The Amazon logo. Photo: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand
The Amazon logo. Photo: AFP/Emmanuel Dunand

This year should go down in history as the year of the blockchain. In 2017 crypto-currencies and blockchain businesses emerged. This year they literally took off. To stay up with the tech times, major companies are now investing resources into blockchain-based solutions and services.

Online retail giant Amazon is the latest to jump on the blockchain bandwagon with the launch of its own Amazon Web Services (AWS) ‘blockchain-as-a-service’ platform last week. The system will enable developers to set up their own blockchain-based projects by using pre-designed templates. The firm’s cloud computing division is going into direct competition with similar offerings from the likes of Oracle and IBM.

Using two different platforms, AWS will enable users to access a pre-built blockchain framework upon which to expand their projects. The technology choice will be Ethereum, which currently powers the majority of new blockchain projects and initial coin offerings, and Hyperledger Fabric, an open source blockchain development solution developed by the Linux Foundation.

Using pre-built templates gives companies an edge on rolling out blockchain projects faster. However they will still need some in-house technical expertise since it is a certainly more involved than setting up an email server or building a website. A guide to how to get started has been posted on the company blog but it is likely that most small to medium enterprises are simply not yet ready to deploy this technology for mainstream operations. Many will still be running decade-old operating systems on their office computers, so Amazon’s offerings seem, for now at least, to be another way of keeping up with the Joneses.

Crypto-currency has gone way beyond virtual money over the past year and a number of communities and companies also offer similar services on which they base the value of their digital tokens. EOS market capitalization currently sits just over $11 billion, which makes it the fifth largest altcoin. Just like Ethereum, the community provides a type of operating system upon which decentralized applications (dApps) can be built. The network is highly scalable and provides accounts, authentication, databases, asynchronous communication and the scheduling of applications across multiple computers.

Berlin-based Lisk is another blockchain development provider which uses a Javascript model to allow companies to build and deploy blockchain applications. Chinese based Neo has its own version of the development platform, Japan has Cardano, and South Korea is in there with Icon, so there is no shortage of blockchain solutions.

The list of companies flocking towards the technology in an effort to gain an edge on their competitors is growing. In China, where crypto-currency exchanges are currently banned, Huawei, Baidu and Tencent already have their own blockchain platforms and it is likely that Alibaba will not be far behind.

There are a number of advantages in using a decentralized solution over a centralized one owned by a mega-corporation. The Amazon system is free to download but the tech giant will still charge for and control cloud-based services needed to run projects built on AWS, and this seems to be where its interests lie with this offering.

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