An Introduction to Hyperledger in 2020

With the recent release of Hyperledger Fabric 2.0, the Hyperledger ecosystem is taking its next great step. The steady progress Hyperledger has been making is a major contributing factor to the global adoption of Blockchain technology and is helping provide an entry point for businesses to get their feet wet with the seemingly daunting prospect of decentralized business models. We feel this makes the beginning of 2020 the perfect time to take another look at Hyperledger:

What is Hyperledger?

To address diverse business needs, Hyperledger itself is not a single Blockchain or a single framework, but rather a single brand under which a number of frameworks and tools are developed. This is also clearly stated by the Hyperledger Foundations mission statement:

“Hyperledger will forge a brand that will be seen widely to reflect the accepted default ‘safe’ deployment platform for enterprise teams.”

The individual developments are sponsored by members of the Hyperledger Foundation and are referred to as projects. Over the past few years Hyperledger has steadily been increasing its number of projects to now include six different ledger frameworks as well as a series of accompanying libraries and tools. Such a ledger framework allows the implementation of a particular Blockchain use case.

These tools now include the following:

Additionally, the community has been expanding, both by increasing its developer base and onboarding new members into the Hyperledger Foundation. The managed blockchain provider Chainstack (2020) reports that the ledger framework Hyperledger Fabric has the most developers out of all private blockchains. The Foundation essentially acts as the hub, connecting members and businesses within the Hyperledger community. This allows the collaborative development and improvement of frameworks and tools. Through partnerships with the likes of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance and R3 Corda, the Hyperledger Foundation has also begun to bridge the gap between different Blockchain protocols. This is particularly emphasized by the Hyperledger Besu project, which allows for easy interaction with an Ethereum Blockchain and thus potentially opens a gate between permissioned and permissionless networks.

Below is a map of the current Hyperledger Community:

How do Hyperledger Networks work?

Let us look at the implementation of Hyperledger based on the example of an enterprise context. One or multiple Hyperledger ledger frameworks, such as Hyperledger Fabric or Sawtooth, can be implemented by a single company (individual) or a group of companies (consortium). Unlike public Blockchains, there is no single Hyperledger network (as is the case with Bitcoin or Ethereum). Instead, every implementation is run on a permissioned basis. That means, the companies/members of the network need to approve a new member based on an individually customisable membership and data read/write policy. Additionally, the highly customizable nature of the Hyperledger frameworks and the different framework options available mean every network/consortium setup is a unique implementation.

This may sound complicated at first, but it essentially means, that a group of business partners can come together and create a joint network, with rules that are specially tailored to meet their collective needs.

This leads to very different styles of governance for every implementation and also means, that there are many different networks tailored to the specific business needs of the member companies.

What networks run on Hyperledger?

A number of Hyperledger implementations have seen great adoption in recent years, proving both the need and the viability of permissioned networks for specific business processes. These projects have been some of the most successful within the entire Blockchain ecosystem on a production level and have increasingly added members and features to their networks. Both of the early ‚flagship‘ Hyperledger networks - Tradelens and FoodTrust – have seen steady growth and expanded their consortia to the point where they are among the largest networks running in a production environment for their respective use-cases. The new use cases being implemented on Hyperledger include, among others, an online parts marketplace for the aerospace industry, a number of new supply chain transparency solutions and identity management platforms.

Further use cases and implementations can be found here:

and here:

What is Hyperledger Fabric?

Hyperledger Fabric is a ledger framework under the greater Hyperledger brand and is among the first frameworks designed for building permissioned blockchains. It is among the most long standing and frequently adopted frameworks for permissioned networks and has one of the largest developer bases actively contributing to its improvement. Its immense modularity and flexible setup have proven to be an effective toolset for implementing permissioned Blockchains in specific corporate environments, where the architecture of the Blockchain needs to be adjusted for the corporate infrastructure it is operating under. However, while this allows consortiums to build networks that precisely match their needs, it also requires significant investment in development efforts and governance whilst also carrying the administrative overhead of maintaining a complex network. As time progresses though, more and more solutions have been provided to diminish the complexity of setting up a Hyperledger Fabric network. These include specific Blockchain as a Service offerings, a growing set of tools for deployment, as well as increased knowledge and support within the developer community. Additionally, throughout the development of Hyperledger Fabric these concerns have increasingly been addressed and each new version has expanded on both usability and available features.

Our Hyperledger Fabric toolkit

From our extensive use of Hyperledger Fabric since the early days, we have seen the development of Hyperledger Fabric steadily progress. This has allowed us to gain a deep understanding of the tasks involved when developing Hyperledger use cases, from which we have built a suite of tools to ease the process of setting up networks, writing chaincode and maintaining a production environment. Particularly when deploying a network, be it a testnet or a full production environment, the process is significantly shortened by our toolkit. We are more than happy to discuss in detail what implementation is required and assist in quickly setting up a network with the help of our tools.