Rival IT giants IBM and Oracle are working to communicate with each other through their blockchains.
Oracle developers said at last week’s Hyperledger Global Forum in Phoenix, Arizona, that the groundbreaking interoperability work is happening on blockchains built using Fabric.
Mark Rakhmilevich, Senior Director of Blockchain Product Management at Oracle, said the Fabric interoperability initiative was launched just before the first Hyperledger Global Forum in Basel, Switzerland, in late 2018.
“We have done full testing with IBM and SAP. The three of us have basically done cross-network testing on Fabric,” Rakhmilevich said in an interview. “So if somebody comes and says they want to run a network on Oracle but have some members whose preference is to be on IBM, we can show them the process which is tested and certified.”
Somehow, this is about making both IBM and Oracle’s clouds run on blockchain nodes. But it also opens the door for the consortia of companies clustered on the two platforms to connect.
The technical aspects include ironing out information exchange across networks in a format which can be digested by the other side. “The long-term goal should be to create a simple user interface that you can click into and set up. But for now we tested manually going through and connecting,” said Rakhmilevich.
Shipping as an Example
As is often heard among the distributed ledger technology (DLT) set, Enterprise blockchain is a team sport. However, corporate groups are often aligned with specific platforms even if, in some cases, they address the same use case (for example, shipping container tracking) and use the same underlying open-source blockchain (such as Fabric).
A good example is the Global Shipping Business Network (GSBN) consortium of Oracle Blockchain and CargoSmart, which includes shipping carriers such as CMA CGM, COSCO Shipping Lines and Hapag-Lloyd, and uses Fabric.
Meanwhile, in 2018, IBM and Maersk launched TradeLens, which also includes CMA CGM and Hapag-Lloyd as members as well as MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company and Ocean Network Express, and is running on the IBM Blockchain Platform, based on fabric.
Consortium building is a tough job and it’s no surprise tech vendors want to keep the big names on their platforms. Rakhmilevich recommends starting with “code first” to make the process more agile, whereas the heavy lifting of establishing a formal consortium can be done in parallel.
“Creating the consortium framework is going to take a lot of time, so let’s go and start building this while the lawyers are talking, something people can run without having this formal consortium,” he said.