAIN

AMB is a fully managed service that makes it easy to create and manage scalable blockchain networks using open source frameworks: Hyperledger Fabric and Ethereum.

This is a decentralized network and is not owned by Amazon and is low cost: you only pay for what you use.

HYPERLEDGER FABRIC (available now)

Creates permissioned networks with channels to limit the transactions on the ledger each member can see.

Has smart contracts, called Chaincode.

Validation policy for executing Chaincode and is configurable.

Has no native cryptocurrency.

ETHEREUM (coming soon)

Create smart contracts using the Solidity language that runs across nodes in the network.

Very scalable.

Create permissioned networks or use public Ethereum network.

Configured to use Proof-of-Work consensus algorithm for public networks and Proof-of-Authority for private networks.

Anyone who can access the network can see all data on the ledger.

IN BRIEF

Amazon Managed Blockchain is a fully managed blockchain service that makes it easy for customers to create and manage scalable blockchain-based transaction networks using the open source blockchain frameworks Hyperledger Fabric and Ethereum.

Blockchain technologies enable groups of organizations to securely transact, run application code and share data without a trusted central authority.