Blockchain: Let’s think this through again

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App Dev Manager Chike Okor reflects on the buzz around Blockchain and what it means to solution developers.

Since bitcoin came to public attention in 2009, there have been a plethora of publications extolling the significant commercial implications of both Bitcoin and Bitcoin’s underpinning technology: the Blockchain. There was a second wave of excitement generated by the “smart contract” (though I struggle to see how this differs from conditional execution of a workflow). The sheer list of “A-list” publisher have spurred some firms to invest non-trivial amounts in blockchain related use cases.

Many of these publications have come from experts in business strategy who have identified potential avenues to create value with blockchain related technologies. The articles often provide updates on the aggregate value of blockchain investments; an ever-increasing number that creates more Executive FOMO than value. A closer look at many of the authors of these papers show that they are too far removed from any technical implementations.

Having ridden this rollercoaster, I believe it is now time we get back to basics. The strategy / business operatives should define the problem space and leave it to the Solution Architect to evaluate and build the best solution. Any decent Solution Architect would apply Occam’s Razor to any solution (s)he creates; the end solution would be as simple as could be (but not simpler).

The path of blockchain adoption should be contrasted against that of the NoSQL database. NoSQL databases have existed since the 1960, but were widely adopted in the past 10 years. The NoSQL database has significantly wider adoption in product systems than blockchain ledgers. Unlike blockchain ledgers, usage of NoSQL databases was not mandated from above; their broad adoption is because Solution Architects see them as an effective component in a complex solution.

Where responsibility for evaluating new technologies rests with the Solution Architect, the onus is on the Solution Architect to understand the capabilities and limitations of available technologies and architectures. There are many cost-effective ways of staying abreast of new technologies, solution architects etc. An effective way to quickly gain more than a rudimentary understanding of a technology or technique is the 1 – 3 hour technical briefing (chalk talk) from Microsoft Premier Services. These interactive briefings quickly bring Solution Architects and developers up to speed and address any lingering questions.


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