Cloud computing ranks as one of the most important technological landmarks in the past decades because it not only managed to challenge the traditional perception of how companies should organize, manage and deliver their resources and services, it also offered a highly agile and flexible alternative capable of meeting the rapidly changing needs of the business and enterprise sector.
Besides answering the core needs of companies such as infrastructure, storage, security and computational power, cloud service providers have also started to act as vectors that help propagate new and innovative technologies by removing the layer of complexity and costs associated with these types of integrations. One such technology is blockchain, a technology that has garnered much attention due to its potential to consolidate data ownership and security, as well as for its ability to aid a wide pallet of domains like financial services, supply chain, cybersecurity, audit and healthcare. Even so, for many, blockchain still remains that coveted low hanging fruit that still remains out of reach due to its intricate design, highly complex and costly implementation process that acts as a deterrent for most companies.
Modex, one of the earliest players in the blockchain technology space has taken a stance to remedy this issue with its patented technology, the Blockchain Database (BCDB) solution that hides the sophisticated design of blockchain technology behind the familiarity of a database component.
Through this outside the box approach, Modex helps companies access valuable features like data integrity, immutability, traceability, distribution and decentralization to streamline their flow of operations and to enhance business productivity and security. To make its technological offering more accessible, Modex offers multiple implementations and integration options for its Blockchain Database solution, including an Infrastructure as a Service version of their BCDB product which is available on Microsoft Azure, one of the biggest cloud service providers in the world.
The continuously expanding XaaS family
XaaS or aaS stands for “as a Service”, and it represents the delivery models used by cloud providers for their services. The three main models that have been around since cloud computing’s early days are Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). In the scope of this article, we will discuss the three main delivery models for cloud computing services, highlighting how blockchain can be propagated to enterprises, businesses and consumers through these three distinct channels.
But blockchain isn’t the only technology that is compatible with the “as a Service” delivery model of cloud providers. As new and innovative technology hits the market, it seems that it is only a matter of time until more exotic offerings whose names can become veritable tongue twisters hit the market. Some examples are Database as a Service (DBaaS), Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), Artificial Intelligence as a Service (AIaaS), Internet of Things as a Service (IoTaaS), Analytics as a Service (AnaaS), Data as a Service (DaaS), etc.
Blockchain delivered as Software as a Service
Software as a Service (SaaS) often referred to as “on-demand software”, is a form of cloud computing that allows users to connect to and utilize cloud-based applications over the internet. Operating under a pay as you use model, SaaS offerings are an ideal solution for large scale enterprises as well as SMEs. A major advantage of the SaaS model is that it reduces users’ upfront cost by mitigates the need to purchase the software as well as a powerful on-prem infrastructure capable of running it, because all of the underlying infrastructure, middleware, software and application data are located on the service provider’s centre. However, users need to keep in mind that the performance of SaaS services is dictated by internet connection speeds, as such fast network hardware is mandatory.
Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) is based on the Software as a Service model, and it involves the creation, management and maintenance of cloud-based networks for companies that design, develop and build blockchain applications. The emergence of the BaaS model has signalled an important step in the evolution of blockchain technology because it marks a departure from the initial use case of blockchain, cryptocurrency, marking the expansion of the technology in other areas.
At its core, BaaS enables beneficiaries to leverage cloud services to build, host and operate blockchain-based applications without needing to worry about the technical complexities, costs and operational overhead involved in creating, configuring, maintaining and operating a blockchain.
- cost-effective: vendors provide all the necessary hardware components, servers, middleware, updates and storage
- effective maintenance: the service provider is responsible for maintaining the blockchain infrastructure which gives beneficiaries ample time to focus on their application and develop new features
- high availability: the application is available anytime and anywhere as long as there is an internet connection
- quick deployment times
- vendor lock-in: although BaaS service providers make it easy to bring all your data and join the services, it may be difficult and costly from a technical standpoint to leave or change vendors
- limited integration capabilities: companies may require multiple integrations with on-prem applications and services. BaaS providers may offer limited support in this area, forcing beneficiaries to develop in house workarounds
- low levels of customization: BaaS offerings usually offer limited functionalities, features and integrations, acting more as a series of templates from which beneficiaries can choose.
- lack of transparency and control: BaaS entails that beneficiaries give up a degree of control over their data to the service provider. Furthermore, clients have limited visibility into backend processes and how their data is handled
- questionable security and performance: because the service provider controls, maintains and manages the BaaS service, the levels of security and performance are under the jurisdiction of the vendor, leaving few aspects under the direct control of the beneficiary
Blockchain as Platform as Service (BPaaS)
Platform as a Service (PaaS) primarily targets developers and programmers, enabling them to create, run and manage their own applications without needing to worry about building and maintaining complex hardware infrastructures. All of the elements necessary for developing and maintaining a software application such as hardware installation, server maintenance, infrastructure updates are all covered by the cloud provider, leaving developers ample time to focus on their code and new features for their application.
