May 22, 2019

Reality Check: Evaluating Blockchain for Enterprise Integration

Blockchain has the potential to transform many fields, including enterprise integration, which is a subset of the wider challenge of distributed systems integration. So, we wanted to take a systematic approach to understanding how blockchain could affect future integrations of enterprise systems using the Emerging Technology Analysis Canvas (ETAC) framework.

Following is an executive summary of our analysis. You can find the full report from The Role of Blockchain in Future Integrations.

Why Deploy Blockchain?

Let’s start with the key question. Why would an organization deploy a blockchain? We identified four motivations: collaborate more effectively; foster trust, avoid coercion, and enhance customer experiences. Let’s look at each a little closer.

Collaborate More Effectively: Blockchain allows better collaboration with partners, suppliers, and other parties. For example, we can use smart contracts to coordinate a project that involves multiple organizations. Furthermore, a blockchain-based, shared auditable workspace enables various parties to share information or work together.

Foster Trust: Some companies face higher hurdles for engendering trust due to the nature of their business. A case in point is a provider of organic foods that needs to validate it meets regulatory definitions of “organic.” These and other organizations often use a combination of certification and inspections to demonstrate quality. Blockchain provides a potentially more cost-effective alternative for establishing trust in those cases.

Avoid Coercion: Some organizations face risks because they can be coerced into actions that harm them. For example, a government agency may demand changes to software behavior for surveillance purposes. A good example of this is that a certificate authority (CA) can be coerced into creating false certificates. By setting up the certifications in a blockchain, where parties outside the company must approve the changes, a company reduces the probability of coercion by giving up the ability to arbitrarily change behaviors.

Enhance Customer Experiences: In some cases, enterprises may choose to implement blockchain to bring new benefits to customers. For instance, we can use blockchain to digitally handle vehicle ownership and maintenance records, which may create a better secondary market for used automobiles. Another example is issuing verifiable claims based on a user’s interaction with the organization, which then can be used to establish trust.

Based on these motivations, we identified 30-plus Blockchain-based Integration Use Cases, and we’ve described the use cases under each motivation. The next step was to explore the feasibility of these use cases.

Mapping the Viability of Blockchain Use Cases

We found that the use cases we identified can be implemented using four architecture patterns. To understand feasibility of each, let’s explore how these architectures are affected by challenges, frictions, and risks faced by blockchain-based systems, which we covered in the previously published blockchain outlook. The following table summarizes how those affect the four architecture patterns.

Based on the analysis, we have arrived at the following conclusions:

  • There are integration use cases in both public and private blockchain systems.
  • Four architecture pattern candidates support those use cases: Identity and Access Management (IAM), Auditable History or Workspace, Registry or Marketplace, and Smart Contracts and Managed Things.
  • We find that the IAM and Auditable History or Workspace patterns are feasible.
  • We believe that use cases around the Registry and Marketplace pattern are feasible for moderate-size deployments.
  • We predict that the Smart Contracts and Managed Things pattern will need to see a number of breakthroughs before becoming feasible for most use cases.

About WSO2 and Our Research

In 14 years in business, and as the #1 Open Source integration and API management vendor, WSO2 continually invests in areas beyond products. Our Research for Integration team regularly produces our Global Technology Outlook (GTO) — an effort to identify emerging technology trends, classify them based on their potential, and assess a relevant subset of technologies in detail. We do so using our Emerging Technology Analysis Canvas (ETAC). Our research is public in an effort to maintain our commitment to openness, quality, innovation, and integration leadership. To receive updates to ETAC and ETAC-based emerging technology analysis, please subscribe to our Global Technology Outlook Updates Newsletter.