IBM is Developing an Open-Source Blockchain with Tech and Banking Giants

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IBM is heading an open source project called the “Open Ledger Project” that is overseen by the Linux Foundation and includes major tech and banking giants. In essence, the Open Ledger Project will ostensibly lead to the creation of a pseudo-private(?) but open-source ledger that is likely to have applications beyond its participants, according to reports.

Although details are currently limited to reports by WIRED, Fortune and Bloomberg, IBM has laid the foundation for a new open-source blockchain with the Open Ledger Project that is supported by the likes of Intel and Cisco in the tech spectrum, as well as JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, the London Stock Exchange and other financial institutions.

The group sees the project as a means to create a public network of interoperable custom blockchain applications that can be developed by businesses, thanks to the open source code it is based from.

Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation explains the need for an open source effort with a distributed ledger. In a statement to Bloomberg, he said:

Distributed ledger systems today are being built in a variety of industries but to realize the promise of this emerging technology, an open source and collaborative development strategy that supports multiple players in multiple industries is required.

Unlike the R3-led private consortium of banking corporations from around the world, the Open Ledger Project will be open source, with the Linux Foundation keeping a close eye on the project. It’s notable that IBM chose to go to the Linux Foundation, arguably one of the most prominent open source collectives that has successfully overseen the development and popularity of the its namesake operating system.

WIRED notes that only IBM and Digital Asset Holdings (DAH), led by CEO Blythe Masters, have currently pledged to contribute their existing code, technology and know-how to the project. According to a statement acquired by Bloomberg, IBM is contributing “tens of thousands of lines of existing code,” presumably from its year-long research foray, along with dedicated IBM developers and intellectual property. Digital Asset is also contributing code along with developer resources and significantly, its Hyperledger name, which the publication notes could be used to brand the project in the future.

Although the two companies are the only ones currently innovating for the project, the technology will be one that will available for all adopters, according to Zemlin. In a statement, he said:

As with any early-stage, highly-complex technology that demonstrates the ability to change the way we live our lives and conduct business, blockchain demands a cross-industry, open source collaboration to advance the technology for all.

No Singular Blockchain

Jerry Cuomo, the Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of IBM software sees Bitcoin’s blockchain as a “great design pattern” while noting that the idea of a blockchain should not be restricted to one specific instance of a blockchain but several implementations of it.

We are very excited about blockchain, less as a once-and-only-once implementation of an idea, but as an idea that can be implemented and extended in ways that are consistent but enhanced.

Specifically, he sees no singular blockchain that will come to distinguish itself as the one that matters, including the ledger effort that he is helping with.

Speaking to WIRED, Cuomo said, “Like with the web, there is no one thing to rule them all,” before adding:

There is no one blockchain to rule them all. There will be multiple implementations of the blockchain. And it will be a sin if they don’t interoperate and work together.

Case in point, the Open Ledger Project will arguably compete with the blockchain-based platform that Overstock plans to use for issuing stocks, an endeavor which the SEC recently approved. However, Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne is welcoming the open source project’s announcement. Byrne sees the upside in anyone adopting and contributing to the technology, as opposed to close-ended private ledgers that would have big Wall Street banks “circle the wagons,” as reported by WIRED.

A Blockchain for Business, Unlike Bitcoin’s Blockchain

Bitcoin’s blockchain is the most well-known of all blockchains, including those that are private and open-sourced, for obvious reasons. It is public and anyone with the capacity to mine does so and makes an impact within the distributed ledger.

IBM’s Open Ledger Project is looking to build upon the potential and applications of Bitcoin’s blockchain for other uses beyond a currency, Cuomo adds. Speaking to Fortune, he contends:

I don’t have a strong opinion on cryptocurrencies, but I have a strong opinion on the blockchain as a solution for contracts and supply chains and the internet of things. I think Bitcoin is an interesting application for blockchain but there are thousands of applications and wider use cases beyond that.

Companies and banks involved in the project include the likes of Accenture, ANZ Bank, Cisco, CLS, Credits, Digital Asset, Fujitsu, Initiative for CryptoCurrencies and Contracts, IBM, London Stock Exchange Group, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, State Street, SWIFT, VMware and Wells Fargo.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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