In recent years, BPaaS services have gained a significant foothold among leading tech players because it enables their customers to concentrate their efforts towards enhancing and expanding their business functionalities and strategies, relying on their PaaS providers to manage and maintain the blockchain framework. As interest in blockchain technology has spiked over the years, many established cloud service providers have expanded their offerings to include BPaaS services. The main advantage of the BPaaS model is that it makes blockchain adoption easier as it removes the integration and installation pressures from the beneficiary to the service provider.
Acording to Oracle’s scholarships, BPaaS are an ideal solution for developers who wish to develop blockchain-based applications giving them the opportunity to build software without managing operating systems, software updates, storage, or infrastructure. BPaaS is an attractive proposition for many companies and businesses who wish to take their first steps into the blockchain space because it removes responsibilities like system management, maintenance and updates, giving them the chance to explore and experiment with blockchain and its features.
- time efficiency: companies can test and deploy new blockchain products in a short amount of time
- cost-efficiency: system maintenance, upgrades and replacement of faulty hardware components is done by the service providers
- more freedom to enhance your application: since beneficiaries don’t need to handle the infrastructure, they have more time to focus on improving their apps
- easy access to blockchain technology: blockchain is known for its complex implementation and demand for highly skilled developers. With BPaaS, clients can easily tap into the benefits of this technology without needing to worry about intricate and costly development times
- scalability: as the workload increases, beneficiaries can pay the service provider to unlock additional resources. Conversely, when the workload decreases, beneficiaries can easily scale down to pay for as much computational power as they need
- vendor lock-in: if the service providers haven’t provisioned migration policies, beneficiaries may find it difficult and costly to move to another BPaaS provider
- low transparency: as the vendor is the one doing all the heavy lifting required to maintain the infrastructure, clients can end up knowing little about what happens in their backend
- security concerns: using BPaaS services means handing control over some of your data to the service provider. Paired together with the low levels of transparency on how the data is actually handled raises a series of security concerns
- legacy systems will find it difficult to connect to a BPaaS service without undergoing extensive customization
Blockchain as IaaS
IaaS is a cloud service that grants access to a fully provisioned, on-demand computing infrastructure that can be managed over the internet. Under the IaaS model, companies access all the benefits of on-prem computing resources without needing to worry about all the overhead involved with deploying, maintaining and operating an in-house infrastructure. As one of the most flexible cloud services, IaaS promotes easy scalability and resource management. Because IaaS operates under a pay as you use model, consumers rent resources such as computation, storage and other hardware components, utilizing them on a need basis, meaning that when a spike in performance is required, companies can pay for more resources.
On the same note, when the operations become less resource-intensive, companies can easily scale down to save costs. Beneficiaries have full control of the infrastructure via an API or dashboard. The higher degree of control means that users need to manage multiple aspects such as the operating system, applications, data, middlewares and runtime environments. Meanwhile, the cloud provider manages the servers, the virtualization, storage and network.
Blockchain delivered as an IaaS helps answer the blockchain-related needs of every company, business or organization, regardless of their sphere of activity and size. By contracting the services of a cloud provider, companies can unlock a seemingly inexhaustible pool of computing, network, and storage resources to create an ideal infrastructure for their business. This model comes into stark contrast with the traditional on-prem frameworks where businesses were required to purchase and maintain the equipment, as well as the space for hosting and conditions needed to operate the equipment in optimal parameters.
Businesses have a higher degree of mobility as they no longer need to buy servers, storage, software and other hardware components. Furthermore, the lack of an on-prem infrastructure means that companies are no longer required to hire an in-house IT staff to manage, update and upgrade the equipment and software. It’s a fact that every company experiences fluctuations in their workload. The issue with on-prem infrastructures is that companies need to anticipate a potential peak of workload and build a system that is capable of maintaining operations at that level.
The problem is that a decrease in the workload will mean that some systems may remain idle. On the other hand, there is also the possibility that the potential workload has been miscalculated, or the company is witnessing an exponential growth that far surpasses the capability of the system which may create numerous friction points for end-users and even a temporary suspension of services as a result of a workload overload.
Blockchain IaaS advantages:
- cost-effective technology – in the Blockchain IaaS model businesses are no longer required to invest in expensive equipment. Resources are used on-demand and have a fixed cost. As such it becomes relatively predictable to calculate and respect an infrastructure budget.
- innovation-friendly – due to its modular approach and flexibility, Blockchain IaaS beneficiaries have the option to test new products and ideas. In a bid to attract more customers, cloud providers tend to be among the first to adopt new equipment, services and technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, to expand their offering to clients. This way businesses get hold of new technologies at a faster rate, compared to building an on-prem infrastructure.
- promotes efficiency – resources are readily available. Companies can easily expand their infrastructure to accurately reflect their growth. Conversely, the risk of wasting resources by overbuilding is diminished.
