Blockchain explained: Why companies should source blockchain agnostic solutions to future proof their business

Juan Miguel Pérez and Yasmine Benjelloun

Among the many terms that you might have seen associated with blockchain and distributed ledger technologies agnostic is perhaps one of the most common. While we often come across this term, it is difficult to find a clear definition and consensus, (blockchain pun intended), around agnosticism and how it relates to blockchain technology.

This article aims to clarify the meaning of the term within the scope of blockchain and DLTs, the motivation behind making  this feature so remarkably relevant, and the biggest challenges around achieving true blockchain agnosticism.

Being blockchain agnostic means that your different business solutions can be built or operated from different underlying blockchain technologies. Most current applications are designed to suit specific industries, use cases, and blockchain technologies; this makes them rigid and unable to adapt to changes that constantly occur in such a nascent ecosystem.

Interoperability is also a key concept here, which is when different blockchain technologies can seamlessly and directly communicate with each other. While interoperability between different blockchain frameworks is still unachievable, an agnostic blockchain solution will take an organisation one step forward in that direction, allowing flexibility of usage and interaction between the different ledger technologies among the applications. Being agnostic gives the company the freedom to choose the best blockchain technology that suits their needs while still ensuring that the specific needs of the business case are taken care of at the same time.

Many projects have sought to achieve interoperability to allow some form of interaction between different ledgers. However, these techniques are all based on the premise that this interaction can only happen if there is a shared and common language, or a corresponding framework able to decipher its language. Consequently, while you might have the professional capacity to work with different underlying ledger technologies, this is not achieved in a seamless capacity and can reduce or limit the use case, creating complexities and heightening the exposure to inefficiencies.

Finboot’s middleware and application suite MARCO is a good example of a solution that is agnostic by design: our business modules and plug-and-play enterprise software applications are agnostic to the underlying network. In other words, we do not limit the use case, allowing companies to opt for a specific ledger technology, and change it at the click of a button, with no coding or new technology developments needed.

Agnosticism in MARCO does not focus on making different ledger technologies inter-operate, although MARCO’s design could certainly help achieve interoperability more easily. Instead, MARCO enables interaction with different underlying ledger technologies at an application level.

Now, how does this all translate and bring value to a company? And why should the agnostic element be a factor to consider when implementing enterprise blockchain solutions? Well, it is likely that an enterprise will choose one underlying ledger technology to start implementing a business solution. Based on the state of the ecosystem today, it will probably choose between Ethereum or Hyperledger Fabric, depending on the business and technology requirements.

However, enterprises must understand that blockchain is still an emerging technology and, if history serves us well, all digital technologies evolve, and they do so at a rapid pace. Consequently, it is highly probable that in the mid-term, enterprises will rely on different ledger technologies for different business cases. With time, we will see more ecosystems being created, and several networks moving to production, covering different regulatory sectors, industries or geographies. The winners will be those enterprises who take the correct decisions today, building over flexible platforms that help them efficiently manage and enhance all their blockchain solutions and services as the global ecosystem continues to evolve.

By using MARCO, organisations are able to work with different ledger and blockchain technologies seamlessly, by using the same enterprise software application. Our middleware facilitates, in a very unique capacity, interactions between those technologies without the need for further and extensive technical development, reducing (or even removing) the pain of having to migrate from one ledger technology to the other.

The core values of agnosticism in MARCO reside in the provided stack for blockchain development and, most importantly, what we call the generic ledger operation or GLO. We created the GLO as an intermediary representation and technological process in which we identified all of the most common ledger transactions and operations, which we abstracted to come up with a generic format. The GLO can then be configured with the required parameters and information to facilitate interactions between ledger technologies. When an enterprise software application needs to interact with any blockchain network, the GLO will adapt and process the generic operation to, in turn, execute the corresponding actions on the target ledger technology.

Future-proofing blockchain development is deeply enshrined in our mission: being an emerging technology, blockchain is continuously evolving and, as a result, shortsighted solutions are at risk of becoming obsolete in the near future. However, with MARCO, enterprises are provided with the necessary flexibility to avoid becoming outdated and ensure that their solutions are able to evolve, migrate and adapt to what is ahead.