Enterprise blockchain customers might not need to worry any longer about having picked the wrong platform to build on, thanks to a new interoperability solution being unveiled by Accenture.
Revealed at the annual Sibos conference on Monday, the consulting giant has created an "interoperability node" which it says can house the business logic of different blockchains – in other words, the rules which allow them to perform various tasks.
According to Accenture, the interoperability node can connect the four major enterprise platforms: Hyperledger Fabric; R3's Corda; Quorum, developed by global bank JPMorgan Chase; and Digital Asset (DA).
David Treat, the global blockchain lead at Accenture, said the first bridging of blockchains was done between Hyperledger Fabric and Quorum, and then the same architecture was applied to connecting R3 Corda and DA.
The interoperability node provides lines of communication between two or more distributed ledger technology (DLT) platforms and includes embedded business logic that contains standards, policies and guidelines by which the different blockchain platforms have agreed to work together, he said.
"We built the first prototype of an interoperability node to sit in between Fabric and Quorum and got it to work. We have now built one that integrates Corda and DA," Treat told CoinDesk. But these are "two example builds of the same solution pattern; it would work on any combinations of the four."
Driving demand for this sort of connector, Accenture is now seeing the first use cases (supply chain, trade finance, insurance etc.) which have been progressing on one platform where clients are interested in the ability to work with another ecosystem on a different platform.
"As an example, [there is] a supply chain ecosystem that's developing on one platform that wants to work with a trade finance ecosystem that's on a different one," said Treat. He would not name these projects, explaining, "they are not ready to announce that yet. It's coming later."
Accounting for differences
But these enterprise blockchains are not made equal; some have performed better than others in side-by-side tests, for example.
So the new system can account for different latency in consensus, said Treat, who sits on the boards of both Hyperledger and the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance. "If one ecosystem's DLT platform runs significantly faster or differently than the other, then part of the logic in the interoperability node is to decide how to treat that."
A transaction that's relevant for both platforms could mean the two ecosystems agree to wait via some kind of pending state to allow the other one to catch up, he said.
Further, Treat said that the strict limits on data sharing on R3's Corda platform, for instance, could still be harmonized with another blockchain where data is more widely broadcast.
"It doesn't matter that R3 uses a different data structure, because we are applying the logic in the interoperability node that triggers the use of native DLT system capabilities about how they treat either tokenized assets, reference data or shared data," he said.
In terms of the overall performance of the new solution, Treat said the initial working version used a single interoperability node that obviously introduced constraints in terms of what could be processed.
"On our development pathway, we are exploring the ability to have multiple interoperability nodes to share and spread the load. And also a version that would not require a single interoperability node at all, but actually just simply be part of the smart contract logic that any node can run," he added.
Richard Gendal Brown, chief technology officer at R3, said interoperability is key to avoiding the trapped assets and silos of the past.
"We made specific design choices when building Corda to ensure that applications built on our platform can interoperate without friction," Brown said. "The successful testing of these technology solutions is a significant step forward for blockchain development and validates our approach."
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