Enterprise Blockchain Is at a Private-Public Crossroads

Enterprise Blockchain Is at a Private-Public Crossroads

(Nikita Vasilevskiy/Unsplash)

Looking back 12 months, our (Prysm’s) was naive, to say the least. We cited challenges to a successful 2020 for enterprise blockchain. And, while those predictions were not far off, they were overshadowed by a global shore-up of innovation budgeting, a mountain of layoffs and just about every other form of disaster that might get in the way of a technology revolution. 

To say that 2020 was a complete miss for enterprise blockchain would not be accurate. A few new networks and major corporate initiatives were announced, including , and .

But many of these projects barely grew. According to Prysm Group internal data dating back to 2016, the average enterprise blockchain consortium has gained less than one new participant beyond its founding members. There are a few outliers such as . But, for an industry whose primary purpose is to build a network adopted by other future members, this is not an encouraging figure. 

2020 may have just .

Over the last year we have seen consulting firms, technology providers and large cloud players look to better define their strategies for enterprise blockchain in hopes of trying to push the industry past the trough of disillusionment. In 2021, we see major firms at a crossroads between a private versus public approach for enterprise blockchain.

There are key differences in the way major players seek to establish themselves on the private versus public spectrum. As you can see from our chart here, some are betting on a single protocol, some are spreading their bets. The variety of strategies raises the question of who, if anyone, will be the best positioned for 2021?

Most major firms sit on the private end of the strategic spectrum. In the single protocol top left quadrant, we see dominant players such as IBM and R3 with their respective commitments to Hyperledger Fabric and Corda. IBM has seen some internal shifts and a . R3 has unveiled a series of major partnerships over the year, first with and then with . 

A third major player, ConsenSys, remains fully supportive of Ethereum, and with it has cemented its position in enterprise offering. It now looks well-positioned to be involved in all initiatives surrounding the number two public blockchain network. 

In the protocol agnostic bottom left quadrant, and Accenture now has alliances across the full spectrum of available private chains. This has allowed the consulting firm to spread its bets across several competing platforms and hedge against any potential losers. 

Deloitte and the other Big 4 accounting firms have focused primarily on building proof of concepts on private chains for their clients and have yet to showcase a consortium in full production.  

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has taken a user-friendly approach, allowing clients to easily launch networks on Hyperledger Fabric and Ethereum with just a few clicks. While AWS has announced some initial customers with appealing use cases like and , it has yet to show a multi-party consortium coming together, which will be needed in order to capture the economic value of this network based technology. 

Others firms are embracing the public path at the crossroads, like EY with its now . EY hopes the network started by Vitalik Buterin, now shifting towards its new proof-of-stake consensus model, will be able to scale and lower its transaction costs, two key hurdles that will need to be overcome in order to position the platform to become the bedrock of potentially billions of enterprise transactions. 

Google has kept a mostly behind-the-scenes role with a series of public networks announcing throughout the year the Mountain View, Calif., company joining their networks as a , or . 

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