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AWS Intros Amazon Managed Blockchain

November 29, 2018

Today at AWS re:Invent, Amazon Web Services introduced two new services to help companies manage business transactions that require full auditability. Amazon QLDB is a transparent, immutable, and cryptographically verifiable ledger for applications that need a central, trusted authority to provide a permanent and complete record of transactions (for example, supply chain, financial, manufacturing, insurance, and HR). For customers who want to build applications where multiple parties can execute transactions without the need for a trusted, central authority, Amazon Managed Blockchain makes it easy to create and manage scalable blockchain networks using the popular, open source Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric frameworks. With a few clicks in the AWS Management Console, customers can set up a blockchain network that can span multiple AWS accounts and scale to support thousands of applications and millions of transactions.

Amazon QLDB: A transparent, immutable, and cryptographically verifiable ledger database service (available in preview)

Customers looking to implement blockchain technologies are typically trying to accomplish one of two things. Some need a centralized ledger that records all changes or transactions and maintains an immutable record of these changes (for example, tracing the movement of an item through a supply chain network, tracking the history of credits and debits in banking transactions, or validating incidents filed against an insurance claim). This ledger is owned by a single trusted entity and is shared with any number of organizations that are working together. To do this today, customers can use relational databases, or they can use the ledger technology in one of the open source blockchain frameworks. Neither solution is optimal. Relational databases aren’t built for immutable, cryptographically verifiable ledger entries, so customers must build custom audit tables and audit trails. And, there is no way to verify that no unintended changes were made to the data. Using the ledger in a blockchain framework may give customers an immutable history of data changes, but comes at the cost of the heavy lifting to set up a full blockchain network with at least two nodes and all of the associated access control configuration. Because there are limited database Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) within the blockchain frameworks it is challenging to create tables, index, and query data. Finally, blockchain frameworks are decentralized and require consensus from members in the network before committing new transactions to the shared ledger, which significantly slows ledger performance.

Amazon QLDB is a new class of database that provides a transparent, immutable, and cryptographically verifiable ledger that customers can use to build applications that act as a system of record, where multiple parties are transacting within a centralized, trusted entity. Amazon QLDB removes the need to build complex audit functionality into a relational database or rely on the ledger capabilities of a blockchain framework. Amazon QLDB uses an immutable transactional log, known as a journal, which tracks each and every application data change and maintains a complete and verifiable history of changes over time. All transactions must comply with atomicity, consistency, isolation, and durability (ACID) to be logged in the journal, which cannot be deleted or modified. All changes are cryptographically chained and verifiable in a history that customers can analyze using familiar SQL queries. Amazon QLDB is serverless, so customers don’t have to provision capacity or configure read and write limits. They simply create a ledger, define tables, and Amazon QLDB will automatically scale to support application demands, and customers pay only for the reads, writes, and storage they use. And, unlike the ledgers in common blockchain frameworks, Amazon QLDB doesn’t require distributed consensus, so it can execute two to three times as many transactions in the same time as common blockchain frameworks.

“AWS teams have been using Amazon QLDB for years to maintain a complete, immutable, and append-only journal of data changes. We started out trying to use relational databases to do this, but quickly found they could not scale or deliver the performance we needed to support our most widely-used services,” said Shawn Bice, Vice President, Nonrelational Databases at AWS. “Earlier this year, when we started talking to customers about what they needed from a blockchain solution, we realized that the Amazon QLDB’s ledger technology met a lot of their requirements. They wanted a centrally-owned ledger that provided an immutable way to log the transactions history of their applications and was transparent to all the parties with whom they were interacting. So, today we’re offering an immutable, transparent, and cryptographically verifiable ledger, based on the same one that AWS teams have been using for years at scale, as a fully managed service.”

Smaato, one of the leading online ad exchanges in the world, sees over 20 billion bid requests/day pass through their exchange. “All participants in the online advertising and real-time bidding market segments are interested in transparency throughout the entire lifecycle of an online ad auction, from the initial auction, to the winning bid, and ultimately through to the final impression delivery and who it’s actually shown to,” said Ragnar Kruse, CEO, Smaato. “Since we act as a centralized point of trust in this value chain, we’re really excited about Amazon QLDB. It offers a scalable, immutable, and cryptographically verifiable ledger that would allow us to maintain a complete and auditable record of all our auctions. We’re looking forward to collaborating with AWS and the Amazon Quantum Ledger Database team to bring more transparency to our ecosystem.”

Healthdirect Australia is a national, government-owned, not-for-profit organization that has been helping Australians manage their health and wellbeing for over a decade. “Healthdirect Australia operates in a heavily regulated industry, and it is critical that our compliance data is correct and auditable,” said Bruce Haefele, General Manager, Technology, Healthdirect Australia. “With Amazon QLDB we look forward to having a complete and verifiable history of every change in our system, making it simple to audit when and how we arrived at our current state. Regulatory compliance is a fact of life for healthcare companies, and Amazon QLDB enables us to easily track the controls we have in place and understand how they have changed over time.”

