For many companies, the benefits of blockchain technology are very enticing, but the initial startup cost for such applications can be prohibitively expensive and their setup can be complex. Amazon Web Services (AWS), though, hopes to change all this by launching a new service, Amazon Managed Blockchain, that will allow companies to use the power of AWS to quickly and easily build blockchain applications.
This past Wednesday, at Amazon’s own re:Invent conference, the company announced the availability of the Amazon Managed Blockchain platform. The platform provides companies with a fully managed service for creating and managing blockchain networks with little overhead, which can then be easily scaled when necessary. The service is right now available using the Hyperledger Fabric framework, which is geared toward private blockchain networks with a known set of members. It will eventually be available as well for Ethereum, which is a framework geared toward more public blockchain networks in which data transparency is the goal.
While closely associated with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, blockchain technology is independent of digital currencies or financial applications. It is essentially a decentralized ledger that can store and provide access to data without the need of a single controlling authority. For example, a company called Warranteer has a blockchain application that lets consumers store and access warranties for appliances they own.
Amazon Managed Blockchain adds yet another service to those already offered by AWS. The company is the market leader in cloud computing, currently controlling a whopping 33% of the market. Cloud computing powers many of the world’s most popular websites, including Netflix.
Those with an AWS account can create a blockchain network within a few minutes with just a few clicks and without any additional configuration. They can then create additional nodes through the AWS Management Console. The platform will also soon provide monitoring and metrics. This will allow users to view key data about their nodes including disk storage, memory usage, processor usage and node health. The platform will further automatically replace any node that terminates through a hardware failure.
AWS also announced at the conference that users of their managed blockchain service can optionally replicate blockchain data into an Amazon Quantum Ledger Database (QLDB). QLDB is a fully managed database that lets you analyze data and discover trends in the data without interfering with transactions on your production systems.
QLDB further improves the reliability of blockchain applications created with the Hyperledger Fabric framework. It does this by replacing a component in the framework that guarantees that transactions are delivered across the network. Ordinarily, the framework’s “ordering service” does not store a complete log of transactions, but AWS’s own “ordering service” uses QLDB to keep an immutable record of activity on the blockchain.
Currently, Amazon Managed Blockchain is available as a preview release. This means that interested parties can register for access, and if they are approved by AWS, they can create a blockchain network. They can then invite other AWS customers to become members of their account, in order to simulate a real-world network of independent ledgers. They can also create and scale their own nodes. The resulting network could potentially run thousands of applications that process millions of transactions.