Making the case for permissioned BlockChain technologies

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Earlier this year I joined Gospel Technology in London as its VP Product Strategy and it’s about time I start sharing some of the goodness here. Gospel builds a secure data collaboration platform based on an underlying blockchain type technology. And therein lies the first big challenge; blockchain is a very young, some may call this immature, type of technology and hence comes with a lot of (justified?) criticism. Guess what I will be doing going forward? 😉

Making the case for Blockchain

Much like we had years of disagreement on what ‘cloud’ actually means, we will see multiple iterations both in technology and business definitions of ‘blockchain’. At Gospel for example we lean towards Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT) as a group name rather than using thé Blockchain.

From a technology perspective the biggest value is in the shared cryptography schemes. We have extremely secure cryptography methodologies out there already that haven’t been compromised but
the main scepticism towards them is who holds the keys? Usually hacking a system does not necessarily include hacking the cryptography, but stealing the keys. Now by using a blockchain technology you are increasing the attack level beyond it’s economical value by sharing the keys and making you steal enough keys to break the consensus (for example more than 51%).

In this light, Blockchain is indeed the next level of secure database technology but a couple levels higher than previously. Going back to the use cases; if immutability of historical record in a shared untrusted environment is not core to the case, the chances that you need a Blockchain technology are slim (up to non-existant).

Making the case for permissioned Blockchains

A lot of people think the main drivers for permissioned DLTs is data locality/governance or cluster performance by not having to do the proof constructs. Although these are very valid arguments in themselves, the main driver for a permissioned DLT is infrastructure control. Governments and large corporations simply cannot afford to have their most sensitive information stored on an infrastructure that may take a specific architectural direction they don’t want to follow. With a permissioned DLT they are not forced into chain-fork decisions and could even freeze the entire system from upgrading.

Oh, and did I mention that the very nature of permissioned members in a cluster exponentially increases that attack level complexity?

[Gospel is DLT agnostic but only supports permissioned DLTs, starting with #HyperLedger Fabric v1.0 ]

Making the case for Gospel

At Gospel we tend not to operate from a ‘what can we do with this new technology‘ perspective. All of us have a background in enterprise datacenter technologies to support the business needs. The Gospel platform addresses very specific existing problems in the market namely sharing and collaborating on sensitive information outside of the secured perimiters of a centralized infrastructure.

Here’s the question you need to ask; where are we using lower levels of security (email, CSV, Excel, public file transfer, …) to get information outside of our company where we shouldn’t because the information is quite sensitive?

Could we build our platform on another secure database technology; yes! But it happens that by choosing a permissioned dsitributed ledger technology as our foundation data structure, we are making it more trustworthy than it would be otherwise, which may just be the tipping point that was needed. With a little bit of luck, many of the current shadow IT workarounds can transition to a Gospel Cloud platform in the near future without giving in to less secure authentication, authorization and networking concepts.

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