Blockchain is being compared with the “network of networks,” and rightly so, as the traits are similar.
When the internet first came into existence, usage was minuscule, but the promise was to connect the world. We see the same traits with a blockchain framework— different platforms coming in with different functionalities and less interoperability.
Bitcoin did a fantastic job in connecting the network , and then came Ethereum, ripple, Litecoin, Tether, and the list goes on. Like the crypto space, the blockchain framework has multiple platforms in the enterprise domain as well.
Blockchain has become a disruptive force in organizations across the globe. Read how HCL's CoTrust Platform(SM) and AWS services, can help enterprises solve their interoperability and blockchain deployment challenges effectively
The introduction of more technology platforms in a blockchain environment gives users choice but also increases the siloes. To make a blockchain network work in an enterprise, there must be a glue which sticks all of these platforms together.
In this post, we will discuss the blockchain framework that can help achieve interoperability among the blockchain platforms, and how to deploy the same on Amazon Web Services (AWS) to make it more agile and scalable.
HCL Technologies, an AWS Premier Consulting Partner with multiple Amazon Web Services competencies including DevOps and Migration, has built a highly scalable, cost-effective, and easy-to-integrate blockchain platform called CoTrust that is architected to deploy on Amazon Web Services.
The Interoperability Pertinence
A blockchain environment is driven by inter-organizational networks and not every organization uses the same blockchain platform. It’s, therefore, imperative that blockchain networks and blockchain applications should interoperate. Another reason for interoperability is different consensus mechanisms used by different platforms and blockchain applications.
The most common consensus mechanisms like Proof of Work (PoW) and Proof of Stake (PoS) are slow by design and can handle few transactions per second. This is not suitable for a scaled deployment, but there are blockchain platforms which use different consensus mechanisms to solve this aspect.
Creating interoperability between platforms gives organizations a choice in selecting the best blockchain platform based on transaction handling capability rather than sticking to a platform which has a low transaction processing speed.
Interoperability is required in many places when there’s an exchange of data in the value chain, such as financial services, manufacturing, logistics, and even healthcare, where patient records are exchanged to provide better services.
Before an enterprise takes the journey toward blockchain, they must understand the purpose, use case, and viability of the platform in the long run.
Blockchain is still finding a sweet spot to interconnect, and there are multiple ways—cross-chains, proxy tokens, sidechains, and swaps— that enable interconnection among different blockchain networks. Still, interconnecting is not simple and requires a tremendous effort to reach to a constructive level.
Solving Interoperability Using the HCL CoTrust Blockchain Platform
HCL’s CoTrust is a managed blockchain application platform which provides scaffolding services on top of various blockchain engines such as AWS Managed Blockchain. These prebuilt services on the CoTrust blockchain network help developers quickly create blockchain use cases without worrying about the nuts and bolts of getting the blockchain environment ready for development.
The representation below depicts HCL’s overall CoTrust Blockchain Platform.
Figure 1– HCL’s CoTrust Blockchain Platform
CoTrust is a blockchain platform that supports multiple blockchain engines. These are part of its foundation layer, which comprises preconfigured services that interact with the blockchain engines.
The layer above are the services which facilitate transaction execution and manage the certificates and keys necessary for making those transactions happen. The top layer is where users are provided with the interface (or APIs, as needed) to authenticate themselves and submit the transactions.
For testing out a sample use case, a scaled down version of the CoTrust Blockchain Platform is available on AWS Marketplace. Using the same, you can easily create a two-node blockchain network on Hyperledger with the use of a single command with certain administration services as part of the package on AWS Marketplace.
Figure 2– CoTrust on AWS Reference Design
Blockchain Interoperability Using CoTrust
CoTrust comes with its own interoperability solution to address the challenges of running transactions across different networks. CoTrust logically groups various disparate networks, which work independently and may have been incompatible, to be connected with each directly.
Figure 3– The CoTrust Blockchain Network
Let us take a look at a couple of examples where a user is trying to interact with two different blockchain platforms using CoTrust. Both the scenarios enable transaction execution among disparate networks by allowing them to use CoTrust Node/Account as a bridge or custodian between networks.
Scenario 1: Transaction over Multiple Networks Using Single CoTrust Instance
In this scenario, there are two separate blockchain networks running on two different blockchain platforms. CoTrust is managing both of the networks where a user is submitting two transactions on two different networks using the CoTrust interface.
The user submits Transaction A to add an asset in Network X and Transaction B to add another asset in Network Y.
