You know the enterprise blockchain wars are heating up when a ConsenSys enterprise blockchain startup, Kaleido, partners with not one, but two technology majors that collectively comprise 80% of public cloud infrastructure. Kaleido, which aims to make the entire enterprise blockchain journey from concept to deployment “point and click” simple, now adds Microsoft Azure to the cloud platforms it supports, on top of the previously announced support for Amazon AWS. With this move, which was announced at SXSW in Austin, enterprise blockchain adoption is liable to accelerate and move down market to veritable “blockchain desserts,” that can now contemplate developing consortia and user groups without having to dispense with preferred technology infrastructure and cloud standards they favor.
As many early blockchain adopters are realizing, to harness the full potential of this technology, especially in an enterprise setting, also means overcoming institutional inertia, entrenched interests among market or value chain participants and, critically, favored technology standards. Because of this, the leap to blockchain and a decentralized web 3.0 future, which Joe Lubin, ConsenSys’ founder and the co-founder of Ethereum is aiming to create, is a line too far in many mature markets. These mature players labor under even basic digital transformation outcomes, let alone harnessing the potential business model breakthroughs courtesy of blockchain and other pioneering technologies. Kaleido’s offering, which has been deployed in a range of industries generating more than 150 million blocks on the Ethereum blockchain according to the firm, along with cross-cloud functionality aims to build a proverbial bridge across technological standards creating an enterprise blockchain for all solution.
As an industry first, Kaleido’s blockchain offering asserts the role of blockchain startups in the value chain of larger tech companies, which have been aggressively marking their territory in the enterprise blockchain wars. In recent months, firms like IBM and Oracle, have made substantial moves in this space, but Kaleido’s approach shows that the enterprise blockchain domain need not be a zero-sum prospect for smaller players, but rather a compelling opportunity to collaborate with established firms. Critically, this is also a move that acknowledges that emerging technologies like blockchain do not exist in a lab or a vacuum of other widely deployed technologies, such as cloud infrastructure, as well as the heavily capitalized legacy investments companies have made in other areas. Telling firms to dispense with these investments to support a new decentralized standard, no matter how compelling the case, would fall on deaf ears.
Kaleido’s answer rather is keep the underlying technologies and cloud providers you are working with in place while building your enterprise blockchain consortia and experimentation just the same. Indeed, in many sectors, such as banking, insurance, maritime trade and supply chain management, the consortia approach is the prevalent model, rather than companies building blockchain solutions for competitive gain. Some prominent examples of consortia in the insurance industry include B3i, which was born out of the heavily collaborative reinsurance industry. R3 with its Corda blockchain platform is also a prolific builder of consortia, but all signs suggest that it may want to watch the rearview mirror as Kaleido’s offering breaks new ground on not only its plug and play simplicity for structuring blockchain deployments, but in the fact that it now connects to the dominant cloud standards between AWS and Azure.
Estimated investments in enterprise blockchain deployments and in the broader ecosystem are growing exponentially. By 2021 there is slated to be $10 billion in new capital flowing into this space and towards the broader digital transformation arms race. This figure will compound the more than $1.3 trillion spent on digital transformation today, which in many ways may vindicate Joe Lubin’s go-long, all-in investment posture on web 3.0, despite some straitened times in his ConsenSys portfolio following crypto winter.
The Kaleido bridge between the world’s dominant cloud providers, as well as the deft negotiation of a blockchain upstart with two of the world’s leading technology firms, suggests that Mr. Lubin may have the last laugh and Kaleido’s co-founder and CEO, Steve Cerveny may be right in his observation that versatility and ease of use across cloud platforms is key to broadening blockchain’s adoption and use in a non-prototype environment. “Blockchain with its shared ledger is fundamentally a distributed technology. The world’s transactional systems are being reinvented on blockchain and need an enterprise platform that also is broadly distributed,” Mr. Cerveny shared. “We’ve built our platform across the leading public clouds including Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services to give our clients the ability to create global, cross-cloud networks. Our customers’ digital ecosystems can now grow and scale wherever and however the participants require,” he added.
“Microsoft continues to work deeply with the Ethereum community to advance applications of enterprise blockchain” said Yorke Rhodes, principal program manager, Blockchain Engineering at Microsoft. “We’re happy to welcome Kaleido to our rich blockchain partner ecosystem, so enterprises can realize the business value of blockchain faster.” If imagination is the bridge between the known and the unknown, blockchain appears to be the bridge between the world’s two dominant cloud computing standards asserting its permanence in the array of transformative technologies coming of age.