By Mark Parzygnat, Don Thibeau | Published June 22, 2018
Join the blockchain revolution! If you’re exploring distributed ledger technology for business use and want to build a business blockchain for demos, pilots, or pre-production staging, this guide is for you. We’ll introduce you to several ways to get started now, including the IBM Blockchain Platform Starter Plan.
Kick-start your blockchain network now with the Starter Plan
This guide shows you how to spin up a blockchain network based on the latest open source Hyperledger Fabric framework using either the Starter Plan or alternative methods. But let’s first review key concepts around developing a business blockchain network.
A business blockchain network is a decentralized network that uses distributed ledger technology for the efficient and secure transfer of business assets between member organizations in the network. Assets can be physical or digital, such as vehicles, diamonds, fresh produce, or insurance records. A shared, distributed ledger records an immutable history of all asset transactions between participants in the network, and catalogs the current state (world state) of those assets. The business rules that govern transactions are agreed upon by members and encapsulated in chaincode, also known as smart contracts.
Instead of relying on a central authority or trusted intermediary, such as a bank or brokerage firm, to validate transactions, members of a blockchain network use a consensus mechanism to improve transaction processing speed, transparency, and accountability across the network. For additional confidentiality, members join one or more channels that allow for data isolation; a channel-specific ledger is shared by the authenticated peers in that channel.
A blockchain network for business is collectively owned and operated by a group of identifiable and verifiable institutions, such as businesses, universities, or hospitals. In such a permissioned network, the participants are known to each other, and transactions are processed much faster than in an non-permissioned, public network, like the Bitcoin network. In the Bitcoin network, members are anonymous, forcing the reliance on “proof-of-work” and other types of consensus mechanisms that require time-consuming computations to confirm identities and validate transactions.
Need more background?
To meet modern business demands, IBM has joined with other companies to collaboratively develop an open source, production-ready, business blockchain framework, called Hyperledger Fabric™, one of the Hyperledger® projects hosted by The Linux Foundation®. Hyperledger Fabric supports distributed ledger solutions on permissioned networks for a wide range of industries. Its modular architecture maximizes the confidentiality, resilience, and flexibility of blockchain solutions. 159 engineers from 27 organizations contributed to Hyperledger Fabric v1.0.
The IBM Blockchain Platform is a blockchain software-as-a-service offering on the IBM Cloud. It’s the only fully integrated, enterprise-ready blockchain platform designed to simplify the development, governance, and operation of a decentralized, multi-institution business network. The IBM Blockchain Platform accelerates collaboration in this decentralized world by leveraging open source technology from the Hyperledger Fabric framework.
The IBM Blockchain Platform makes it fast and easy for network members to get started developing and quickly move to a collaborative environment with the performance, privacy, and security for even the most demanding use cases and regulated industries.
Different membership plans are available to fit different ecosystem needs. You can migrate from proof-of-concept to pilot to production on a secure, high-performance, and fully scalable network that you can’t outgrow. The newest membership plan, designed as an easy and economical on-ramp to developing and testing pre-production applications, is the Starter Plan.
Discover the IBM Blockchain Platform:
The easiest and most economical way for developers to get started with blockchain development is the IBM Blockchain Platform Starter Plan. This development and testing environment is ideal for developers who are exploring blockchain technology and want to build a business blockchain for demos, pilots, or pre-production staging.
Any developer — whether enterprise, start-up, academic, novice, or experienced — can experience and deploy code to a full-function, multi-organization blockchain network with the Starter Plan.
The Starter Plan provides one-click setup of a pre-configured, kick-starter network consisting of an ordering service to sequence transactions for the shared ledger, a default channel for communication between the member companies, and two companies, each with a certificate authority and peer node to validate and commit transactions to the ledger. The Starter Plan integrates all Hyperledger Fabric capabilities, with the added benefit of an intuitive UI that cuts network administration and governance time.
With the Starter Plan, you can:
You can use the Starter Plan’s sample applications for demo purposes and for developing your own applications. To automatically deploy and run a sample application, just select, deploy, and launch it via the IBM Cloud toolchain. Or learn how to develop your own applications, step by step, by deploying and customizing the sample applications manually.
Several sample applications are available for you to experiment with and run in the default channel. For example:
The Starter Plan’s intuitive UI helps you govern and monitor your network. For example, you can view your peer nodes, add organizations to your network, create new channels for data isolation and privacy for a subset of members, install chaincode on a peer and instantiate it on a channel, and set up notifications for activities that need member approval.
In this video, Don and Mark walk you through how to launch your Starter Plan network, show you cool features that you won’t find elsewhere, and let you know where to get additional help if you need it.
In short, the Starter Plan makes it easier than ever to get hands-on experience with business blockchain development, governance, and operation in a collaborative, pre-production environment. And because the same easy-to-use UI extends through the other membership plans, your learning curve is flattened when you move to production deployment.
The Starter Plan is optimized for getting started with pre-production development and testing. It differs from the Enterprise plans in several ways:
When you’re ready to grow your network further and deploy your network definition, chaincode, and applications to a production environment with added layers of hardened security and premium support, you’ll want an Enterprise plan.
In an Enterprise plan, you get all of the Starter Plan features, plus a crash-tolerant, production-level infrastructure running in a secure cloud container on an IBM z® mainframe, complete with runtime/data isolation, high availability for the ordering service and certificate authority, and the ability to use HSM cards for secure key storage.
A locally deployed blockchain based on the Hyperledger Fabric framework will be a terrific simulation. But without access to other member organizations, you can’t experience or test the scalability and power of a multi-organization network. Furthermore, using the open source technologies locally requires a bit more patience and dexterity with command-line coding.
Conversely, with the Starter Plan, you get a scalable, reliable, fully integrated IDE that guides you through network creation, deployment, monitoring, and governance with simple clicks, easy instructions, and extensible samples. The code and skills you develop on the Starter Plan are easily transferable to Enterprise plans, when you’re ready for a full-scale network in production.
The easiest, most economical way to learn your way around a real business blockchain and start developing blockchain skills and applications now is to sign up for the IBM Blockchain Platform Starter Plan.
Step-by-step, learn how to deploy a sample network (the Car Auction network) to the Starter Plan. Then you can start developing, demoing, and staging your blockchain applications on a simulated multi-organization network.
If you prefer to build and run a local network, check out these instructions for setting up Hyperledger Fabric using Docker Compose. For a detailed walk-through of how to deploy the network locally, see the IBM Code pattern Build a blockchain network.
If you’d like to set up a network that developers can interact with, you need a network that is exposed to the internet. You can create a blockchain network that runs on a Kubernetes cluster within IBM Cloud by following these IBM Blockchain instructions for setting up on Kubernetes. You’ll also see how to create a REST server that exposes API endpoints so developers can interact with your blockchain network.
If you’re a total open source, do-it-yourselfer and prefer command-line coding, check out the docs for creating a Hyperledger Fabric network at Hyperledger.org.
There are lots of ways to get support and answers to your questions.
We’ll conclude with 5 great ways to build your blockchain skills:
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