Corda Enterprise blockchain platform: unlocking new opportunities

Early this month R3 announced the launch of Corda Enterprise, a commercial version of its open-source Corda blockchain platform, which aims to help a wider range of business use blockchain in their sector.  With the launch of Corda Enterprise, companies
can now select a version of Corda that fits their unique needs – regardless of their industry, size and stage of development. It however took more than a year hard working, because of the various challenges, such as scale, security and privacy.

Corda Enterprise brings greater enterprise capabilities to the Corda platform. Built upon the existing Corda’s functionality, it is thereby enhancing availability and performance. These extra features may enhance security and make Corda Enterprise easier
to scale. Next to the We.Trade platform for trade finance (see my recent blog: We.Trade on blockchain: yes we can), Corda Enterprise is the second commercially available blockchain platform for business, specifically optimised to “meet the demands of modern
day businesses”, especially complex regulated institutions. 

Why Corda Enterprise?

The whole idea of the original Corda platform (see my blog: R3CEV Corda Platform: the blockchain app store, 9 October 2017) was to enable businesses to transact directly and privately, reducing transaction costs and streamlining operations. Many large users
however are facing technical, regulatory and compliance issues that prevent them from using blockchain internally at scale. Not all businesses can realise the full potential of blockchain because of technical constraints like their existing IT systems and
complex infrastructures, as well as issues around privacy, scalability and interoperability between systems. R3 is therefore launching Corda Enterprise and has implemented additional functionalities so that every business can benefit.

“Traditional permissionless blockchain platforms, in which all data is shared with all parties, have issues around privacy, scalability and interoperability that render them largely unsuited for global business. This is the problem Corda was designed
to solve and it is gaining adoption at a rapid pace across a range of industries. However many enterprises – especially larger ones – face unique technical constraints. Corda Enterprise fine tunes Corda for these firms so that they can adopt blockchain technology
in a way that is straightforward and natural. The launch of the platform is a watershed moment for business blockchain technology.”
Richard Gendal Brown, CTO at R3

Blockchain application firewall

R3 released a new version of its open-source blockchain Corda platform with a number of added features, such as a built-in “world’s only” blockchain application firewall. This to provide additional security and support functionality required by institutions
with complex businesses.

The firewall within Corda Enterprise is intended to “ensure application access would be secure, remain within the blockchain system, reject unauthorized outside connections and provide access management for users and applications functioning on the blockchain.”

The blockchain application firewall enables Corda Enterprise to be deployed inside corporate data centres while retaining the ability to securely communicate with outside nodes on the network, without comprising their data security. This by providing an
encrypted layer of communication between data centres and outside nodes. A unique feature that is not present in any other blockchain

 “There is this dilemma, because blockchain nodes need to be able to connect to the core systems of a firm, but also need to be able to connect to other nodes across the network [and in] very complex networking architectures.”
“This firewall only allows data from permissioned parties on the network through to the node itself.”
“The firewall, therefore, protects the Corda node from the outside whilst allowing through just the traffic that should come through.”
Richard Gendal Brown

This new layer of security is a way for blockchain applications to “live behind a bank’s firewall”, alongside sensitive internal applications, but to let them still interact with counterparties at other banks. This unlocks new opportunities for companies
to disrupt and transform the industries in which they operate.


Other features

There are additional features – next to the application firewall – offered by Corda Enterprise .

The platform is optimised for real-world corporate IT environments. This includes 24/7 customer support, predictable release schedules, governance, high-performance nodes , high-availability monitoring and disaster recovery, and most important, enhanced
security.

The platform also includes support for Oracle and SQL server databases. So it facilitates seamless integration of Corda with industry-standard enterprise databases.

The platform finally delivers cross-distribution and cross-version wire compatibility, together with the ability to operate mixed-version networks and a Corda node inside a corporate firewall.

Interoperability


Another key aspect of Corda Enterprise is interoperability. The discussion up till now has often been about ledger interoperability. Not about interoperability within ledgers themselves. In reality businesses want to operate with more than one application at
a time.

