Blockchain as a service (Baas) has emerged as one of the leading areas in corporate-led blockchain development. Baas means a plug-and-play type of blockchain architecture that enables customers (businesses) to build their own cloud-based solutions, blockchain apps, and smart contracts. The Baas service provider manages the infrastructure and keeps back-end activities running. Some of these could be security protocols, bandwidth management, nodes management among others.
Blockchain as a service model aims to open up a new model of enabling businesses to share data with other companies in areas of mutual interest without fear of losing control. Businesses may choose a more decentralized alternative that allows parties within an industry to share some aspects of data in order to enhance interoperability, visibility, transparency and traceability in areas such as supply chain.
Baas enables this by providing architecture companies can easily use instead of having to start from scratch. Already Microsoft, IBM, and Amazon have already begun offering the service.
Microsoft Azure offers baas enabling:
- Deployment of fully managed blockchain networks
- Governance model at scale
- Enabling offloading of blockchain network management and focusing on application logic
- Developer tools to build blockchain apps
Individuals and corporates wishing to form permissioned blockchains can use without having to start from scratch. For example, when a group of suppliers wants to form a consortium to track their products, they can tap into a baas service provider, assign roles and responsibilities (nodes) for verifying transactions, add members and deploy governance model with ease.
Already big players such as J.P Morgan and Singapore Airlines are using Microsoft Azure Blockchain as a service.
Azure BaaS. Source: @microsoft
Amazon Web Services
Amazon has taken the same approach as Microsoft in giving developers tools to quickly deploy managed blockchain architecture in their businesses without having to start from scratch. For Amazon, it already has Amazon web services (AWS), a successful SaaS offering centralized ledger database for companies. It is now leveraging this capability of providing more options for businesses. With AWS blockchain as a service, businesses that need to build immutable and verifiable capabilities that allow multiple parties to transact without a central authority can be able to do so. Amazon Baas enables:
- Easy creation and managing scalable blockchain networks
- Uses Ethereum and Hyperledger frameworks
- Manages your certificates
- Let’s you easily invite new members to join the network
- Tracks operational metrics –usage, memory, storage, etc.
For businesses, already using AWS, they can integrate blockchain easily if they need to based-on business/industry use case and rationale.
Source: Amazon AWS
With existing customers such as Healthdiect Australia, (a not-for-profit health organization), Guardian Life Insurance (a financial and insurance company) and Smaato (a leading online ad exchange) already using it, more businesses in the markets that require transparency, traceability in product lifecycle are likely to use it.
This is the latest company to enter the space promising to extend its CRM offering to an easy way to build distributed partner networks. It enables business to have a secure network for quickly and reliably sharing data. Its main target is for companies in areas such as supply chain which need to establish a trust network for tracking products from source to end-user. It markets itself as a low-code blockchain platform for CRM.
The salesforce interface enables businesses to create a trust network with simple clicks.
- Define the rules for your trust network
- Select the data you want to share
- Invite partners and set permissions write and access
Salesforce believes that by combining CRM workflows with blockchain data, it would be easier for companies to be more efficient when they come together.
Salesforce uses Hyperledger Sawtooth as well as customized for Salesforce Lightning.
Already, it has customers such as Arizona State University which is using it to design and create educational networks that enable university to verify and securely share information. The aim is giving students control over their academic transcripts and making easier when transferring universities.
R3 defines itself as an enterprise blockchain software firm with over 300 participants across multiple industries from the private and public sectors. The aim is to enable them to develop blockchain solutions on Corda, its open-source blockchain platform.
On Corda, developers can build blockchain apps for businesses. Other features of Corda include smart contracts that allow businesses to transact directly while ensuring strict privacy.
All leads to this
Mainstream business case for Baas may not very clear at the moment. However, the need for businesses to establish new models for collaborating more efficiently with partners is needed. Interoperability within interested parties for sharing data and collaborating is there and growing.
Finance and banking has been the first main use case for building trusted business networks in order to improve payments across different financial institutions, countries and even continents. This model is fast moving to other industries such as supply chain. It would not be inconceivable to have such model work in areas such as insurance or healthcare in order to improve efficiency.
Replacing paper-based and manual transaction processing with smart contract based architecture makes sense for many industries for increasing efficiency
Just like businesses today use services such as Dropbox, Salesforce, Mailchimp offer unique services that allow for data storage, CRM, email marketing, Baas could be the cog that enables companies build new synergies for inter-industry collaborations opening up new frontiers in business operations.
With the above and other efforts going towards consortium blockchains, it wouldn’t be far-fetched to speculate that it is only a matter of time before we have mainstream projects adopting blockchain as a service model.