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Blockchain technology is an important part of the modern development industry, with more and more developers of all stripes looking to utilize its unique properties. But for all of its potential, it still has to find a way to fit into existing channels and work with the tools that developers rely on every day. In this post, we will explore how the blockchain interacts with cloud platforms so that we can develop best practices that will make blockchain a useful tool to fold into workflow rather than a disruptive obstacle to be overcome.
Understanding the Blockchain
What is the blockchain? It’s an important question in modern development circles, and one that many people struggle to answer. But it’s not that complicated. A blockchain is simply a system by which data—most commonly but not exclusively cryptocurrency—is tracked by a shared record maintained across several computers in a peer-to-peer environment. Multiple verifications within this closed system allow the data tracked by the blockchain to be highly accurate, providing security against fraud or tampering.
Blockchain can be thought of as an evolution of the cloud. The cloud allowed data to be stored off-site on a server, preserving it in the event of localized disruption or manipulation. The blockchain allows data to be verified and preserved across an entire network of machines, increasing security further. Since the blockchain is similar in some ways to cloud-based development, best practices can be used to make a cloud platform an effective bridge to deploying blockchain solutions.
Best Practice: Don’t Assume the Blockchain Will Solve Every Security Problem
The principle benefit of blockchain technology is a higher level of security, and maximizing security is the primary goal for any blockchain solution. However, no security is uncrackable forever. It is thus important for any developer using blockchain technology to remain cautious about the kinds of data they are willing to store on blockchain networks. Personally identifiable information should be considered among the most valuable and vulnerable data available, and developers should be cautious about using blockchain solutions to manage it. If you do feel that the blockchain is a good fit for your data, always be sure to take appropriate security measures that do not assume the blockchain will be enough.
Best Practice: Use Easily Verifiable Data
Blockchain technology works by comparing data at multiple points to verify that it has remained untampered with throughout the entire process. One of the reasons that cryptocurrency became such a strong fit for blockchain tech is that it is entirely numerical in nature, easily checked against a saved reference. But few businesses rely entirely on numbers. Projects frequently require art assets, written material, and even multimedia elements, all of which need to be kept secure. Without a plan for managing these kinds of resources, pursuing a blockchain solution for project management will be, at best, a partial solution. Services such as IBM’s Blockchain Starter Services and Microsoft’s Azure Blockchain Development Kit can help developers set up the checks they need, but it’s always important to consider not just the service you use, but the data you are working with.
Best Practice: Use the Tools You Are Familiar With
Blockchain solutions are relatively new and serve a very specific, security-oriented function. While their capabilities may expand considerably as new solutions are created, they are currently somewhat limited. You will need to rely on established products to create and manage content outside of your blockchain solution (“off-chain”) and it will be important that the blockchain strategy you adopt allows for easily working with your preferred solutions. Microsoft’s Azure Blockchain Development Kit is one solution that is specifically designed to make it easier for developers to incorporate Azure services into blockchain solutions, but every developer has different needs. Even if you have a strong plan in place to begin adopting the blockchain, don’t assume that the tools you need will work seamlessly with the new process.
New Process, Old Wisdom
These are just three of the best practices that you should follow when you consider using cloud services to facilitate a blockchain solution. As experience with the blockchain spreads, more best practices will be developed, and new scenarios that call for new approaches will arise. As ever, keep in mind your development goals, the tools you use, and the way you want to work in order to use blockchain and any other technologies to their fullest potential.