R3 Launches Corda Enterprise With First-Ever ‘Blockchain Firewall’

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More than a year in the making, Corda Enterprise has arrived.

Announced Tuesday, blockchain startup R3 has released a paid version of its signature open-source Corda blockchain technology, one that offers added features aimed at regulated institutions including 24/7 support, disaster recovery and more.

The big reveal comes just over 13 months after R3 raised $107 million, at the time stating that it would allocate funds for an enhanced version of its product. Further, it will bring to end a period of development in which businesses have needed to build on top of R3’s open-source code, dedicating internal staff and resources.

Still, while a step for R3, it’s perhaps the features that will drive most of the conversation. As part of the commercial rollout of its Corda Enterprise platform, blockchain startup R3 is touting such advances as the “first-ever Blockchain Application Firewall.”

Not a traditional firewall, the term denotes how Corda is able to limit communication between blockchain nodes operating in different environments, and with different informational needs from their network. For example, many Corda users, the company says, own highly secured data centres, running their existing infrastructure behind firewalls

A possible barrier to interoperability, R3 CTO Richard Gendal Brown said his team saw the possibility to “achieve the best of both worlds” by allowing as much connectivity as needed between Corda nodes running in closed and open environments.

Brown told CoinDesk:

“There is this dilemma, because blockchain nodes need to be able to connect to the core systems of a firm, but also need to be able to connect to other nodes across the network [and in] very complex networking architectures.”

The firewall, therefore, “protects the Corda node from the outside whilst allowing through just the traffic that should come through,” Brown said.

As such, it’s expected to be a key driver of uptake at a time when R3, which was reported to be running out of money, also seems to be building a creative open source community.

“We are at the point where the first I often hear of a Corda usage is when the project issues a press release, or we see questions on our Slack channel,” said Brown.

A novel breakthrough

As such, R3 and Brown are touting the Blockchain Firewall as a feature that should make Corda more appealing to businesses when compared to traditional open-source blockchains (for which such features would need to be custom created).

Existing blockchains, Brown says, are either deployed in standalone solutions with one application and network without any future interoperability and asset mobility, or what they are managing is not actually core to the institution.

The way it works is part of an Enterprise Corda node is allowed to sit outside of the network in what Brown compared to a kind of “demilitarized zone” that is visible to the internet.

“That tiny locked-down piece is massively secured in the demilitarized zone and then it alone has a tiny umbilical cord that allows the data to flow back in and out of the firm,” said Brown. “That separation of the nodes into those two pieces is the Blockchain Corda Firewall and we think it will be transformational.”

Not just a value-add for customers, though, the implications for R3 are also clear.

As the consortium progressed along the road to commercial distribution, one of the overarching motivations was to ensure interoperability with Corda open source as the ecosystem expands, enabling the system to achieve the kind of network effect of more open blockchains.

A new kind of network

But if such a move to more strongly consider interoperability seems premature, Brown counters the time is now for such considerations.

Returning to the question of interoperability, Brown predicts the enterprise blockchain market will soon consolidate down to a small number of platforms, escalating the need that these remaining systems can interchange data.

In this way, Corda, Brown argues, can interoperate in multiple ways, both between its own open source and enterprise deployments, as well as with other platforms, citing ongoing work with Hyperledger as an example of this.

As the market matures, he goes so far as to suggest that clients will not tolerate vendors selling them forks of open-source platforms that can’t interoperate.

“If I deploy a set of Corda nodes over to the left and then deploy a set of Corda nodes over to the right, it would be a tragedy if they couldn’t interoperate with each other,” said Brown.

In this way, Brown suggested the news might also serve as a wake-up call for institutions, who have built with technologies that might not be able to make the leap when the time comes.

Brown concluded:

“That’s what I’ve seen with some of the other platforms – standalone deployments; one application, one network, and it risks leading to a world of stranded assets and silos that we are trying to get away from.”

Fire image via Shutterstock

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