What is Hyperledger Fabric in Blockchain development?
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There’s a growing demand for Hyperledger Fabric in blockchain development. This open-source blockchain framework fills important gaps. It has a distinct transaction workflow and advantages. Hyperledger Fabric has proven its mettle in several enterprise blockchain use cases.
Hyperledger Fabric: What it is
Hyperledger Fabric is an open-source framework to build enterprise blockchain networks. It helps businesses to build a private blockchain network with data privacy, scalability, resiliency, and flexibility. Hyperledger Fabric is a project from the Hyperledger Foundation.
Hyperledger Foundation: An industry organization hosted by the Linux Foundation
The Hyperledger Foundation, also known as the Hyperledger Consortium, is a non-profit industry organization. It conceptualizes, plans, and executes projects to make blockchain technology more useful for businesses.
Through the Hyperledger projects, the Hyperledger Foundation develops open-source tools and other resources that help developers create blockchain solutions. The projects have participants from enterprises, start-ups, and academia.
The Linux Foundation hosts the Hyperledger Foundation. Companies like IBM, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Accenture, ConsenSys, American Express, NEC, Siemens, Walmart, Visa, etc. collaborate in this organization to make the distributed ledger technology (DLT) more accessible to businesses.
Why businesses need blockchain networks built on Hyperledger Fabric: The drawbacks of public blockchain networks
Businesses often can’t use public blockchain networks due to the following reasons:
- Businesses can allow only trusted network participants, however, public blockchain networks are open to all.
- Enterprises must provide privacy mechanisms for their transaction data due to confidential information. However, public blockchain networks are transparent.
- Businesses need high performance throughput and scalability. Public blockchain networks often can’t meet these requirements adequately.
- Public blockchain networks aren’t owned by any single entity. However, businesses need complete control over the governance of their blockchain networks.
These make businesses look for enterprise blockchains. The key advantages of enterprise blockchain are as follows:
- They are permissioned, and they implement access control.
- Enterprise blockchains provide privacy for sensitive data.
- These blockchain networks offer better performance throughput and scalability.
- Businesses can have control over the governance of an enterprise blockchain network.
Having said that, building an enterprise blockchain network can be complex and time-consuming. Developers need to take care of all aspects like peer-to-peer (P2P) networking, servers, access control, consensus algorithms, etc. They need user-friendly tools for these.
Hyperledger Fabric fills these gaps. This permissioned blockchain framework offers the necessary tools to build enterprise blockchain systems and applications.
The transaction workflow in Hyperledger Fabric networks
A blockchain network built using the Hyperledger Fabric blockchain framework has the following components:
- Members: Members can be organizations like banks or financial institutions. A member can also be a company in other industries, e.g., an insurance company. Members have their identities. Each of them has a Hyperledger Fabric certificate authority.
- Peers: Members can set up authorized peers that participate in the Hyperledger Fabric blockchain network. Members can use their Hyperledger Fabric certificate authorities for this. They can be “endorser” peers. “Endorser” peers endorse transactions according to the transaction endorsement policy.
- Client-side applications: Developers can create them in any popular programming language. These apps are connected to the blockchain network.
Transaction processing in Hyperledger Fabric works as follows:
- A member organization creates a transaction proposal using a client-side application.
- The transaction proposal reaches the “endorser” peers.
- Peers check the Hyperledger Fabric certificate authority and other relevant information.
- Peers execute a “chain code” to approve or reject transaction proposals. “Chain codes” on a Fabric blockchain network do what smart contracts on the Ethereum network do.
- The response from the “chain code” indicating transaction approval or rejection is transmitted to the client.
- The client-side app sends the approved transactions to the transaction ordering service.
- Peers responsible for transaction ordering service include the approved transactions into specific blocks. They send these blocks to the organization-specific peer nodes on the network.
- Peer nodes for different organizations update the blockchain ledger with these blocks. This action commits the transactions, which completes the transaction processing workflow.
Why using Hyperledger Fabric makes sense: Its advantages
Hyperledger Fabric offers the following advantages:
- It’s an open-source blockchain framework.
- You can easily use this enterprise blockchain platform with leading cloud providers like AWS and Azure.
- Hyperledger Fabric is a permissioned blockchain network, therefore, you can set up a private blockchain.
- It offers access control mechanisms.
- Businesses can implement privacy measures for sensitive data.
- Hyperledger Fabric has a modular architecture. This makes blockchain development easier.
- This open-source blockchain framework has pluggable components for aspects like consensus algorithms.
- Developers can create “chain codes” on Hyperledger Fabric. These are similar to smart contracts on Ethereum. However, you need to use a particular programming language like Solidity or Vyper to create an Ethereum smart contract though. That’s different for chain codes. You can develop them using popular programming languages like Node.js or Golang.
- You can implement advanced security measures using the HSM (Hardware Security Module) on a Hyperledger Fabric blockchain network.
- Hyperledger Fabric blockchain networks don’t need to use a computing-intensive consensus algorithm like “Proof of Work” (POW). This enables performance.
- A growing developers’ community supports Hyperledger Fabric.
Where you can use Hyperledger Fabric blockchain networks: The use cases
Hyperledger Fabric has many prominent use cases, e.g.:
1. Supply chain traceability
A supply chain network involves many stakeholders. Tracking the lifecycle of raw materials and finished products can be complex due to this.
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A Hyperledger Fabric blockchain network offers data security, data privacy, and a shared ledger. All stakeholders in supply chains can see the same version of truth simultaneously. This improves supply chain traceability.
2. Trading and asset transfer
Many stakeholders need to participate in trading and asset transfer processes. A few examples are banks, importers, and exporters. Many of the processes involved here are paperwork-intensive, therefore, they take time.
A Hyperledger Fabric blockchain network can make these processes more efficient with the help of a shared ledger. Security and privacy features of Hyperledger Fabric help to meet regulatory requirements too.
3. Preventing insurance frauds
The immutable blockchain ledger of Hyperledger Fabric can store insurance transaction data. Insurance companies can refer to them for claims adjudication. A reliable source of tamper-free data makes the claims adjudication process simpler, and it helps to prevent fraud.
The insurance industry needs to comply with stringent regulations. Hyperledger Fabric provides robust access control, security, and privacy mechanisms. These can help insurance companies meet regulatory requirements while preventing fraud.
Hyperledger Fabric enables you to build a permissioned blockchain network only. Hyperledger Sawtooth, another project from the Hyperledger Foundation supports both permissioned and permission-less blockchain networks.
The term “chain code” in Hyperledger Fabric is equivalent to smart contracts in the Ethereum blockchain network. You can code chain codes in Golang, Node.js, and other popular programming languages.
Nodes on a Hyperledger Fabric network need to perform cryptographic operations. You can use an HSM, and you can delegate these operations to it. An HSM takes care of the cryptographic operations while protecting your private keys.