The past decade has been a renaissance period for disruptive technologies. And perhaps no two technologies have been more profound in their impact than virtualization and blockchain.
Virtualization has paved the way for lean development and cloud computing. And blockchain's promise has expanded beyond its original intention to reinvent finance; industries all over the world are racing to leverage its unique capabilities.
But between these two technological paradigms lies the possibility for something greater. By enabling adoption, blockchain virtualization unlocks infinite possibilities for unprecedented innovation.
By now, you've heard of blockchain — what it is, how it works, and most importantly, what it can do for you. There's been no shortage of articles and blog posts waxing poetic about its abilities to improve transparency, resilience, trust, and reliability in practically any sort of centralized system.
While this has the potential to be true, the adoption of blockchain has unfortunately hit a wall. Businesses once eager to implement blockchain now face a variety of insurmountable hurdles with no practical solutions.
With no set standards, the blockchain protocols in place are in constant flux. Features such as robustness, scalability, accessibility, and affordability all wildly vary. And private infrastructures are extremely prohibitive, lack adequate support, and require rare engineering expertise to work with. All of these variables make the opportunity cost of selecting the wrong protocol or infrastructure too expensive for most organizations.
Regardless of your specific application, this plethora of problems usually results in the same conclusion: confusion, delayed projects, and ultimately, deprioritization; converting this technological paradigm into business value appears unviable.
The Hype vs Reality
This myriad of bewildering issues has caused the hype train behind blockchain to slow to a crawl. In Gartner's 2018 "Hype Cycle for Emerging Technology" report, author Mike Walker found that blockchain technology is on the precipice of its "trough of disillusionment" phase.
This period is defined by Gartner as the following:
"Interest wanes as experiments and implementations fail to deliver. Producers of the technology shake out or fail. Investment continues only if the surviving providers improve their products to the satisfaction of early adopters."
Now, this doesn't mean that blockchain won't be profound. It's important to remember that the hype cycle is indeed a cycle. In fact, in the same report, Walker even predicts that blockchain technology may reach the "plateau of productivity" phase in the next decade!
This period is defined as follows:
"Mainstream adoption starts to take off. Criteria for assessing provider viability are more clearly defined. The technology's broad market applicability and relevance are clearly paying off. If the technology has more than a niche market then it will continue to grow."
So, how could blockchain, a technology on the verge of bottoming out, possibly reverse this dire perspective and actually become an absolute success? The answer lies in the last sentence of the first definition. If proponents of blockchain can devise a way to improve its adoptability, the technology will not only survive — it will thrive.
Fortunately, a method has already been developed. Enter virtualization.
Adoption & Innovation in Minutes, Not Months
Virtualization is nothing new. Time and again, it has revised and enhanced the status quo.
Two decades ago, industries began shifting towards server virtualization. Today, virtual machines are a necessity for consumer applications. One decade ago, networking followed suit. Virtualization allows for better versatility and flexibility in colossal networks. Not only can numerous networks simultaneously use an underlying shared infrastructure, but each performs like a dedicated, private network.
Even if your resources are light, virtualization lets you stay lean and still make a heavy impact. Blockchain virtualization is no different.
Like other instances of virtualizing, blockchain virtualization boils down to creating an abstraction layer that separates a logical resource (your choice of blockchain infrastructure) from its function delivery (your business application). Essentially, this enables infrastructure-agnostic and hyper-converged blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) capabilities.
The virtual gateway, or hypervisor (the virtual machine monitor and runner) in this case, translates blockchain concepts into standard application development practices. There's no need to learn the ins-and-outs or any other nuances of a particular blockchain infrastructure.
To leverage the assets of BaaS via virtualization, you just need to focus on what matters: the core benefits that blockchain offers for your application. No specialized knowledge is required; you utilize an API that interface with the virtual blockchain which in turn points to one or many required infrastructures. This means that businesses can drastically reduce the risk involved to deploy maintenance-free, and scalable blockchain applications in minutes (instead of months) and at a fraction of the usual cost.
Convenience Without Compromise
The benefits that blockchain virtualization creates cannot be overstated. It allows us to overcome the limitations we previously discussed without needing to negotiate on the integrity of blockchain's advantages:
With a modular, developer-friendly architecture in place, blockchain virtualization lets you implement what you want, without any extra bloat. You can customize your network environment and keep your development time lean with familiar tools and well-documented APIs. The hypervisor takes care of blockchain complexities and can be deployed in-house or in the cloud.
Not only does this streamline the integration of blockchain into any native or hybrid business application, but it also simplifies interoperability. Whether you’re tracking digital assets or protecting critical data, all of your interactions with the virtual blockchain occur through an API. You can focus on the benefits you need without being bogged down by the specificities of one particular infrastructure or protocol.
Virtualized blockchains optimize your experimentation process so you can find what works best for your needs. But that doesn't mean you'll have to compromise security. By leveraging virtualization, you can preserve the integrity of your data without sacrificing strengths such as control, privacy, scalability, and robustness that various blockchain deployments offer.
Just as on a real blockchain, all data is timestamped, encrypted, cryptographically signed, and redundantly distributed. Proprietary information remains safe, secure, and decentralized on selected public or private infrastructures.
Virtual blockchains are designed to expand with your needs. They are built on stable infrastructures that not only leverage the strengths of the leading blockchains, but also allow for transparent migration. So when your needs change, adapting is way easier.
Scale when you need to while still remaining lean. By utilizing virtualization, you’re free from overhead costs like network configurations and provisioning nodes. Focus on growing your business, not the usual headaches that come with blockchain.
Last but not least, virtualizing blockchain means you do not need to compromise or share control. Data anonymity, network participants, and other aspects are all determined by your discretion.
You choose how resources are allocated, eliminating waste and allowing you to focus on deploying and upgrading the utilities you really need. In turn, this means unparalleled development efficiency and minimized operating cost.
A Better Blockchain
While Walker admitted that blockchain technology was facing a slump, he was undoubtedly optimistic about its potential: "The shift from compartmentalized technical infrastructure to ecosystem-enabling platforms is laying the foundation for entirely new business models that are forming the bridge between humans and technology."
Blockchain virtualization offers a way to circumvent the current obstacles stifling innovation. Organizations that employ this avenue will tap into competitive advantages that others will have to wait years (if not longer) to use.
So, what are you waiting for? Blockchain virtualization opens up an array of disruptive possibilities. And to leverage them, all you have to do is start.