Are we set for the Blockchain Age in Data Storage?

Although Blockchain came into the limelight with the cryptocurrency bitcoin, in the last year or so, companies have become increasingly aware of how Blockchain can bring about transformation across industries. With the cloud storage market expected to grow to $88.91 billion by 2022, the decentralized storage industry is rapidly gaining popularity, and Blockchain will be critical to its success. Since data storage – especially critical financial data – is always vulnerable to security breaches, migrating data from private data centers onto public Blockchains can help enterprises decentralize storage, thereby enhancing availability, scalability, and security of data.

Blockchain Age in Data Storage

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Current Challenges:

It is not hard to imagine the ever-increasing volume of financial data that is being generated. Data, which will also then have to be managed, stored and analyzed for effective business decision-making. Connected devices, mobile apps, and the increasing need to share data across businesses are all contributing to the increasing demand for storage that is highly available, scalable, and secure.

Businesses that are looking to launch new, data-driven applications face a sea of challenges with respect to time, effort, and management to provision new datasets and databases.

Traditional cloud storage networks are also known to come with latency challenges. Since most of the time, the data that gets stored in a data center will not be in the same location as the business, delays in delivery are the norm – and that doesn’t work well in the financial context where delays of milliseconds can cause huge losses.

What’s more, the need for large databases also necessitates the need for managing large data centers, that require frequent temperature control, periodic updating, and rigorous upkeep -all expensive.

In addition, the road towards a richer, more data-centric way of working is further challenged by a global phenomenon of data breaches from centralized data centers. The outcome is worrisome – the growing storage needs of businesses are driving extraordinarily large volumes of data to be stored in centralized databases.

This creates risk at a scale never seen before. This necessitates the need for de-centralizing data storage, that can not only minimize the risk of a complete shutdown but also ensure efficiency and transparency of data storage.

The Benefits of Decentralized Storage:

As most current cloud-based databases are highly centralized, they are tempting targets for data breaches. Cloud Storage Companies do have several mechanisms in place to avoid the loss of data, such as dispersing duplicate files across various data centers to avoid a breach. That said, decentralizing storage would more or less eliminate the risk and repercussions of disruptions.

Although current networks need to evolve in order to accommodate such decentralized storage infrastructure, the day is not far when data will be supported by a network of decentralized nodes in a more user-friendly and cost-effective manner than the current, central database solutions.

Decentralized storage works by distributing the data across a network of nodes, thereby reducing the strain on a single node or database. Since it utilizes geographically distributed nodes, decentralized storage can avert such catastrophes and ensure the company’s data is always protected. As data is stored across hundreds of individual nodes, intelligently distributed across the globe, no single entity can control access – thus improving security and decreasing costs.

Any attack or outage at a single point will not result in a domino effect, as other nodes in other locations will continue to function without interruption. The distributed nature of these nodes also makes decentralized storage highly scalable, as companies can leverage the power of the network and achieve better up-time.

The Role of Blockchain:

Although one of the biggest achievements of the Internet era has undoubtedly been cloud data storage, it is already under threat of being replaced by Blockchain storage technology. As the need for decentralized storage becomes more and more relevant, the storage industry is looking to make the most of Blockchain’s distributed ledger technology.

Blockchain paves the way for user-centric storage networks, where companies can move data from the current centralized databases to Blockchain data storage, and benefit from a more agile, customizable system. Because storage gets distributed across nodes, companies can enjoy a better speed of retrieval and redundancy by accessing data from the node that is closest to them.

With such attributes that meet the practical demands of storing high volumes of data, Blockchain will partition databases along logical lines that can only be accessed by a decentralized application using a unique key. Such a decentralized network of storage nodes not only reduces latency but also increases the speed by retrieving data in parallel from the nearest and fastest node.

And because there are so many geographically dispersed nodes in a network, the reliability and scalability of decentralized storage are greater. What’s more, since the devices in the nodes aren’t owned or controlled by a single vendor but by several individuals, the availability and reliability of data are improved even further.

The Way Forward:

As industries battle issues of the security and confidentiality of data, the evolution of Blockchain has come like a boon. Touted as a technology with the potential to transform every industry, Blockchain could be particularly beneficial in the data storage game.

By improving business efficiency and bringing transparency in how enterprises store business data, Blockchain is poised to offer myriad benefits such as shared control of data, easy auditing, and secure data exchange. While it may take time for Blockchain to become the default choice for businesses looking to meet their ever-increasing storage needs, it won’t be long before the world opts for this secure, efficient, and scalable solution in an increasingly data-starved world. Are you Blockchain ready?