Amazon Managed Blockchain: An easy way to create and manage scalable blockchain networks (available in preview)

Other customers want the immutable and verifiable capability provided by a ledger, however they also want to allow multiple parties to transact, execute contracts, and share data without a trusted central authority. For this, customers use blockchain frameworks like Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric. But setting up these frameworks is hard and time consuming. Each member of a permissioned network has to provision hardware, install software, create, and manage certificates for access control, and configure network settings. As usage of a blockchain application grows, there is a lot of work involved in scaling the network, including monitoring resources across all nodes, adding or removing hardware, and managing the availability of the entire network. This complexity is the reason many customers typically need the help of expensive consultants to make blockchain work.

Amazon Managed Blockchain is a new, fully managed blockchain service that makes it easy and cost-effective for customers to create and manage secure blockchain networks that can scale to support thousands of applications running millions of transactions. Amazon Managed Blockchain supports two popular open source blockchain frameworks, Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric, and setting up a blockchain network is as easy as a few clicks in the AWS Management Console. Customers simply choose their preferred framework, add network members, and configure the member nodes that will process transaction requests. Amazon Managed Blockchain takes care of the rest, creating a blockchain network that can span multiple AWS accounts with multiple nodes per member, and configuring software, security, and network settings. For a permissioned network, Amazon Managed Blockchain secures and manages blockchain network certificates with AWS Key Management Service, eliminating the need for customers to set up their own secure key storage.

Amazon Managed Blockchain contains a voting API that allows network members to quickly vote to add or remove members. And, as application usage grows, customers can add more capacity to the blockchain network with a simple API call. Amazon Managed Blockchain offers a range of instances with different combinations of compute and memory capacity to give customers the ability to choose the right mix of resources for their blockchain applications.

Unlike existing blockchain technologies that require custom development to extract blockchain network activity data, Amazon Managed Blockchain makes it easy to replicate transactions to Amazon QLDB. This gives customers the ability to gain advanced insights on how to optimize the blockchain network by querying the change history of their network.

“Many of our customers want to build applications where multiple parties can execute transactions without a central, trusted authority, and they also need to create a blockchain network. Building a scalable blockchain network with existing technologies is just too hard today, and that’s why customers pay expensive consultants to help them,” said Rahul Pathak, General Manager, Amazon Blockchain at AWS. “Amazon Managed Blockchain eliminates the muck involved in setting up a network, adding and removing members, and scaling to meet application demands. Customers can use either Ethereum or Hyperledger Fabric, the two most popular blockchain frameworks, and get a functioning blockchain network set up with just a few clicks.”

The Guardian Life Insurance Company is a financial services and insurance company whose offerings include life and disability insurance, employee benefits, and dental insurance. “Given our vast partner ecosystem, we are exploring the decentralization and immutable tracking benefits of blockchain for potential applications in our insurance business. We believe blockchain can improve the transparency and efficiency for stakeholders in these networks to transact, while still maintaining an independently verifiable lineage of activities,” said Daniel Johnson, CTO and Head of Innovation, Guardian Life Insurance Company. “However, blockchain frameworks are complex and difficult to operate. With Amazon Managed Blockchain, we can now easily create Hyperledger Fabric blockchain networks to test and learn without worrying about managing the underlying infrastructure, networking, and software configuration. We’re also looking forward to the upcoming integration with Amazon QLDB to enable easy analytics and secure, off-chain storage for our blockchain network activity.”

“AWS has been a great partner in our journey to innovate in the field of blockchain, and with Amazon Managed Blockchain, we are able to more efficiently create a blockchain network and configure our member nodes in minutes,” said Jon Ruggiero, Senior Vice President, Workday. “AWS’ use of enhanced Hyperledger Fabric enables the blockchain network to be even more robust, scalable, and easier to manage. We’re excited for what we’ll be able to accomplish with this service as the number of members and transaction volumes grow.”

The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC) provides industry-leading solutions that promote the stability and certainty of global financial markets. “As critical financial market infrastructure, the industry relies on us to provide innovative solutions that reduce risk, increase transparency and evolve with market and regulatory needs,” said Rob Palatnick, Managing Director, Chief Technology Architect, DTCC. “We believe that blockchain technology represents a generational opportunity to re-imagine post-trade infrastructure. We are pleased to be using Amazon Managed Blockchain to explore possibilities with Hyperledger Fabric, where we can continue to lead industry initiatives around the exploration and adoption of blockchain. Amazon Managed Blockchain automates the deployment of blockchain infrastructure, bringing high availability and durability in a fully managed package, accelerating the adoption of distributed ledger technology.”

Change Healthcare is a leading independent healthcare technology company that provides data and analytics-driven solutions that reach approximately 2,100 government and commercial payer connections, 5,500 hospitals, 900,00 physicians, and 33,000 pharmacies. “Change Healthcare is excited to be the first enterprise healthcare technology company to test the Amazon Managed Blockchain,” states Aaron Symanski, Chief Technology Officer, Change Healthcare. “In addition to supporting Hyperledger Fabric, Amazon Managed Blockchain adds flexible storage and peer management features that we believe will help scale the blockchain infrastructure of our Intelligent Healthcare Network™ and achieve our goal of creating an increasingly coordinated, collaborative, and efficient healthcare system.”

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