Long considered one of the most promising code bases hosted by the Hyperledger blockchain consortium, Intel-contributed Sawtooth software is officially ready for enterprise use.
Revealed today, version 1.0 of the technology provides what might be expected, features inspired by bitcoin and other public blockchains, but repositioned for enterprise.
Yet, what its team of 50 contributors — from startups including Bitwise and R3, and corporates including Red Hat and Capital One — hope will distinguish the solution is its modular functionality, designed to give enterprises across industries a head start on meeting consumer and regulatory demands.
Among the early companies already using Hyperledger Sawtooth are telecommunications giants Huawei, which is building a decompiler for the software, and T-Mobile which is building an identity platform, along with e-commerce giant Amazon, which now lists Sawtooth among its blockchain partners.
Indeed, Intel venture technical lead and Hyperledger Sawtooth maintainer Dan Middleton positioned the software as a way for enterprises with demands that exceed the capabilities of available public blockchains to capitalize on their benefits.
Middleton told CoinDesk:
“We feel that if companies really want to adopt blockchain, or a distributed ledger, then we shouldn’t forgo the basic blockchain properties in taking something from a public chain to enterprise usage.”
Stepping back, Hyperledger Sawtooth is Hyperledger’s second open-source blockchain platform to emerge with an enterprise-ready 1.0 version, following closely on Hyperledger Fabric, which was contributed by IBM and launched last year.
From a development perspective, the launch of 1.0 software solutions is an important step to any code base, as it signifies that the maintainers are committed to the core features, giving coders a sense of confidence that anything they build won’t break as a result of future upgrades.
“For us, it’s a big event, both for the Sawtooth team because of stability milestone. But for Hyperledger, it’s evidence of a growing community of developers working on blockchain,” said Kelly Olson, another Sawtooth maintainer and member of the Hyperledger consortium’s technical steering committee.
A familiar touch
But beyond the potential importance to developers, there’s another key differentiator highlighted by the Sawtooth team in the launch: the innovative method by which computing networks running the software will be able to forge consensus on mission-critical events.
Specifically, Sawtooth marks the business debut of a consensus mechanism called PoET — or proof of elapsed time — a variation on an older system called Byzantine Fault Tolerance that lets users reach consensus, even in an environment where counterparties don’t know each other.
By comparison, other permissioned blockchains require that users know and trust each other. In this way, the blockchain platform is designed to resist denial-of-service attacks that become more likely in a more public blockchain, or one in which unknown parties might interact.
Still, compatibility is also being sought with other blockchains of this nature. Notable in the final version is support for the Solidity smart contract language, pioneered by the ethereum blockchain.
“The maintaners aren’t promoting an unpermissioned version of Sawtooth,” said Olson. “But we’re trying to make the resiliency still available.”
In addition to certain public blockchain features, Hyperledger Sawtooth has become known for the ease with which it can be integrated with hardware security solutions.
And central to Sawtooth’s PoET consensus mechanism is a streamlined ability to integrate with hardware security solutions called “trusted execution environments,” among which is Intel’s newly launched scalable Xeon processor.
The potential hardware integration was originally seen as a controversial solution because it places the security considerations of a decentralized ledger behind the protection of potentially fallible hardware. But the Sawtooth maintainers emphasized this is part of a balancing act between leveraging the strengths of public blockchains with transaction volume and security demands of enterprise companies.
Further, they clarified that while a single company may provide the hardware that creates these trusted execution environments, Sawtooth hasn’t restricted that company to Intel.
“Sawtooth is a hardware-agnostic platform. There is no dependence of Intel hardware.”
Intel chip image via Shutterstock
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