5 Reasons Startups Should Care About Blockchain

Blockchain – the shiny new object in the technology toolkit has taken over the headlines. The market is buzzing over the long-term implications of Blockchain, decentralized systems, and cryptocurrencies. The promise is to disrupt industries such as banking and finance, retail, real estate, and healthcare. The global spending on Blockchain technology according to an IDC report, in 2018 alone, is expected to be cross $2.1 billion.

The report also says, “The year 2018 will be a crucial stage for enterprises as they make a huge leap from proof-of-concept projects to full Blockchain deployments. As a leader in Blockchain innovation and integration, the US will continue to invest in Blockchain throughout the forecast, spending heavily in financial services, manufacturing, and other industries.”

5 reasons startups should care about Blockchain

While all this is very exciting, is this only a “big enterprise” story? To my mind, NO. I feel startups should take a close look at evaluating this technology and the benefits that it brings to the table. Given that the world of Blockchain is yet to mature completely, startups have the opportunity to become early adopters and proponents of this technology. With a first-mover advantage, startups can create a strong Blockchain ecosystem and build a competitive advantage before this space becomes saturated. Here’s my take on why startups should care about Blockchain

  1. Security:

    Blockchain is, as most know, a Peer to Peer (P2P) network. The power to manage and manipulate the network rests with multiple stakeholders. This means that no one person can hack, close chains, manipulate or shut down the blocks, making the Blockchain network guaranteed free from any frauds or hacks.

    Blockchain systems are poised to become the defacto method of storing enterprise data owing to the incorruptible digital ledger of transactions (DLT). The DLT stores all data in an automatic ledger and is encrypted automatically using the latest cryptographic methods. Blockchain systems are also decentralized. This distributed nature of the systems reduces security risks greatly.

    Data is the most valuable currency today. And with that comes the concerns over data security. With the spending on information security standing at $86.4 billion in 2017 and expected to exceed $1 trillion cumulatively from 2017 to 2021, startups with innovative solutions in the space stand to gain.

  2. Transaction and Record Transparency:

    Transparency is ingrained in the DNA of Blockchain. It also provides a high level of privacy since the transaction details are only shared with the defined set of participants involved in the transaction. This technology eliminates third-party interventions. Irrespective of what is the use-case, be it personal details storage, storage of enterprise data, transactions, currency exchange etc., every transaction detail can be clearly tracked.
    How? Well, Blockchain systems employ completely audit-able, unforgeable, indelible, and trackable ledger of transactions. An entry can only be made in the ledger if it is validated by the system using an algorithm. In these GDPR days, startups could benefit from incorporating Blockchain into their products and solutions to assure security and privacy.

  3. Easier Global Partnerships and Low Transaction Costs:

    Blockchain is a technology built with collaboration in mind. Now using Blockchain, startups can propel their growth story by collaborating with offshore partners, and even employing foreign workers. As Blockchain utilizes a global network that is distributed across the world, organizations are no longer restricted by borders to fuel their growth story. Transactions using Blockchain technology also becomes much simpler. There is already the use of smart contracts using Blockchain.  
    Here, a 3rd party, also interacting with the registry, validates the transactions. This means startups and SMEs can transact with contractors, employees, and even customers without turning to (or having to pay fees to) the PayPal types. This means that Blockchain transaction costs are negligible.

  4. Disrupting Storage:

    Decentralized storage also drives constant availability creating a new Cloud paradigm that may be cheaper and easier for startups to access and use. Since this type of decentralized cloud storage is supported by computers and require no manual interventions, there is 24X7 data access and almost zero downtime, without compromising on security.

    PR Newswire estimates the cloud storage market to $88.91 billion by 2022. As the decentralized storage industry is growing rapidly, Blockchain has the potential to completely disrupt both Storage Marketplaces and Storage Infrastructure. While cloud has become central to optimized data storage, 2017 was full of stories of data breaches bringing the issue of third-party dependencies into the light. Blockchain technology gives the cloud the extra edge by giving organizations the capability to centrally manage workloads while the data remains distributed. A number of new startups are utilizing the Blockchain storage marketplace where the “hosts sell their surplus storage capacity and renters purchase this surplus capacity and upload files.”

    Also, as the cost of computing increases incrementally, Blockchain emerges as the leveler for startups. As Blockchain employs pre-existing servers, the decentralized platforms do not need a large investment and thus take the ambiguity out of storage capacities and the associated costs. This cost saving can’t hurt!

  5. Reduce the Cost of Doing Business:

    Blockchain technology and DLT brings improved efficiencies, business flexibility, and the capability to respond to market changes with speed. Startups can implement automated Blockchain networks to address issues like antiquated infrastructures, manual processes, and pen-and-paper systems, and implement digital systems with ease. I mentioned smart contracts.

    These programmable smart contracts can eliminate bureaucracy and lawyers. Here codes are stored on the Blockchain network and can be executed automatically on meeting certain specific conditions. This eliminates the need for third-party interventions like those in banking transactions or legal agreements. By relying on these algorithms, startups can reduce their cost of doing business by streamlining their end-to-end funnel, the supply chain etc.

