Your Common Questions about Blockchain

Did you know that you can choose what data you store in your blockchain network? Or that determining costs for a blockchain network is similar to determining them for a cloud infrastructure? We see questions related to these concepts come up time and time again. Here, we break down answers to three frequently asked questions related to blockchain.

Question 1:

What data should I store on the blockchain?
When considering what data to store on your blockchain, it is important to remember that the blockchain is immutable—whatever goes into it remains indefinitely. This becomes especially critical with data that is sensitive to your business. Once it is written onto the blockchain, there is no turning back no matter how sensitive the data is.

Similarly, you’ll want to limit the amount of information stored on the blockchain simply because more data usage equals higher complexity and cost. Avoid anything unnecessary or redundant.

How do you determine what’s necessary and what’s not? Think about who will be transacting business on the network and what types of information needs to be shared amongst all parties.  Only data that is applicable across the entire network (or a majority of the participants) need be included. For instance, consider a coffee supply chain. While it might be necessary and relevant to track fair trade attestation of beans and who produced them, it is less relevant to share the financial terms of packaging costs paid by the retailer selling the beans to consumers.

Remember, policies about data should be agreed upon when building the network’s governance model. More on that, here.

Question 2:

How do I determine costs for a pilot and what do costs depend on?
As you might expect, the costs related to participating in a blockchain pilot are unique to each business use case. For this reason, it is difficult to put an exact number on it.

It is important to understand that enterprise blockchain solutions mirror traditional cloud applications in terms of infrastructure, so there really is nothing novel about blockchain that inflates cost. To determine costs, it is necessary to consider and evaluate the work required to develop applications and integrate the blockchain into your existing systems. Additionally, there may be minimum requirements for the network that must be met, e.g. number of nodes, amount of compute, etc.

Depending on the agreed upon node configurations and minimum requirements, costs can be modeled and managed up front. Cloud infrastructure providers like AWS or Azure provide cost calculators that give estimates based off of anticipated load (amount of data being processed), network utilization, consumption, and how many transactions are expected to be processed.

To get a better idea of costs related to your specific use case, consider consulting a systems integrator at SPR.

Question 3:

What are the prevailing technologies and how do I know what is best for me? In terms of enterprise usage and adoption, the big names in blockchain are Ethereum and Hyperledger. Both offer key features like pluggable consensus mechanisms and smart contract functionality, which make blockchain fit for enterprise contexts. A starting point for evaluation is determining whether your use case is better suited to a permissioned or permissionless network. Hyperledger Fabric is a permissioned blockchain implementation and incorporates access controls and data sharing restrictions natively. On the other hand, Ethereum is permissionless by design but has a rich development community and tooling that supports development. Plus, there are many third parties working to build private data-sharing options that integrate with Ethereum, allowing permissionless networks to become less public and more targeted.

To make the right decisions when it comes to data, costs, and technologies, run a workshop with SPR, where we can help you evaluate your business use case and develop a strategic blockchain roadmap unique to your needs. To learn more, please contact us using the link below.