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Amazon’s Blockchain Services: What Are They and How Do They Work?

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Image Credit: Mactrunk/Depositphotos

Amazon is stepping headlong into the world of cryptocurrency and blockchain. The world’s largest retailer has taken strides toward disrupting the blockchain status quo.

Unfortunately, when Amazon decides to step into a new sector, it tends to destroy existing organizations in that sector.

Will that be the case as Amazon launches two new blockchain products? Let’s find out what Amazon is up to in the world of crypto.

Amazon Enters the World of Cryptocurrency

Despite Amazon steadfastly refusing to accept bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a payment method, Amazon is set to enter the blockchain space.

Blockchain technology—the tech that underpins a cryptocurrency—is as much of a technological boon as the cryptocurrencies themselves. Indeed, many consider blockchain technology more important than the digital currencies. That is because blockchain has many applications outside of powering the ledger of a cryptocurrency. Many industries are investigating, and in some cases, already implementing blockchain technology.

Amazon is never too far from the bleeding edge of technology these days.

At the re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, Amazon Web Service (AWS) CEO Andy Jassy announced two brand new blockchain products: Amazon Quantum Ledger Database and Amazon Managed Blockchain. The blockchain products will use the popular blockchain frameworks of Hyperledger Fabric and Ethereum and are designed to allow businesses to create scalable blockchain networks.

Given the success and ease of use of AWS, one would hope an Amazon-backed blockchain offering will be open to users of all abilities.

What Are Amazon’s Blockchain Services?

Let’s consider everything we know so far about Amazon Quantum Ledger Database and Amazon Managed Blockchain.

Amazon Managed Blockchain

The Amazon Managed Blockchain (AMB) allows the rapid deployment and scaling of a blockchain network. All Amazon blockchain products use AWS, so the blockchain itself can span multiple AWS accounts. AMB will make it easy for businesses to add more members to their blockchain, to track the blockchain network statistics within AWS, and manage your certificates.

amazon managed blockchain how it works

AMB will support two blockchain frameworks, too: Hyperledger Fabric, or Ethereum.

Hyperledger Fabric focuses on user privacy, security, and permission controls. Hyperledger Fabric is an open-source blockchain framework, originally contributed through the work of IBM and Digital Asset. It has support for smart contracts, membership services, and other essential blockchain features.

The Ethereum blockchain is, well, the Ethereum blockchain. AMBs use of the Ethereum blockchain means developers can use AMB to host Ethereum DApps, or even contribute to other Ethereum blockchain projects.

Amazon Quantum Ledger Database

The Amazon Quantum Ledger Database (QLDB) is a transparent, immutable database “owned by a central trusted authority.” If required, the QLDB will track and update alongside the AMB, verifying every change to the blockchain.

Amazon QLDB is a new class of database that eliminates the need to engage in the complex development effort of building your own ledger-like applications. With QLDB, your data’s change history is immutable—it cannot be altered or deleted—and using cryptography, you can easily verify that there have been no unintended modifications to your application’s data. QLDB uses an immutable transactional log, known as a journal, that tracks each application data change and maintains a complete and verifiable history of changes over time. QLDB is easy to use because it provides developers with a familiar SQL-like API, a flexible document data model, and full support for transactions. QLDB is also serverless, so it automatically scales to support the demands of your application. There are no servers to manage and no read or write limits to configure. With QLDB, you only pay for what you use.

QLDB, then, is a core part of the Amazon vision of providing any business with a blockchain service.

Quantum ledgers are of specific importance due to their value in the post-quantum computing world. Once quantum computing becomes widely available, some blockchains will become vulnerable to the vast increase in computer power. Specifically, there are fears that quantum-backed computers will be able to break the cryptographic standards that make blockchains and cryptocurrencies such a useful technology at the current time.

The Impact of Amazon’s Blockchain Services

If you consider Amazon’s impact in any other industry it enters, disruption is probably the keyword. Amazon has a long (and proud!) history of entering new areas of technology and retail, then dominating the market within just a few years.

Will the same success apply to Amazon blockchain services? I’m going with a strong YES.

A product backed by Amazon AWS and the overall might of Amazon will push to succeed in an area of emerging technology. Even if there are products that do a similar job, offer a similar service, or in some cases, are cheaper than an Amazon blockchain service, Amazon will make using their service so easy that those customers sitting on the fence are likely to be drawn in.

By sitting on the fence, I mean considering if a blockchain service is in the best interest for a business. You have to consider the support Amazon will offer, too. If Amazon provides the level of support it currently does for its AWS cloud business, new customers will certainly be drawn to the giant rather than existing blockchain alternatives.

Another consideration—and perhaps the biggest of all—is toward granting Amazon power over a blockchain. Can a blockchain service be considered truly decentralized if at its core is Amazon and its AWS servers?

I’m not so sure.

Gavin Phillips
Gavin saw the potential in Bitcoin back in 2010, but was a dirt poor student living on eggs and without a penny to invest. Since then, he’s been tracking the development of cryptocurrency and blockchain, and he’s written about blockchain for several publications and ICO whitepapers, including Envilope.

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