As Bitcoin firmly enters the mainstream and the blockchain space evolves beyond the banking sector, corporations in all industries are increasingly adopting blockchain technology. According to Gartner research, 14% of enterprise blockchain projects moved to the production stage in 2020. Immutable, peer-to-peer, secure decentralized networks have the potential to significantly reshape the digitally-driven business landscape.
Presently, constraints inherent to blockchain give rise to roadblocks in enterprise adoption of the cutting-edge technology, such as latency, high computing costs, or additional security and performance testing. Moreover, a lack of awareness and understanding of blockchain technology hinders enterprise adoption. Luckily, organizations that successfully implement DevOps can mitigate the challenges of blockchain adoption.
What is blockchain?
Blockchain represents an immutable ledger of decentralized data that can be stored and exchanged securely. With blockchain, transactions are recorded as data blocks inserted into the end of the chain of previous transactions.
Using blockchain technology provides significant benefits for organizations:
- Establishing trust between parties through exchanging reliable data with each other;
- Accelerating transactions processing and reducing risks and costs for all the participants involved;
- Getting an opportunity to track and trade a variety of tangible and intangible assets on a blockchain network;
- Ensuring a high level of data security.
Areas of application for blockchain technology
While currently not as widespread as Bitcoin, the opportunities of applying blockchain have already extended from cryptocurrency transactions to various use-cases across industries — from finance to manufacturing.
- Connecting healthcare buyers and suppliers via blockchain platforms;
- Blockchain solutions to ensure patient safety and improving quality during clinical trials.
- Tracking food and goods safety;
- Solutions to increase visibility and trust in retailer-supplier relationships.
- Secure data sharing between citizens and agencies;
- Conducting an immutable and transparent audit trail for regulatory compliance, contract management, identity management, and citizen services.
Oil and gas
- Solutions for oil and gas supply chain participants to respond to demand spikes due to the unforeseen events;
- Blockchain-enabled business transactions among participants and suppliers, distributors, and partners, via smart contracts, certifications, and digital compliance.
- Smart contracts allowing for more visibility into coverage and premium payments and providing timely notifications to the participants;
- Blockchain-powered solutions allow multiple companies to work on the relevant records collaboratively.
- Blockchain-enabled digital assets platforms to keep private keys, applications, and data secure;
- Reducing the potential for fraud using paperwork by providing all the participants with a single blockchain-powered source of information.
Challenges of blockchain adoption
Cost and efficiency
One of the core values of blockchain comes from how it decentralizes trust with distributed consensus. However, this inherent feature also produces a major drawback. Because all nodes on the network have to verify and record every transaction in the blockchain, the process is slow and redundant, requiring significant processing power. In addition, the fundamental mechanism of distributed consensus means infinite computing occurs simultaneously on the blockchain, which significantly increases compute costs. Thus, paradoxically, to maximize productivity, blockchain technology uses a large number of nodes.
Security and privacy
Blockchain applications require smart contracts to create indisputable identities, which raises concerns about the privacy and security of the data stored on a shared ledger. Moreover, security depends on the type of blockchain network. Generally, public blockchain networks allow anyone to join while keeping their identity anonymous. Conversely, private blockchains allow only known organizations to join and typically use identity to validate membership. Although blockchain technology provides a secure ledger of transactions, it remains vulnerable to cyberattacks and fraud.
Additional specialized testing
Integrating blockchain solutions into the application development cycle generates a new host of testing requirements. In addition to traditional testing and validation processes, blockchain applications require specialized testing for smart contracts and peer/node testing.
Blockchain and DevOps
For businesses looking to implement blockchain applications, DevOps best practices can help address the technology’s inherent issues and unlock its true innovative power. Organizations that have successfully embraced the DevOps methodology can implement the same processes for blockchain smart contracts and a variety of other blockchain enterprise applications. Typically, the process is as follows: a software engineer works on the source code of a smart contract or a decentralized app (also known as dapp), makes specific changes to that code, tests them, and submits the delivered output into a source control system and build of a project.
Furthermore, applying DevOps security processes (such as shifting left with DevSecOps) to blockchain applications helps fill the technology’s core security and compliance gaps. Automating security testing and bug tracking is crucial for blockchain applications. Plus, the DevOps framework of continuous feedback and improvement allows teams to establish monitoring and testing processes.
The adoption of blockchain technology provides great value to innovation-driven businesses but creates a new set of challenges. For example, insufficient understanding of the technology, high latency, and potentially increased costs due to low processing power often hinder organizations from implementing blockchain solutions. Nevertheless, integrating blockchain solutions within a well-established DevOps framework can help companies successfully leverage both.