An "enterprise blockchain" is a type of permissioned blockchain that can be used to streamline business processes at scale, such as track supply chain goods or settle global payments.
Corporations believe this type suits their needs better than a public blockchain network, such as Bitcoin, because the visibility of their data can be restricted to a select group of people.
While there are different types of blockchains, they are all essentially digital records of financial transactions and data that are shared among a group of entities. They also use cryptography to make it difficult for malicious agents to manipulate the history of previous transactions.
Enterprise blockchain FAQs
How is an enterprise blockchain different from other types?
A vast majority of enterprise blockchains are "permissioned blockchains," meaning companies have direct control over them. For instance, they can block transactions that do not comply with their rules, or if law enforcement asks them to do so.
This is one of the biggest differences that sets permissioned ledgers aside from public ones like the one Bitcoin is built on. Public blockchains exist outside the control of any one company or government and are resistant to censorship. This is why bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been used successfully to circumvent international sanctions and even combat domestic cases of extortion.
While companies aren't keen on this aspect, many have determined that they might be able to use the underlying technology to revolutionize payments and other areas of business.
Some of the main characteristics of enterprise blockchains include:
- Accountability: Each node in the network – which each holds a copy of the transaction history – is known and can be held accountable for its actions. For example, often enterprise blockchains are shared by a few companies or financial entities in a cooperative format.
- Permissioned: Only users who have permission can use the blockchain. The network owner(s) can choose who's allowed to use it and who's not.
- Mutable: If all entities managing the network agree, the data can be changed.
- Scalability: Because enterprise blockchains are typically not as decentralized as Bitcoin, they can easily support more transactions at the base layer.
What are the types of enterprise blockchains?
Enterprise blockchains are generally permissioned, falling into two categories:
- Private: A central party determines the rules of the network and can change them at will. This central party determines who can contribute to the network by, for example, validating new transactions. JPMorgan’s jpmcoin falls into this category.
- Consortium: A group of two or more parties jointly define the network rules, and each entity can contribute to the network. The Facebook-backed libra (now diem) currency falls into this category.
Enterprises could also conceivably use a public ledger system like Bitcoin, but most choose not to. Microsoft's identity project ION is an outlier for doing so.
Would my company benefit from using one?
Blockchains can be useful, but not every company needs one. CoinDesk has put together a chart with some of the questions you might want to ask and answer before proceeding down the rabbit hole.
Computer science researchers put forth a similar, more formal paper for determining which scenarios blockchains are best suited for.
How popular are they?
A global survey of companies conducted by Deloitte in 2019 found 53% of respondents said that "blockchain technology has become a critical priority for their organizations in 2019," a 10% increase over 2018.
What are some crypto startups and organizations working on enterprise blockchains?
- Enterprise Ethereum
- Digital Asset Holdings
What are some prominent companies exploring enterprise blockchains?
Big companies with household name recognition are exploring this type of distributed ledger technology and don't want to be left behind.
Notable companies exploring them include:
Where are companies in terms of adopting enterprise blockchains?
Many companies have been exploring the advantages of enterprise blockchains for years. But the technology is far from taking over the world just yet. Most companies are still in the testing phase and haven't rolled out production-ready versions.
Whereas before companies working on these solutions have mostly been rivals, recently many of these same companies have been partnering with existing blockchain projects.
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups. As part of their compensation, certain CoinDesk employees, including editorial employees, may receive exposure to DCG equity in the form of stock appreciation rights, which vest over a multi-year period. CoinDesk journalists are not allowed to purchase stock outright in DCG.