- enhanced productivity – the cloud provider is the one responsible for setting up and maintaining the underlying hardware components. Without this burden, the development team can focus on enhancing the company’s product and features, redirecting resources and manpower towards more strategic initiatives.
- scalability – one of the most attractive aspects of IaaS is its scalability potential. Depending on their needs, businesses can swiftly scale up or down to meet workload demand.
- it enables faster time to market – the high levels of flexibility and scalability translate to streamlined development life cycles.
Blockchain IaaS limitations:
- vendor lock-in: as with the BaaS and BPaaS models, in the absence of migration policies and tools, Blockchain IaaS beneficiaries may find it difficult to change their service provider
- security: while Blockchain IaaS offers a greater degree of control over the applications, data, middleware and operating system, this does not mean that security threats are absent. In this type of offering, security threats usually target data communication between the host infrastructure and the virtual machines
- legacy systems, although compatible with most Blockchain IaaS offerings, may not be capable of benefiting from the full set of functionalities and features offered by newer technology, without undergoing heavy customization
- compared to BaaS and BPaaS offerings, beneficiaries in Blockchain IaaS have a higher degree of responsibility concerning the maintenance, security and continuity of the infrastructure which requires a higher degree of knowledge and proficiency in blockchain development.
Modex BCDB, a customizable blockchain IaaS offering
To overcome all of the challenges associated with blockchain implementation and to help enterprises and businesses tap into the benefits of this technology, Modex has created its trademark Blockchain Database solution, a technological layer that fuses the advantages of blockchain with a database system, a technology that is already deeply ingrained in every business and industry sector, to create a hybrid software product that makes blockchain easy to use in existing systems, to streamline operations and data security, or to build an entirely new infrastructure from the ground up that has a blockchain engine running in the background.
Modex BCDB is a middleware software solution that combines the functionality and familiarity of traditional database systems with blockchain, a technology designed to deliver a slew of disruptive features such as data integrity, immutability, traceability, distribution and decentralization. Bundled as an Infrastructure as a Service offering, Modex BCDB is devised to act as a building block that companies can use to build an infrastructure tailored to their specific business requirements. What makes the Modex technological layer stand out is the fact that it incorporates a blockchain component that unlocks a series of powerful features and functionalities without requiring any prior knowledge of blockchain development.
Azure subscribers are now able to access and deploy with the push of a button a blockchain database infrastructure that enhances data security and data management operations. Modex enables companies to customize and deploy from a wizard interface the network infrastructure in a matter of days, compared to the weeks and even months required for deployment by other solutions present on the market.
Once a client configures the network according to the business logic of their company, Modex begins to set up the infrastructure and virtual machines according to the network configurations chosen by the client. Once that step is complete, Modex will coordinate the client’s configuration settings while also providing the blockchain and database technological layer.
Benefits of BCDB backed IaaS
Devised as a solution that can easily complement existing infrastructures and systems, Modex has utilized its technological layer that combines traditional database systems with a blockchain layer to augment and enhance some key-value areas where IaaS offerings are still lacking:
- Security – there is a common misconception that cloud service providers are solely responsible for securing their clients’ data. The fact of the matter is that data security is a joint responsibility between cloud providers and the beneficiary. By utilizing complex encryption mechanisms, hashing algorithms and through the distributed nature of its blockchain component, Modex BCDB adds a much-needed layer of security to cloud infrastructures.
- Removing integration friction points – IaaS offers the ideal building blocks for creating new IT infrastructures from the ground up. But transitioning an existing system to the cloud is still a difficult task, especially if we take into consideration legacy systems. Designed as a middleware, hybrid solution, Modex BCDB can seamlessly connect to existing systems through a set of custom connectors. Once connected to an application, Modex BCDB grants access to all of the inherent advantages of blockchain technology without affecting the user’s interaction with the original system.
- Customizable encryption – public cloud users may have limited control and ability to customize. Modex BCDB comes with an inbuilt encryption mechanism that can be set to function at the field level or at the column level.
- Data availability – even the largest cloud service provider experiences downtime. By distributing data across an intricate web of computer nodes, the BCDB solution unlocks new levels of availability for companies’ most valuable asset, their data.
- Enhanced data visibility and transparency – the Modex technological layer unlocks data traceability through which data owners can determine who accessed their information.
- Privacy and data ownership – a major downside of public cloud infrastructures is that data owners are required to cede a portion of control over their data to the cloud provider. Through the clever use of hashing, Modex BCDB creates a hash digest of the information stored in the database and moves it into the blockchain to act as proof of ownership.
BaaS, BPaaS and Blockchain IaaS help companies and businesses leverage blockchain technology to build and deploy applications that can add real value to their end-users. With a wide array of benefits and features, the three models offer companies the ability to choose and implement blockchain how is best suited for their business needs. In the long run, if BaaS, BPaaS and Blockchain IaaS offerings continue to evolve and mature, blockchain adoption will remain on an ascending trend.