Preparing data management for blockchain and other advancements

Sr Offering Manager, Hybrid Data Management, IBM

The rate of innovation for technologies impacting IT architectures is staggering, particularly where data management is concerned.

Advances such as blockchain technology are steadily gaining traction both in terms of investment and adoption. Well-informed IT professionals are starting to deploy these new technologies to establish a more connected, knowledgeable and secure business.

Here are some ways blockchain technology and database advancements are working together to help facilitate some of those benefits.

What is blockchain, exactly?

Bloor Research sums up blockchain technology well in one of its recent reports, saying, “blockchain provides a secure, immutable, distributed mechanism to store information of interest for multiple relevant parties.”

For example, in a retail supply chain using blockchain technology, valuable information is collected when a product changes hands across various manufacturers, suppliers, transporters and others involved in the supply chain. Each change in custody is recorded along with other details such as condition or temperature at each stage. By having this information documented from production to sale, defective products, fakes and even foodborne illnesses can be more easily traced.

While a blockchain is undeniably beneficial in the situation described above, it also has the potential to be disruptive to business as usual. Recording necessary information and making it a part of the blockchain takes both time and resources. Fortunately, much of the information that should be a part of the blockchain already exists and may be sitting in data repositories waiting to be used.

How to use blockchain with less disruption

Some enterprise databases, such as IBM Informix, have begun using smart triggers to participate in blockchain while avoiding some of the hassle associated with implementation. Previously, when trying to be part of a blockchain using normal database triggers, users would need to write special code for each business action instance.

However, smart triggers can be programmed to create notifications and push them outside of the database when a certain event occurs. That means once data has been committed to the database it can be pushed to the blockchain automatically, leaving normal business operations unaffected. They require no schema changes or custom code for the server (user defined routines) and can be created or removed from an application.

SmartAxiom, a company that builds scalable Internet of Things (IoT) security solutions, developed an application using blockchain and IBM Informix smart trigger technology. One of the challenges with the Internet of Things is that each new connected device could be an entry point for hackers. However, centralized authorization for each device can overload the network and cause the central server to fail.

As Amit Biyani, founder of SmartAxiom, explains, the company has chosen to solve this with blockchain technology because it “provides a decentralized mechanism whereby the nodes in a network can achieve consensus on the truth about a series of events, and lock that truth into the fabric of the blockchain itself.” The result is that decentralized authentication can happen at the edge of IoT rather than an overworked central server, leading to less disruption in day-to-day activities.

As this example shows, security solutions need to embrace new technologies while still maintaining reliability and consistency that allows business to go on uninterrupted. The underlying lesson is applicable across all businesses. When selecting database technology that will sit in edge devices as part of the Internet of Things, it is important to also make sure that the databases underpinning applications are invisible to the user and require minimal tuning. High availability data replication (HADR) should also be an option for users planning on using the database in mission-critical environments.

Attend IIUG World 2018 to learn more about what IBM Informix can do for your business

Even more great examples of companies that have taken advantage of new technologies with the help of a highly reliable enterprise class database will be provided at the upcoming IBM Informix User Group Conference (IIUG) 2018. At last year’s conference, hundreds of developers, DBAs and other professionals gathered for three full days of educational sessions. Whether you’re just there to learn or want to share your best practices in a session of your own, being around that many peers and colleagues looking to push IT forward is an opportunity you shouldn’t miss.

With so many new technologies to use and integrate, it is a great time to differentiate yourself and your business with innovative database approaches. I hope to see you at IIUG 2018, from 28 October through 1 November in Arlington, Virginia.

Until then, you can learn more about the implementation of blockchain technology and Smart Triggers in Bloor’s recent white paper, IBM Informix: The white swan.

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