Clearly, Blockchain is more than Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. Blockchain technology is accelerating us to a future that is more secure, transparent and fair. It will be interesting to see how the startups leverage this.

Testing for Blockchain – Here’s What You Need To Know

New, cutting-edge technologies are entering the marketplace at an unprecedented speed. The headline-maker on the block happens to be Blockchain, a technology that grabbed eyeballs as one of Bitcoin’s core components. Today, Blockchain is more than just Bitcoin. The blockchain is emerging as the next tech disruptor. According to a survey by the World Economic Forum, 10% of the global GDP will be relying on Blockchain-based technology by 2027.

testing blockchain

So, what is Blockchain Technology?

The brainchild of a person or a group of people using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, Blockchain is, according to Don & Alex Tapscott, authors Blockchain Revolution (2016), an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value”. The blockchain is essentially a distributed ledger, a continuously growing record list called blocks that are linked and secured using cryptography. This distributed ledger or Blockchain consists of an encrypted digital filing system that creates tamper-proof records in real-time. In other words, Blockchain can be looked upon as an open infrastructure capable of storing several different kinds of assets.

Blockchain and Testing

The blockchain is unique because it removes the need for a middleman to physically oversee transparent actions in real time while at the same time preventing fraud. Supply chain, healthcare, energy, event-ticketing, sales etc. are industries that present themselves to this technology very well. The algorithms used in Blockchain are well-established. Given that it is a distributed system, Blockchain blocks do not have a master copy and are stored in different locations. So, when it comes to testing in Blockchain, given that the algorithms used are sound do we really need to test?
A block, when added to a Blockchain, remains there forever. Any changes to one block will render the following blocks invalid. So, a single change in the Blockchain means that all the subsequent blocks have to be changed simultaneously and right away. Since this cannot be done at a later date, testing of the Blockchain becomes quite complex.

Testing Blockchain-based applications are challenging also because there is a significant change in the technology itself. For sure, Blockchain applications will demand the standard testing and validations such as functional testing, performance testing, integration testing, and security testing. But, that apart, testing teams will also need some specialized testing capabilities.

Standard functional and Non-functional testing

  • Functional Testing: Blockchain technology is finding new applications faster than before. Functional testing of the basic components, the system, and its workings is essential. Testing here is conducted to assess the effectiveness of use-case scenarios and the specific business processes involved.
  • Integration Testing:
    Integration testing is important for Blockchain since deployment could be across several systems and environments. Given this, it becomes essential to ensure that the interfaces between the components, the integrations, and the different parts of the system are functioning cohesively. This is essential to ensure performance consistency.
  • Security Testing:Security testing has to be aggressive for Blockchain applications. The aim is to identify if the application is vulnerable to attacks, assess if the authorization systems are robust, identify if the system protects the data and has the capability to ward off malicious attacks etc. Along with this, it is imperative to test integrity, authentication, confidentiality, and non- repudiation during security testing.
  • Performance Testing:Blockchain applications are built for speed. This makes performance testing even more important. The performance of an application and the latency vary with networks as well as transaction size. Performance testing in Blockchain includes identifying performance bottlenecks, defining the metrics for tuning the system, and assessing if the application is ready for production.

Specialized Testing

  • Smart Contract Testing:Smart Contract testing is a specialized testing. Smart contracts lie at the core of the Blockchain validation process. Testing of smart contracts calls for simulating all possible expected and unexpected conditions for all possible contract. Testing looks at business logic combinations and appropriate execution of all the transactions in the context of a dynamically changing and expanding the network.
  • Peer/node Testing:The power of the Blockchain lies in the shared ledger being exactly the same at each and every node with the same set of and sequence of transactions. This makes it essential to achieve a consensus across all nodes on the order in which the transactions are added to the network. Peer/Node testing for the consistency of transactions is needed. This calls for the testing of the consensus protocol to determine that all the transactions get stored in the proper sequence. This would have to be the case under normal conditions and also under conditions when nodes fail simultaneously or when they do not participate in the network for some time. These tests help ensure that the nodes in the network sync with other validating peers and the integrity of the network and shared ledger are maintained throughout.

Along with all this, testing for block size, chain size, transmission of data, and testing of cryptographical data are also essential to Blockchain applications. Given the sheer number of nodes and the various combinations and transactions that need to be validated, test automation may well prove critical to the success of Blockchain applications.

Conclusion:

The blockchain is an emerging technology, but one that has made everyone sit up and take notice. And like any new technology, how well and how comprehensively we can test will play a key role in its success and adoption and in how much we are able to participate in that success. What does your Blockchain testing strategy look like?

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