Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) Overview

An overview of Distributed Ledger Technology/Blockchain and how it is leveraged in ConsenSource

What Is A Blockchain?

A blockchain is a network in which a record of transactions are maintained across several computers that are linked in a peer-to-peer network. All nodes in this network reach consensus on what the state of the ledger should look like before adding to it. This enforces a level of trust and transparency regarding the authenticity and immutability of data within the ledger.

Blockchains are a particular type of distributed ledger technology (DLT), and as such, we have elected to use the broader term, DLT, as we further develop ConsenSource.

What Is A Permissioned Blockchain?

Blockchains can be further subdivided into two categories - permissionless and permissioned.

Permissionless systems, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, allow anybody to join the network. This approach works great in an open environment such as peer-to-peer cash, but it has two main drawbacks - efficiency and control.

In a permsionless system it must be assumed that all actors on the network are potentially malicious. This requires a more costly consensus algorithm, such as Proof-of-Work, in order to verify that transactions are authentic. The second drawback is lack of control over which actors are allowed to join the network. For many enterprise use cases, such as ConsenSource, there is a need to limit the network to only relevant actors.

Permissioned systems aim to solve these two problems of efficiency and control. ConsenSource uses Hyperledger Sawtooth, an enterprise DLT, to provide an additional layer of security and access control by allowing for on-chain governance.

In practice, this means that all members of the network must reach consensus around which new actors are allowed to join the network, the types of actions they can perform, and more. A permissioned DLT lets ConsenSource use a more efficient consensus algorithm (more info here - todo) because there is a base level of trust between participants in the network.

Why Use DLT?

Benefits

  • Enhanced Trust
    • In a centralized database solution, all parties must trust the owner of the database - in situations with potentially untrusted participants, this is often not practical. DLT enforces trust by enabling all parties to share an immutable and complete record of all transactions that occur in the network.
  • Distributed Responsibility
    • Rather than a single party bearing the burden of maintaing and running a centralized database, DLT allows multiple parties to collaboratively maintain a ledger of transactions.
  • Improved Efficiency
    • The process of manually reconciling multiple ledgers, between multiple parties, is time consuming, expensive, and error prone. By sharing a single digital ledger, all parties recieve more accurate data while performing less work.

Tradeoffs

  • Blockchain is an emerging technology
    • As such, the platforms and tools in the blockchain ecosystem are changing rapidly, and many developers have little experience with the technology.
    • The Hyperledger Sawtooth platform supports a wide variety of programming languages for smart contract development, making it easier for new developers to utilize their existing skills.
  • Reaching consensus is time consuming
    • The network much reach consensus regarding the validity of all transactions in the network. This takes time, and is slower than a traditional database.
    • ConsenSource utilizes an efficient consensus algorithm to reduce network latency.
  • Multiple parties need to run validator node
    • The premise of blockchain technology is built around multiple parties running nodes that validate transactions, rather than a single entity managing and maintaining the network.
    • This enforces transparency and trust around the validity of all transactions. ConsenSource has documentation on running a node in multiple environments.

Why Sawtooth?


Last modified December 17, 2019: Config and landing page updates (5914df9)