Bringing blockchain as a service to government

As blockchain projects proliferate, major cloud service providers are making it easier for agencies to develop and use distributed ledger applications.

With the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program recently reaching 100 authorizations of cloud service offerings, cloud services are increasingly central to IT operations at most government agencies. And while interest in blockchain technology isn’t expected to produce large returns for government until 2025, according to Gartner, work is already underway to add blockchain-as-a-service capabilities into the cloud marketplace.

Amazon Web Services recently launched new offering to help users build blockchain applications.  AWS Blockchain Templates allow customers to quickly deploy Ethereum or Hyperledger Fabric frameworks so they can focus on the application itself, rather than the network it runs on. The templates allow users to take advantage of the Amazon Elastic Container Service within a virtual private cloud or to use Docker’s containers in the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud.

“These templates will let you launch an Ethereum or Hyperledger Fabric network in a matter of minutes and with just a few clicks,” AWS Chief Evangelist Jeff Barr wrote in an April 19 blog post. “The templates create and configure all of the AWS resources needed to get you going in a robust and scalable fashion.”

Microsoft and IBM already offer blockchain as a service, and in interviews with GCN, company executives confirmed that they are already working with government agencies directly on blockchain projects.

“We always want to start with framing the business opportunities to figure out the mission and the current friction points that prevent that mission from being delivered efficiently,” Matt Kerner, partner and general manager of financial services and blockchain at Microsoft Azure, said.  “We work together to figure out ways to reconfigure the ecosystem so the mission can be completed quickly, efficiently and reliably in a trustworthy manner.”

Microsoft announced Blockchain for Azure Government in October 2017 to give government customers the ability to use Ethereum, Hyperledger, Corda and Quorum in their cloud environment.  Through the creation of a single node, agencies can test how the technology could work, or they can create a small virtual network to explore a proof of concept with total control.

The IBM Blockchain Platform runs through the IBM Cloud and uses Hyperledger fabric as the foundational framework for all blockchain use cases and projects.

“Since Hyperledger is an open source platform, our work involves hosting the nodes in the cloud and adding security configurations and governance capabilities associated with a government platform,” IBM Public Sector Blockchain Lead Mark Fisk said.  “If agencies have requirements where the information in the chain needs to be stored in a private cloud, then we have the ability to design the blockchain in a hybrid model depending on who is accessing the data.”

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