Oracle has launched what it says is an “enterprise-grade blockchain cloud service”.
It’s basically a way of helping customers to adopt and implement blockchain into their enterprises.
The service will be fully managed by Oracle, with add-ons such as provisioning, operations and monitoring, backups and recovery.
Blockchain is the distributed ledger system which forms the foundation of digital currencies such as bitcoin.
Bitcoin was the first digital currency, or cryptocurrency, but there have been many new such currencies launched since then.
Among the latest significant developments is the decision by Dubai’s authorities to launch emCash, a digital currency which can be used to pay for services and is effectively state-backed.
Dubai is just a city within a small nation, in terms of population. Dubai’s annual gross domestic product is slightly more than $1 billion and the UAE, the country where it’s located, has a population of about 3 million.
Whether Dubai’s decision has any effect on other cities and countries remains to be seen, but many countries are discussing and debating cryptocurrencies.
The problem for most governments is that blockchain is a system which does not require central banks.
In a traditional financial system, it is central banks which ultimately guarantee the value and security of a national and international currencies.
By side-stepping this traditional structure, blockchain could undermine it, which is why some countries have banned cryptocurrencies.
And yet the market has grown, with bitcoin and other digital currencies now worth billions and being traded around the world.
Numerous financial institutions are also looking into adopting blockchain.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Goldman Sachs, one of the world’s largest merchant banks, is considering trading in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
“In response to client interest in digital currencies, we are exploring how best to serve them in this space,” a Goldman spokeswoman told WSJ.
But digital currencies are not the only thing that the blockchain system can support.
Essentially, blockchain is a secure system for transactions of any kind, whether they involve money or not.
One of its key features is that it enables a highly complex way of recording and tracking the ownership of files and other assets, making it difficult to steal or tamper with, according to experts.
Security is said to be the main feature or attraction of blockchain.
Some car companies are using blockchain technology to secure connected vehicles from hackers, for example.
Blockchain could also be used to secure videos and music files and other digital products.
However, blockchain’s suitability as a basis for cryptocurrencies has caught not just the imagination but also spawned a significant micro-economy online.
Which is why companies such as Oracle, IBM, Cisco, SAP and Intel have endorsed Hyperledger Fabric, a open-source platform for distributed ledger solutions.
Hyperledger Fabric was established by the Linux Foundation in 2015 to advance cross-industry blockchain technologies.
Its aim is to develop common standards over time, but for the time being, its approach is collaborative and accommodating of many different standards.
If blockchain and cryptocurrencies are to become more widely accepted, it’s probably inevitable that it will need a clear standards framework which is acceptable to traditional financial institutions and consumers alike.
Unlike the public ledger, which is the basis for bitcoin and other currencies, Hyperledger is private.
Whereas anyone with the necessary skills can view public ledgers, private ledgers can keep information confidential.
Some say such systems are necessary for enterprises and traditional financial institutions to develop confidence in blockchain, and such moves now seem inevitable.
Amit Zavery, senior vice president, Oracle Cloud Platform, says: “Blockchain holds the promise to fundamentally transform how business is done, making business-to-business interactions more secure, transparent, and efficient.
“Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service provides enterprise-grade blockchain capabilities and is able to accelerate innovation for on-premises ERP and cloud-based SaaS and PaaS customers.
“Enterprises can now streamline operations across their ecosystem and expand their market reach with new revenue streams, sharing data and transacting within and outside the Oracle Cloud.”