IBM Backs The Blockchain

In a move that will potentially come as something of a shock this morning, it seems that International Business Machines (IBM) will soon be among the biggest backers of the blockchain, the technological innovation that makes bitcoin possible.

The firm has announced that, in the upcoming year, it will begin in-house testing on blockchain software, with an eye toward simplifying life for customers who lease IBM computer hardware.

The firm is also working to establish a new standard for blockchain software and intends to contribute its own code developments to a free, open-source project named Hyperledger. IBM will additionally work to aid developers in building blockchain enhancements for its mainframe computers, as well as for items that use radiowave-based ID tracking tags. Finally, as part of the project, the firm has committed to a network of “IBM Garages” in London, New York, Singapore and Tokyo to make the tech accessible to various customers.

IBM is not alone in its blockchain efforts and is, in fact, one of many large enterprise players who have recently announced experiments with the bitcoin-enabling tech. Nasdaq Inc. and JPMorgan Chase are just two of the many large firms that have announced blockchain investments of late.

“I think the number of places that a distributed ledger can be used could become almost limitless,” said Arvind Krishna, a senior vice president of IBM.

And IBM’s interest might help the blockchain do what it has been aiming at for some time: going mainstream apart from its more shady bitcoin counterpart.

“I think it makes a lot of sense that [IBM is] in this space,” David Sica, vice president of NYCA Partners, said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if these companies ultimately go into production with a company like IBM because they have dealt with them forever.”

IBM further notes that its additions to Hyperledger are predicated on making the blockchain faster, more scalable and easier to use.

“A lot of enterprise clients do have their existing transactional systems on the mainframe,” Krishna said. “It will absolutely add workload to the mainframe.”

IBM’s big push into the blockchain is expected to be announced later today (Feb. 16) by CEO Virginia Rometty.



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