There is a wide array of approaches to implementing blockchain. Diverse landscape of players has emerged, including software service providers that offer software capabilities on higher stack levels than the blockchain protocols themselves. Each approach has its own merits and challenges.
|APPROACH||HOW IT IS DONE||EXAMPLES|
|IT Services||Build on request||ConsenSys|
|Blockchain First||Develop using the tools provided by the blockchain||Ethereum, Bitcoin|
|Development Platforms||Tools for IT Professionals||ERIS, Tendermint, Hyperledger|
|Vertical Solutions||Industry specific||Axoni, Chain, R3, itBit, Clearmatics|
|Special APIs & Overlays||DIY building blocks||Blockstack, Factom, Open Assets, Tierion|
# Blockchain as a Service (BaaS)
Setting up an environment to test and research blockchain requires an ecosystem with multiple systems to be able to develop research and test. The big players in the cloud industry like Amazon(AWS), Microsoft(Azure), IBM(BlueMix) have seen the potential benefits of offering blockchain services in the cloud and started providing some level of BaaS to their customers. Users will benefit from not having to face the problem of configuring and setting up a working blockchain. Hardware investments won’t be needed as well. Microsoft has partnered with ConsenSys to offer Ethereum Blockchain as a Service (EBaaS) on Microsoft Azure. IBM(BueMix) has partnered with Hyperledger to offer BaaS to its customers. Amazon announced they would be offering the service in collaboration with the Digital Currency Group. Developers will have a single-click cloud-based blockchain developer environment, that will allow for rapid development of smart contracts.
Examples: Accenture, ConsenSys, Cognizant, Deloitte, IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), Ernst & Young.
# Blockchain first
In this case, you work directly with the given blockchain tools and stack. Assembly is required, so this isn’t for the faint of heart at this point, as many of the technologies are still developing and evolving. However, working directly with the blockchain provides a good degree of innovation, for example in building decentralized applications. This is where entrepreneurs are creating ambitious end-to-end, peer-to-peer applications, such as OpenBazaar (on bitcoin), or Clearmatics (on Ethereum).
Examples: Bitcoin, Ethereum, etc.
# Development platforms
Here, you don’t start with a preference for a blockchain. Rather, you start with a development approach orientation, and you build an app that backs into a blockchain infrastructure that could be served in the cloud. The goal here is rapid development, and you focus on the blockchain programmability. Some choices: BlockApps, Blockstream, Eris, Examples: EthCore, Hyperledger, Tendermint.
# Vertical solutions
This segment is where we have seen the most rapid metamorphosis in the past year, mostly in financial services. These solutions are industry-specific, and they are based on private blockchain or ledger infrastructures. A caveat here is that some of these are not full blockchains. Rather, they are distributed ledgers, which are a subset of blockchain capabilities. And some don’t even include a consensus element, which takes the implementation another level down from distributed ledger tech.
Examples: Axoni, Chain, Clearmatics, Digital Asset Holdings, itBit, R3.
# APIs and overlays
This approach uses the blockchain as an asset, ownership or identity-binding infrastructure, and you build applications with a specific focus on chains of proof, ownership rights, title registries or other specific services with a built-in trust-based component.
Examples: Blockstack, Factom, Open Assets, Tierion.