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​Why VMware is involved in blockchain

​Open-sourced Project Concord was released this week for customers to start experimenting on.

VMware announced its blockchain play during VMworld in Las Vegas this week, and it isn't just because it's an industry buzzword -- the company started a blockchain research project about four years ago and now claims some of the best distributed systems people working on the technology.

Project Concord is touted by the company as an open-sourced, scalable, energy-efficient decentralised trust infrastructure for digital consensus and smart contract execution.

"We're seeing an increasing number of organisations evaluating blockchains for smart contracts and digital consensus solutions," VMware VP and CTO Ray O'Farrell said during the day one keynote at VMworld in Las Vegas this week.

"This technology is potentially becoming a critical role in how businesses will interact with each other, how they will work together."

Must read: The blockchain explained for non-engineers

According to O'Farrell, Project Concord gives the choice, performance, and scale of verifiable trust to run within the enterprise.

"But this is not just another blockchain implementation; we have focused very squarely on making sure that this is good for enterprises. It focuses on performance, it focuses on scalability," he continued.

"We've seen examples where running consensus algorithms have taken over eight days on some of the most common, widely-used infrastructure. With Project Concord, you can do that in two-and-a-half hours."

VMware's VP and CTO of Asia Pacific and Japan Bruce Davie said that as blockchain is a general-purpose piece of infrastructure with a tonne of potential applications, it's a natural fit for VMware to be a provider of the infrastructure layer to allow others to build on top of.

"We have some of the world's top distributed systems people working on these algorithms to build secure, distributed ledgers for specifically enterprise applications," he explained.

"Enterprise is really different from cryptocurrencies; in cryptocurrencies there's all these random people mining to prove that they're able to solve a puzzle, so you let them commit into the ledger, in an enterprise environment you can use a much more efficient algorithm to get consensus even if some of your parties aren't trustworthy."

VMware's vision for blockchain is to create an enterprise-grade service by surrounding Concord's consensus engine with additional technologies required to enable trusted information-sharing across organisational boundaries.

Key elements of that enterprise blockchain vision include: Choice in deploying managed data replicas in public or private clouds, audit and compliance capabilities, enterprise-ready security and fault tolerance, and integration with other VMware offerings.

Peder Ulander from VMware's Networking and Security Business Unit told ZDNet that many of VMware's customers are focusing attention on blockchain, and so it's the company's intention to figure out exactly what it does.

"It's important for us to be on top of it but not because it's a cool buzzword but because it is something that our customers are looking at, so that's why it sits with Ray's world right now, same with edge," Ulander explained.

"Edge just came out from Ray, but that is a great example of incubate the stuff of where we know our customers are going, don't distract the field and the engineers, partners, and then as it basically materialises into something that's very real, that's when we shift it into the business piece.

"It's a different approach than many in the sense that it's about learning the platforms and technologies and how it fits with customers versus buying it because you think customers want it."

Disclosure: Asha McLean travelled as a guest of VMware to VMworld in Las Vegas

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