Hyperledger hatches supply chain/blockchain proposal, pops it in incubator

Mutual assistance: firm support by Igor Kisselev via Shutterstock
Mutual assistance: firm support by Igor Kisselev via Shutterstock

The Hyperledger Project has flicked the incubation switch on a framework to enable the development of supply chain projects which will ultimately rely on blockchain technologies.

If you happen to find yourself at a blockchain conference, someone nearby will be talking about how the technology is perfect for building supply chain applications, whether it’s tracking pharmaceuticals, diamonds, or fish.

However, when you ask how anyone is actually putting such a system in place, answers are in short supply.

So Hyperledger is looking to develop re-useable tools and reference implementations to showcase “practical ways how to combine components from the Hyperledger stack into a single, effective business solution.”

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Hyperledger, which operates under the aegis of the Linux Foundation,  makes clear its aim is to develop a “framework…It’s not a blockchain and it’s not an application.  

Rather, it continues, “Grid is an ecosystem of technologies, frameworks, and libraries that work together, letting application developers make the choice as to which components are most appropriate for their industry or market model.”

And while some of the more “visionary” blockchain advocates will tell you how everything is different now, Hyperledger notes that “enterprise business systems and market models are actually quite mature, as organizations have been transacting electronically based on common standards for decades.  Grid will provide a place for implementations of these standards and norms.”

Drilling down into the formal proposal, the backers’ aims are to “provide a valuable and more accessible functionality for distributed supply chain usages [and] demonstrate in an authentic way how to make use of multiple hyperledger technical ingredients in the same solution stack.”

Some of the code comes from a Hyperledger Sawtooth example focused on traceability, which “has since grown into a body of libraries and data specifications which can be used when implementing smart contracts and application components (client apps, web interfaces, reporting databases and transaction event monitors, etc.).”

It will also include Pike, which “allows management of identity concepts related to per-organization smart permissioning code (deployed on-chain and executed in a WASM engine) — an advanced feature which goes beyond traditional role-based access permissioning.”

More broadly, it says Grid will “be a multi-layered ecosystem of technologies and frameworks that are able to work together”.

So, at the top level will be applications and capabilities covering functions such as “track and trace”, “settlement” asset ownership, etc. In the middle, will be Grid, covering domain models, smart contracts, a universal client, all sitting above enabling technologies, such as a blockchain platform, identity frameworks, and Smart Contract Interpreter.

Hyperledger lists three sponsors for the Grid project: David Cecchi, of Cargill; Shawn Amundson of Bitwise IO; and Intel’s Dan Middleton. The project is officially in Incubation, meaning it has gone beyond the proposal stage, but has yet to reach Active, meaning a full functional code base, an active and diverse community of developers, amongst other things.

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