Blockchain is a peer-to-peer ledger that has gained a lot of traction in the financial space. It allows creating networks without the need for a central point of control, unlike the contemporary practice where every member has their own ledger which is also not standardized.
Existing blockchain implementations have scalability challenges, have lack of support for confidential and private transactions and doesn't support requirements across industries. The Hyperledger whitepaper describes a new blockchain platform designed to cater the needs of several broad industry use cases. It has been designed with flexibility and interoperability at its core.
The Hyperledger Vision
Blockchain has the potential to impact almost every area from commerce to data storage and many other areas of our online lives. Instead of one big blockchain working across businesses, the future will involve many interconnected blockchains (or distributed databases) each fine-tuned and suited for the specific purpose. These ledgers will also need to communicate with other ledgers.
To encompass the many different blockchains, the open standard for blockchain has to be modular. It should be easy to swap in and out parts of the technology. One implementation could use a round-robin consensus mechanism while others might use another type of consensus mechanism.
In the future, Hyperledger would consist of rich, easy-to-use API with many modules that could be used to build blockchains.
The whitepaper discusses some of the basic requirements that a platform like Hyperledger should have. Some of the requirements are listed below:
- Private Transactions and Confidential Contracts : Current Blockchain implementations don't support any type of confidentiality. Hyperledger would cater to requirements of basic confidentiality to complex sophisticated algorithms for privacy.
- Identity and Auditability : Blockchain implementations use the concept of public and private keys for Identity. Hyperledger would offer users the ability to mask their identity in certain situations and prove it only when necessary.
- Interoperability : Since the future will have multiple blockchain implementations made of different modules, it is important for the services to interact with each other.
The Hyperledger reference architecture is divided into four categories
- Identity Services,
- Policy Services,
- Blockchain, and
- Smart Contracts
Identity Services :
Identity Services manages identities for all the participating parties and the system components like networks, servers and execution environments.
Policy Services :
The Policy Service includes access control and authorization permissions including the confidentiality policies and consensus policies of the implementation.
The Blockchain Service consists of the p2p (peer-to-peer) protocol, the ledger, and the consensus manager. The p2p protocol works with the internet infrastructure and defines the messages used by the peer nodes. The Ledger manages the blockchain by validating transactions and maintaining the state of the ledger objects. The Consensus Module is responsible for confirming the correctness of all transactions in a block according to validation, and consensus policies.
Smart Contract :
A Smart Contract is a program running on the validating nodes of the blockchain. This service includes a secure runtime environment, a smart-contract registry and life-cycle management.
Hyperledger's mission is to enable mainstream adoption of blockchain technology. The whitepaper discusses the basic requirements that a platform should have to enable anyone who wants to build blockchain software. It aims to be an easy-to-use platform and accepts that it might not fit every possible use case. Thus, the aim is to make Hyperledger as modular as possible.