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Hyperledger expands open source blockchain efforts

The CTO of a major blockchain group provides insight into the growing effort to build open source blockchain technologies for enterprises, though challenges remain.

The Hyperledger Foundation is growing in multiple ways to support continuing demand for open source blockchain technologies.

The Hyperledger Foundation started in 2015 as an Open Source project run by the Linux Foundation, to be a home for blockchain and related technologies that can be used to enable secure data access and sharing.

On Feb. 16, the Hyperledger Foundation added nine new vendor members to its organization, including Absa, Datachain, Global Shipping Business Network, Indicio, IoBuilders, Marketnode, MDxBlocks, Palm NFT Studio and Zeeve. The new members join Hyperledger's existing membership, which includes JPMorgan Chase, IBM, American Express, FedEx, Oracle, SAP and Siemens, among others.

The growing membership follows another key milestone on Feb. 9, when the Hyperledger Foundation appointed its first CTO, Hart Montgomery. Before joining the Hyperledger Foundation, Montgomery was a senior research scientist at Fujitsu and an active participant in several Hyperledger open source projects.

The Hyperledger Foundation now hosts a growing number of open source projects, including Hyperledger Fabric, which enables a distributed ledger for transactions, and Hyperledger Cactus, a technology that enables integration of multiple blockchains.

In this Q&A, Montgomery talks about what open source blockchain is and the challenges the technology faces.

Hart Montgomery, CTO, Hyperledger FoundationHart Montgomery

What do you see as the role of CTO at the Hyperledger Foundation?

Hart Montgomery: I see the job as an opportunity to really have the ability to address some things within Hyperledger that I thought could really move the project forward. These are issues in the realm of things that a CTO can address, like having a projectwide security policy.

One of the reasons I think blockchain hasn't been adopted by a lot of traditional vendors is the fact that people that use a lot of legacy systems are very conservative by nature, because of the huge risk. I think security is a big reason that holds adoption back. So one of the things that I'm going to address as CTO is moving forward our security policy so that users and developers can have confidence in our security.

I'd also like to encourage and improve engagement with the academic community so we can maintain cutting-edge research and contributions to Hyperledger. I also want to serve as sort of a technical liaison between all the different projects so that we can focus on collaboration within Hyperledger whenever possible.

My point of view is that blockchain is a database with decentralized trust.

How do you define enterprise blockchain and how does that differ from a distributed immutable ledger?

Montgomery: My point of view is that blockchain is a database with decentralized trust. A distributed database may or may not have decentralized trust, and it's usually implied that a distributed ledger will have decentralized trust.

In fact, people typically use distributed ledger and blockchain interchangeably in a lot of academic literature. The real answer is that no one can really agree on this definition.

What do you see as the key challenges of enterprise blockchain adoption?

Montgomery: From a technical perspective, scalability is often a big challenge. Particularly for things like payments or finance, where you need to potentially process hundreds of thousands of transactions a second, which can be very difficult for blockchain.

Another big technical challenge is privacy and confidentiality. Many industries where people want to apply blockchain have very strong privacy and confidentiality requirements, either in the form of formal rules and laws, or implicit needs. Most blockchain systems are not at the point right now where they can solve these privacy and confidentiality problems efficiently.

In many cases, if you want to convince someone to use blockchain, you have to convince a skeptical sort of traditional person that this new technology can help them.

What new or emerging project within the Hyperledger Foundation interests you the most?

Montgomery: I do have sort of a favorite child in the new project category. It is sort of my child because I was one of the co-founders of it, and that would be Hyperledger Cactus.

Cactus is focused on interoperability and integration between blockchains.

In today's world, we have a lot of different databases for a lot of different things, and each can have different properties. As organizations move databases to blockchains, where decentralization makes sense, we will still need them to talk to each other, and they'll need to have different properties.

My view is that blockchain integration and blockchain interoperability are a big solution to many of the problems that we're currently facing with regard to blockchain adoption. Those challenges include things like scalability and potentially even things like security. So I'm really excited about the direction and the opportunities for Cactus.

Editor's note: This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

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