Edge colocation services and blockchain technology have been developing independently for several years, but their paths are unavoidably merging. Largely developed for cryptocurrencies, the security of blockchain coding is rooted in its distribution among many users. Edge colocation is the practice of locating highly connected data centers in markets traditionally underserved by big providers, thereby diffusing the risk of attack on any one data center. The very nature of blockchain security requires diverse resources and broad accessibility, which will be more easily achieved through colocation on the edge.
Blockchain, not just for cryptocurrency anymore
Blockchain is most often described as a decentralized ledger or a transaction log that utilizes cryptography and multiple copies to ensure that the ledger is not tampered with. This technique has extraordinary potential to improve secure computing and transactional workload processing. Many copies of transactions are distributed across computing environments, including colocation, edge and cloud resources. This distribution allows for decentralized control, which helps prevent both fraud and the threat of a single entity negatively influencing the platform. It is code, however, and code will always have bugs.
Invented in 2008, blockchain technology initially provided the transactional infrastructure for cryptocurrencies, most famously Bitcoin. Since then, blockchain has shown promise in other use cases, including financial trading, secure health records, and even dynamic cloud resource sharing. This technology solves the problem of transactional security with what is essentially a software fingerprint per transaction. A decentralized public authority is maintained by distributing multiple copies of the blockchain among many stakeholders, and is not controlled by a single organization.
Blockchain software continues to generate new blocks, or logical areas that hold new transactions, while linking and ensuring that older blocks are securely maintained. These chains, in turn, become essentially tamper proof, which improves overall transactional security as the environment grows. Today, it is estimated that the blockchain ledger is over hundreds of gigabytes in size, and is distributed across the world. However, according to Gartner, “only 1% of CIOs responding to the Gartner 2018 CIO Survey indicate any kind of blockchain adoption, and only 8% are in short-term planning and pilot execution.”1
Edge colocation, the future of blockchain development
Blockchain technology is still young, but already evident is the great potential for how it can further realize utilize edge colocation resources, distributing services closer to the user and improving security.
Blockchain needs the edge, as its model is built on distributed secure resources. To be successful in a decentralized distributed model, care should be taken to ensure deployed resources are diverse and accessible across the user base. This distributed and secured resource model is one of the many reasons it continues to grow in popularity with research and development communities.
Proceed with caution
This technology is ultimately just code, and all code can become the target of ransomware threats. It also can exploit programming bugs. Issues with one popular implementation, for example, caused the software creators to re-write major algorithms across the platform to thwart a ransomware attack that exploited a software bug.
Blockchain technology will continue to progress, however, and more use cases will emerge. The ability to secure health records and make them more widely available, for example, is seeing real developmental investment. It’s likely that the relationship between blockchain and edge-native computing will strengthen as new capabilities emerge and both technologies continue to mature.
1. Gartner, Smarter with Gartner, “The CIO’s Guide to Blockchain”, July 13, 2018, https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/the-cios-guide-to-blockchain/