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Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service set to be unveiled

Following competitors Microsoft Azure and IBM, Oracle plans to release its Blockchain Cloud Service in an effort to give cloud users a higher level of security.

As blockchain technology continues to mature, another major player is stepping into the fray: Oracle.

According to a session description for its upcoming OpenWorld conference, being held in October in San Francisco, Oracle will soon release a technology called Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service.

Oracle declined to comment, but the conference session description says attendees will "learn how the enterprise-grade Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service enables businesses and other organizations to quickly get started with Blockchain and create new [applications] or extend existing apps. The session also looks at some of the differentiating Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service features that allow you to focus on business process innovation rather than the technology platform."

The write-up on the session, which is entitled "Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service: Strategy and Roadmap," also describes blockchain as "one of the hottest technologies in the market" and says it is expected to "fundamentally transform how business is done, and make business interactions more secure, transparent and efficient."

Oracle in on Hyperledger Fabric project

Oracle recently joined the Hyperledger Fabric project, an open source collaboration designed to push blockchain technologies founded by the Linux Foundation. IBM is also involved with Hyperledger, basing its IBM Blockchain product on it.

Blockchain, the technology that drives bitcoin, is essentially a type of digital ledger. A blockchain ledger has two types of records: individual transactions and blocks. The first block has a header and data that pertains to transactions that occur within a set time period. The block's timestamp creates an alphanumeric string, which is called a hash. After the first block is created, each of the following blocks uses the previous block's hash to calculate its own hash.

The potential benefit for Oracle customers lies in the degree of security blockchain offers, said Robert Sheldon, a technical consultant and TechTarget contributor.

"Blockchain can bring a level of security to the cloud that multiple parties can trust when carrying out transactions with each other," he said. "The transactions are secured and verified in a common structure in a way that prevents any one provider or business from being able to carry out any nefarious acts."

Blockchain offers trusted security

In essence, blockchain takes that bitcoin model and applies it to any kind of transaction, while offering a high degree of trustworthiness, Sheldon said.

Sheldon suggested Oracle's cloud service could resemble Microsoft Azure's blockchain as a service.

Others pointed to the Hyperledger Fabric as a reason Oracle would enter the blockchain field.

"This [Oracle Blockchain Cloud Service] is likely so Oracle cloud customers can experiment with Hyperledger Fabric," said Nick Heudecker, an analyst with Gartner. "Production use cases of non-bitcoin blockchain are exceedingly rare. Often, these are blockchain projects in name only."

Oracle joined the Hyperledger project "because of the consortium's approach to blockchain using open source collaboration, modular architecture, horizontal [and] cross-industry technology support, and support for enterprise needs," according to an Oracle blog post.

A possible benefit for Oracle customers

The value for Oracle customers, Heudecker said, is they don't have to use another cloud vendor to try out Hyperledger Fabric over the short run.

"Later on, Oracle may integrate its blockchain story with its broader IaaS [infrastructure as a service], PaaS [platform as a service] and SaaS applications, but the relevance of blockchain to those applications has yet to be proven," he said. "Oracle is likely going to see what its customers are doing with blockchain before deciding on future direction."

"For those applications that work with blockchain, you would get a higher level of security and higher reliability due to its decentralized nature," said Brian Peasland, an Oracle database administrator and TechTarget contributor.

IBM's interest in blockchain took another turn this week, as it said it would partner with Nestle and Unilever to trace food contamination with blockchain. Global food businesses will use IBM's blockchain network to trace the source of contaminated produce. 

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