Blockchain news is seemingly everywhere these days, and for good reason. The technology behind bitcoin holds a lot of promise for all sorts of use cases — some of them having nothing to do with digital payments.

Over the course of last year, a lot of ideas regarding the technology were tried out, but “during 2017, many of them will be discarded,” one blockchain expert predicted. This year, efforts with related crypto technologies will get even more serious attention from corporate developers.

Expected Developments in 2017

One early initiative is the announcement in February from the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance. The group was formed to encourage a hybrid public/private approach to find best-of-breed solutions for corporate developers.

This mix of public and private methods makes the technology more palatable for a number of different corporate applications. For example, the use of an open-source code base can help attract developers to improve the code and add interoperable frameworks, yet also allow innovation to happen.

“Too often, private blockchain solutions are quickly dismissed by proponents of public network infrastructure,” said developer R Tyler Smith. Hopefully, that time is coming to a close.

One thing helping to expand blockchain’s reach in the past year has been the rise of blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) offerings from major providers. Microsoft Azure Marketplace and IBM BlueMix are two of the most popular options for enterprises. It’s also interesting to note that Deloitte has a new BaaS offering as part of its blockchain consulting practice, and Amazon is beginning its own offering for AWS as well. Clearly there is a growing groundswell for BaaS.

How to Launch Blockchain Technology

So, how should an IT manager get started? First, look at the core reason for using the technology. “One thing that blockchains do extremely well is allow entities who do not trust one another to collaborate in a meaningful way,” said Smith. If you have to connect a wide partner network or quickly establish a trust relationship among a disparate group, it makes sense to look at blockchain.

Second, spend some time learning what is involved with the technology. Microsoft’s Virtual Academy covers the basics of the infrastructure with numerous training videos and white papers about how to deploy it. IBM also has an informative video on some security issues you should consider. You may also want to consider these well-known BaaS providers and try them both out. For instance, IBM makes it free to get started, and Microsoft’s service isn’t all that expensive for a small test configuration.

Finally, don’t be black and white on the issue of public or private blockchain, but consider a mix. Just like industry discussions on cloud computing have evolved away from an either/or deployment, the same will be the case for blockchain in the near future as the technology becomes a focus of collaboration.

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