The enterprise managed blockchain, or blockchain as a service (BaaS) space, is one which though nascent has many of technology’s fastest horses running in the race. Amazon Web Services (AW and Microsoft, who continue to conduct their battle for cloud infrastructure, have well-known stakes in blockchain, as well as many of the ‘second tier’ cloud provides, from Alibaba Cloud, to IBM, to Oracle.

A new report from Everest Group has assessed the runners and riders in managed blockchain platforms – and has put IBM and Microsoft Azure at the top of the tree.

In total, 12 vendors were assessed, with fully half – Alibaba, AWS, Azure, IBM, Oracle and SAP – placing in the all-important top right segment, indicating high market adoption and capability maturity.

IBM scored strongly across all areas according to the analysis, which combined what Everest calls its ‘proprietary service provider intelligence database’, alongside conversations with enterprises and vendors. The company scored full marks on platform configuration and ecosystem, ease of adoption, enterprise adoption and business value. The only other vendor to score full marks on any topic was Azure, in vision and strategy – the only segment IBM failed to get a full house – and ease of adoption.

Of the 12 vendors classified, seven use Hyperledger as at least part of their stack. AWS, for instance, uses a mix of Hyperledger Fabric and Ethereum, while Azure bakes those two in alongside Corda and IBM is on Fabric only. Sovrin, a private sector non-profit, is the only one to differ from Fabric, utilising Hyperledger Indy.

At the other end of the scale, VMware and HPE both scored poorly. The report however did note that VMware was ‘poised for enterprise adoption’ given its promising feature set and ‘long-term ecosystem vision.’ HPE was praised for its outlook across critical financial infrastructure, for which the company has a long heritage.

One company not analysed in this report is Google Cloud; the third of the ‘big three’ cloud hyperscalers, depending on which analyst one follows. While the company’s efforts in blockchain are not as pronounced, initiatives are taking place, such as the partnership announced with Cypherium in August. Here, this can be seen as more of an infrastructure deal to ‘provide enterprises with a full-stack solution to harness the potential’ of distributed ledger technologies (DLT), as Cypherium put it at the time. The company also has deals in place with IBM Cloud and AWS.

Everest outlined the rationale for managed enterprise blockchains – and how this is set to continue. “Enterprises are betting big on blockchain technology and are actively looking for easy ways to understand, prototype, and deploy blockchain-based solutions,” the report noted. “Although open source blockchain frameworks have exploded in popularity in recent years, many enterprises today are looking for mature and deployment-ready solutions that are easy to adopt, maintain and manage, presenting an interesting market opportunity for vendors to build service-focused platforms on top of such frameworks.”

Yet such solutions are not an ideal fit for all organisations. Writing for sister publication CloudTech in June, Eric Dynowski, CTO at ServerCentral Turing Group, noted the four tenets required to consider managed blockchain:
  • You have to be a big organisation – or at least have a developer team used to building software and systems. “The blockchain by itself is useless,” Dynowski wrote. “To make it work, you’ll have to figure out how to build it into an application, which means you’ll [need] the internal resources for that project
  • You need to be willing to share your data – a no-brainer, and ‘non-negotiable’ as Dynowski puts it
  • You need an immutable ledger. “This is probably the easiest criterion to meet, but needing an immutable ledger alone isn’t reason enough to adopt blockchain,” says Dynowski
  • You need to ensure that implementing blockchain does not add to your complexity. “This is the real kicker,” Dynowski concludes. “If you’re only using blockchain to use blockchain, it’s not a good solution”
The complete list of vendors analysed were Alibaba Cloud, Amazon Web Services, BurstIQ, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IBM, Jelurida, Microsoft Azure, Multichain, Oracle, SAP, Sovrin, and VMware.

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