- CoTrust submits the Transaction A to Network X and signs using the keys for that network, and then submits Transaction B to Network Y by signing using that network’s keys. The hashes of both the transaction and network is stored in the transaction store for offline access or to be used for confirmation later.
- CoTrust’s support for multiple blockchain engines ensures these networks can be any or same blockchain engines.
Figure 4– Transaction over Multiple Networks using a Single CoTrust Instance
Scenario 2: Transaction between Different Networks Using CoTrust
In this scenario, User X is transferring some amount to User Y and both are sitting on two different networks. CoTrust will use its wallet services to execute this transaction.
- CoTrust will move asset from Customer A/c to CoTrust A/c in Network X, and at the same time create an asset in Network Y with link to the transaction hash from Network X. The complete transaction is also stored in transaction store for offline access and can be used for validation/auditing later.
- Similar strategy is used by CoTrust for the transaction within same network but different subgroups (channels).
- CoTrust’s support for multiple blockchain engines ensures these networks can be any or same blockchain engines.
- This scenario mostly occurs in case of supply chain where traceability needs to be accomplished, but a Tier 1 supplier of a part/asset are not comfortable revealing their Tier 2 suppliers to the buyers or others on the network. The use of CoTrust provides them with easy-to-do transactions, and transfer assets from one channel/subnetwork to other without revealing their source from the last network.
Transactions between Different Networks Using CoTrust
Reference Design on AWS for Interoperability Solution
Following is the CoTrust reference design on Amazon Web Services for the interoperability solution. HCL chose AWS as its cloud platform for proven advantages. AWS lets you create a globally scalable and easy-to-deploy solution in a matter of few clicks.
In distributed ledger technology (DLT) functionality, you need a low latency and scalable platform which can handle multiple nodes at the same time in terms of data distribution. Amazon Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS) provides the capability to provision and decommission nodes quickly and saves operational costs in the process.
CoTrust Reference Design on AWS
At the bottom layer, CoTrust has support for multiple blockchain engines. The supported engines include AWS Managed Blockchain (Hyperledger Fabric), Ethereum, R3 Corda, and Hyperledger Fabric. AWS Managed Blockchain provides a lot of scaffolding services on top of standard Hyperlegder and Ethereum, which makes it easy to integrate and deploy with other services in the blockchain network.
The platform services layer has microservices-based architecture. These are services which facilitate transaction execution and are also responsible for interacting with certificate and identity management systems, transaction store, and integrating with other enterprise systems such as ECM and ERP.
Following is the list of modules from platform services:
- Administration services
- Transaction services
- Security services
- Auditing services
Certificate and Identity Management
This layer manages the CoTrust instance’s relationship with certificate authorities and the identities that CoTrust uses in communicating with blockchain engines and other external entities.
Responsibilities of this layer include:
- Determining the level of trust CoTrust has for certificate authorities (CAs) that have signed certificates
- Determining parent certificates used for certificates signed by CoTrust
- Determining the certificates and identities that CoTrust uses to interact with blockchain and other external entities
This information in regards to the CAs, their whitelisting, and the identities (information and secret keys ) associated/enrolled with the CAs are stored as part of the Certificate and Identity Management database.
The platform has support for using AWS Key Management Service (KMS) in its future roadmap. The CoTrust platform also supports LDAP integration for user management. The CoTrust platform utilizes Amazon DynamoDB for its key-value and document data structures. The biggest reason for going with DynamoDB is its serverless capability and light setup, along with a millisecond response time, which is necessary when looking at a global scale of deployment.
Web and API Interface
This layer is where users are provided with the interface (or APIs, as needed) to authenticate themselves and submit the transactions. This layer also offers integration with LDAP for user authentication and role mapping (if required).
This module stores the transaction hash for all of the transactions in a database that are independent of the blockchain ledger. Transaction store uses DynamoDB to store the transaction hashes offline for the transactions. DynamoDB is also used for its NoSQL features, including document database service and ease of scalability.
Transaction Store is particularly helpful in case of auditability for the transactions, and for user interface development to quickly access a particular transaction using the hash/transaction ID stored in Transaction Store.
HCL Technologies thrives on providing effective, yet easy-to-deploy solutions keeping in mind the economics of the solution.
With a combination of CoTrust and AWS services such as AWS Key Management Service, customers can solve their interoperability and blockchain deployment challenges effectively. Contact HCL to learn more. Learn more about CoTrust and HCL capabilities in blockchain space, through these resources: