Blockchain Rivalry Rises: Microsoft Joins Hyperledger; IBM Rearchitects Platform for Kubernetes

Charlotte Dunlap – Principal Analyst, Application Platforms


• IBM’s next-gen platform addresses operational deployment issues with Kubernetes inclusion

• Salesforce poses competitive threat in 2020 with low-code approach

The competitive blockchain arena continues to heat up this week with Microsoft finally joining the Hyperledger OSS project, and IBM making inroads into multi-cloud support through new Kubernetes support. The moves follow Salesforce’s official entry into blockchain last month and inevitable disruption through its low-code platform support slated for 2020.

Recent vendor activities indicate increased customer pressure to make this emerging market sector more accessible to enterprises not familiar with the complex technology and perhaps lacking in adequate DevOps expertise. Blockchain platform updates are largely focused on acknowledging customer demand for improved ease of use, less up-front investment, and adherence to open-source software to ensure cloud portability and avoid vendor lock-in.

Microsoft responded by announcing plans to participate in the Linux Foundation’s leading blockchain project Hyperledger, a move which will help with interoperability around its blockchain efforts. These include the rollout of a new Azure Blockchain service last month, which builds on its previous release of a blockchain workbench and SDKs over the past year.

IBM’s response was apparent in this week’s announcement of IBM Blockchain Platform version 2. The update includes a rearchitected design to allow it to run in any computing infrastructure through support for Kubernetes in order to increase deployment flexibility. IBM also announced support for Visual Studio IDE, allowing developers to write smart contracts in Java, JavaScript, and Go and ease app integration with network management functions. IBM intends for its blockchain marketplace to serve as the Hyperledger Fabric solution of choice for enterprises launching blockchain networks in which partners of all sizes can build upon. IBM also changed its pricing model so various blockchain participants only pay for what they use, an attractive prospect to IBM’s large blockchain clients looking to easily onramp partners to their consortiums.

One month ago Salesforce launched a beta version of Salesforce Blockchain, technology which will be available in 2020 through its low-code Salesforce Lightning Platform. The platform is built on open-source technology Hyperledger Sawtooth, for both public networks and permissioned network scenarios. Salesforce is targeting its CRM customers with low-code methods to help developers build trusted blockchain networks and apps to share verified data through the Lightning Platform, including the ability to connect non-Salesforce partners to the network. Salesforce has proven its ability to strip away the complexities of advanced services, such as AI, which is how it will be able to compete with the likes of blockchain leaders such as IBM, offering more comprehensive, albeit complex blockchain platforms. Along with Microsoft, Salesforce has also become a member of the Hyperledger project, further validate the importance of the leading OSS blockchain technology.

GlobalData has tracked and compiled significant events in the blockchain arena over the past few months, including IBM’s rearchitected blockchain platform; Salesforce’s officially entered into the market; Lenovo’s plans to use IBM’s blockchain technology to track and monitor the distribution of Lenovo’s hardware and systems within its data centers; and Orange’s partnership with a blockchain start-up to launch a consortium for certifying digital news, which could disrupt current social media methods. Please see the Blockchain Watch, which GlobalData delivers on a quarterly basis.

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