Previously, VMware has publicly stated its interest in Byzantine Consensus as opposed to the proof of concept work normally used for blockchains. It has said on the record it finds such research wasteful due to the amount of power needed to run. David Tennenhouse, VMware’s chief research officer is on record saying
“it’s just immoral”
Byzantine Consensus protocols are utilised by systems where the anonymity of users is not a demanded aspect of transactions.
All the evidence seems to point toward some flavour of VMware blockchain. The content of the event, the quote above, and this video which suggests the company is getting closer to releasing a product based on blockchain.
But, all this begs the question “what has blockchain got to do with cloud hosting”?
The two most important technologies to emerge recently are unarguably the virtualisation of hosting and cryptocurrencies. Without virtualisation, the move to the cloud for hosting would not have been financially feasible. The Bitcoin protocol is reinventing fintech through the utilisation of cryptographic foundations known as blockchains.
Blockchain Plus Cloud?
It seems surprising that no one has put the two together. The main issue facing enterprise CIOs and CTOs today is how can they achieve legal compliance for mission critical processes to a third party, outsourced company who would have very little accountability in the event of a disaster.
The public ledger that cryptocurrency relies on is a record of every single transaction that has taken place. Ever. This ledger is stored in a distributed way. No one company or individual has control. Everyone does. It is technically impossible for one company or actor to revise the history of the ledger.
How can this be applied to the cloud and the way it handles enterprise data? If the cloud is thought of as merely a platform for data, it’s possible to view the ‘transaction’ element associated with cyrptocurrencies as the initial upload of data to the cloud. There, it is either processed and returned to the user or stored for reusing at a later date.
When considering the VMware cloud hosting aspect of digital transformation, C-level executives have similar concerns, viz: governance, legal compliance, security and liability. How can they “audit” the cloud? There is a need for enterprise to have access to a secure chain of events which can be checked in real time and blame be accounted for when there is an error.
In theory, everything that happens to the data (transmissions, computation, storage, retrieval) could be entered into a blockchain. This would give complete, transparent accountability for the entire cloud industry. From hosting companies, customers, users and auditors.
The problem is the compute power and storage that would be needed to record the billions of transactions that happen every second. The resources needed would make scale expensive and potentially impossible.
It certainly would be if it was tied to just one cloud. However, imagine if every cloud, every bit of data, every instance of compute and storage across all networks throughout the world were all part of one blockchain. It could possibly change the very fabric of our society from one focussed on a superficial trust to one that can actually prove what happened.
Could VMware be the company to lead this step change into an accountable version of the cloud? Possibly. They certainly seem hinting at a blockchain based future. Would this blockchain approach to cloud help move more companies to the cloud? Seems very likely it would go a long way to overcome the common objections levied at hosting with third parties.