Thursday, 29 November 2018 11:52

AWS doubles up on blockchain

By
AWS CEO Andy Jassy AWS CEO Andy Jassy

AWS has announced a pair of blockchain services that suit distinct use cases.

AWS chief executive Andy Jassy said at the company's AWS re-Invent conference that it had talked to hundreds of customers about blockchain during the second half of 2017 and the first half of 2018, and determined that there are two distinct use cases.

One is where there is a central, trusted authority but there is a need for transparency, immutability and cryptographic verifiability. this is served by Amazon Quantum Ledger Database.

The other is the more traditional — to the extent that blockchain can be considered traditional — situation where multiple parties want to share a distributed ledger and there is no central authority. that's where Amazon Managed Blockchain comes in.

Amazon QLDB addresses situations such as vehicle title registries, which have a trusted authority but there is a need for immutability. Immutability cannot be achieved with relational databases without a great deal of effort, and blockchain frameworks are too hard to use.

The software, now in preview, is fully managed, fast, highly scalable and easy to use, Jassy claimed. As there is no consensus, it can execute twice or thrice as many transactions in the same time as common blockchain formats.

It uses a journal to provide a record of every change, and changes are cryptographically chained and accessible via SQL queries.

QLDB is serverless, so there is no need to provision a particular capacity.

Health and well-being organisation Healthdirect Australia's general manager of technology Bruce Haefele said "Healthcare Direct operates in a heavily regulated industry, and it is critical that our compliance is correct and auditable.

"With Amazon QLDB we look forward to having a complete and verifiable history of every change in our system, making it simple to audit when and how we arrived at our current state.

"Regulatory complance is a fact of life for healthcare companies, and Amazon QLDB enables us to easily track the controls we have in place and understand how they have changed over time."

Amazon Managed Blockchain scales to thousands of applications running millions of transactions, Jassy said. A blockchain can be created with a few clicks, and managed though a simple API. At launch it supports Hyperledger Fabric, with Etherium support to be added "in a couple of months".

Amazon Managed Blockchains can span multiple AWS accounts with multiple nodes per member. Blockchain certificates can be managed with AWS Key Management Service.

A range of instances provide different combinations of compute and memory.

"Many of our customers want to build applications where multiple parties can execute transactions without a central, trusted authority, and they also need to create a blockchain network," said AWS general manager of Amazon Blockchain Rahul Pathak.

"Building a scalable blockchain network with existing technologies is too hard today, and that's why customers pay expensive consultants to help them.

"Amazon Managed Blockchain eliminates the muck involved in setting up a network, adding and removing members, and scaling to meet application demands.

"Customers can use either Ethereum or Hyperledger Fabric, the two most popular blockchain frameworks, and get a functioning blockchain network set up with just a few clicks."

Disclosure: The writer attended AWS re:Invent as a guest of the company.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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