The news this week that R3 and IBM are working together has raised eyebrows as each entity has been on different and competing sides since the early days of enterprise blockchain.
Starting next month, the commercial version of Corda (the version that big banks and others pay R3 for) will be available through IBM’s LinuxOne servers, offering a hybrid of on-premises and cloud offerings. R3 announced the news at its annual developer conference, CordaCon.
Blockchain tribalism – R3’s Corda competes with Hyperledger Fabric, the enterprise blockchain heavily backed by IBM – has been sidelined in favor of commercial sense, it seems. IBM’s LinuxOne business is far bigger than its burgeoning blockchain concern, while many large banks that have vendor relationships with IBM use Corda.
“It sparked an interesting conversation at IBM, where LinuxOne came to us and told us they wanted to work with us,” Charley Cooper, R3 CEO, said in an interview. “If you’re a highly complex, heavily regulated industry, and you want the best technology, but you want big names to bring in your risk manager to say, ‘Trust us, we pick the best suppliers,’ now they’re ‘I’ve got the best of both worlds. “
The corporate blockchain space, which attempts to modernize Bitcoin’s distributed ledger technology in the private settings of large corporations, has evolved into three largely separate camps: R3 Corda, Hyperledger, and corporate variants of Ethereum such as Quorum.
There have been crosses between these tribes. IBM, for example, has also experimented with other DLTs such as Hedera Hashgraph, as well as the Stellar blockchain, but the vast majority of Big Blue’s blockchain efforts are focused on Hyperledger Fabric, which is the foundation of the IBM Blockchain platform.
“While there is a sort of tribalism within the blockchain community, there is not in the larger tech community,” Cooper said. “They are not tribal, they want to see if they can meet the needs of the customers. And if they can, the flavor of blockchain isn’t on their mind. ”
R3, while also being a member of Hyperledger, is known to be a disjointed competitor when it comes to doing business.
Times have changed, said Jonathan Levi, CEO of HACERA, one of the first engineers working on Hyperledger. The market is changing very quickly and these business networks are specializing, he said.
“R3’s decision to leave the table and build their own ecosystem on a single framework, has helped them move much faster,” said Levi, referring to debuts with IBM, Intel, Cisco, R3, Fujitsu and others around the engineering whiteboard.
“This is a big time for our R3 friends and the Corda ecosystem, and for some IBM customers who rely on mainframes,” he added. “I think we’ll see more multi-party systems that are based on open standards and offer more options and security by involving multiple vendors.”
Hyperledger Executive Director Brian Behlendorf said IBM’s service unit offering support for the R3 product is reminiscent of its support for Oracle databases or Microsoft operating systems.
“This is yet another example of what we’ve been saying since our inception, that the enterprise blockchain space is really big and will continue to be served by more than one protocol,” Behlendorf told CoinDesk by email.
There is support for Corda in four different Hyperledger projects, Behlendorf said, pointing specifically to Hyperledger’s interoperability layer, Cactus, which offers an integration toolkit between Hyperledger Fabric, Corda, Quorum and Hyperledger Besu.
“Kudos to R3 for their continued business success, this helps us all in the enterprise blockchain space,” Behlendorf said.