What is Hyperledger?
In a simple term, Hyperledger is an internet meta database protocol that utilizes blockchain technology to securely maintain digital ledgers – in a distributed fashion, sometimes called ‘decentralized ledger’. There are tons of information out there if you search for it on the internet, but major source I like to visit and get updates are from Linux Foundation’s for overall Hyperledger projects and Readthedoc site for fabric details.
Now, there is a very popular term you probably heard about already – blockchain. Blockchain is the core technology of Hyperledger and a key to make shared databases securely and publicly/privately over different systems. When people talk about blockchain, most cases it refers to the blockchain that was introduced with Bitcoin – a cryptocurrency that created a lot of new possibilities in financial world since 2008. The blockchain mechanism that was used with Bitcoin is somewhat similar to a blockchain used in Hyperledger, but the core of application interface and validation of transaction are very different. For that reason, either of blockchains cannot understand each other nor mixed in a same network. If you like to understand blockchain used for Bitcoin.
Blockchain contains data payload called ‘block’ that is encrypted with hash function, and each block can represent pointer to transnational data. When new transaction occurs, new block gets created and this new block inherits prior block’s information and gets encrypted – like daisy chain. This ‘chaining’ mechanism makes this ‘blockchain’ data not modifiable, as if prior data set gets modified all of the followed data sets will be invalidated.
Hyperledger’s blockchain was created to fill some gaps from what enterprises such as financial institutes or supply chain industry wanted to deploy but Bitcoin’s blockchain lacks of. They wanted to have privately shared blockchains, with rules defined by them. They wanted to have permissions to join the network. For that reason, many engineers such as from IBM, DTCC , DAH and Linux Foundations gathered to create open source blockchain project called ‘Hyperledger’.
Blockchain in Hyperledger also uses hash function to generate new block of information from prior block, but the validation part of transaction is very different from Bitcoin’s. Also, they added many enterprise grade infrastructure requirements to the protocol so that the blockchain systems can be supported for high availability, scalable, and maximum strengthened security. The core networking part of the Hyperledger is called ‘fabric’. It is a building block of Hyperledger blockchain network that integrate different systems and makes many different implementations for various business applications. The name ‘fabric’ is perfect as it is a fundamental component to weave and make any type of clothing (or business application).
Since production ready Hyperledger v1.0 was announced in March 2017, it would be ideal to start testing with v1.0 fabric components, however there are so many good demos and articles that work with v0.6 fabric. I have linked three Hyperledger demo apps based on v0.6 fabric running on our mainframe server. As I get to spend more time on v1.0 and try outs I plan to share more information about it in the future.
I also plan to demonstrate why it is important to understand having Hyperledger fabric run on the most secure hardware platform in the world, which is IBM z Systems(a.k.a mainframe).