Existing blockchains, such as Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric,  are either deployed in standalone solutions with one application and network without any future interoperability and asset mobility. Because these sort of blockchains are shared among multiple
parties, they must interconnect outside of corporate networks, and that could leave communications vulnerable. Within these networks users cannot seamlessly operate from one application to another, “leading to trapped assets in different channels”.

“Interoperability is a key aspect of the platform’s design. Its applications and services run across a common layer of identity, consensus and governance. This means businesses can transact openly and flawlessly with all their business partners, without
trapped assets or islands of information.”

Corda and Corda Enterprise

Choosing between Corda and Corda Enterprise wholly depends on business needs. Corda and Corda Enterprise however are fully compatible and companies can transact across different versions of the platform. With Corda Network, members have a unique ID, a single
identity on the platform, so they can seamlessly operate within all applications, whether on Corda Enterprise or Corda open source.

If a company wants to use Corda on a larger scale and requires the advanced functionalities of Corda Enterprise, they can easily migrate. As the platforms are interoperable, members of Corda Enterprise can always work with members of Corda, and vice versa.

“Corda and Corda Enterprise are fully interoperable, meaning companies using either can trade with each other, and that one organisation can run both platforms seamlessly across different divisions.” Spokesperson from R3

Live distributed applications

To fit the industries using blockchains, R3 partnered with a large number of different enterprise firms across the globe from numerous markets, including those that serve finance, trade, healthcare, etc.

Distributed applications are developed by partners including financial technology company Finastra Group Holdings Ltd., digital security firm Gemalto NV, blockchain start-up Guardtime AS, GuildOne Inc., TradeIX Ltd. and Tradewind Markets Inc. These are now
live on both Corda and Corda Enterprise and act as an operational proof-of-concept for the system.

“Finastra selected Corda to build our blockchain-based solution, Fusion LenderComm, due to its strong levels of privacy and security. This enabled our team to build a secure solution which streamlines information exchange between agent banks and lenders,
driving transparency and efficiency in the syndicated loan market”.
Jacqueline Morcombe, Global Solution Lead, Lending, Finastra 

ING and Corda Enterprise

ING is one of the partners that teamed up with R3 to develop this platform. And that for various reasons.

“With the launch of Corda Enterprise, we can now deliver the security, privacy and reliability features that customers and regulators expect from financial institutions. It enables us to realize the potential of distributed applications in enterprise
grade IT production environments. This is a massive step towards unlocking the full potential of Distributed Ledger Technology”.
Ivar Wiersma, Head of Innovation ING Wholesale Banking

“To deploy a node inside our own premises and firewalls, we can now get the required approvals from our compliance and risk departments much faster, ensuring the enterprise infrastructure needed is upgraded and maintained much easier due to some of the
included features such as the firewall.”
Mariana Gomez de la Villa, manager of global distributed ledger technology program at ING

Corda versus other blockchain platforms


R3 is promoting the Blockchain Firewall as a feature that should make Corda more appealing to businesses when compared to traditional open-source blockchains. They predict the enterprise blockchain market will soon consolidate to a small number of platforms,
thereby “escalating the need” that these remaining blockchain systems can interchange data.

Corda is said to be the only blockchain that has been designed and built specifically for business. Corda’s focus on privacy, security and scalability distinguish it from other blockchain platforms. Unlike Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric, where all the information
is shared between every node on the network, Corda shares information on a bilateral and multilateral level “only with parties that need to see it.” In this way, Corda, can interoperate in multiple ways, both between its own open source and enterprise deployments,
as well as with other platforms.

New opportunities

In addition to Corda Enterprise, R3 is launching new features to help members make the most of the Corda environment. As Corda has increased in popularity and applications are developing in various areas from financial services to healthcare, R3 is looking
to migrate them to a Corda marketplace. In essence, this will be a Corda app store where users can easily try these applications Corda partners have built. Members will be able to easily find and use tested apps or showcase their own applications.

Corda Enterprise may unlock new opportunities for R3’s partner firms to expand their business, deliver new products to market faster and transform the industries in which they operate.

“Corda Enterprise marks the beginning of a new phase for the blockchain industry that will allow businesses to build enterprise-grade applications securely using cutting-edge technology.” “As blockchain becomes increasingly mainstream, we believe Corda
will emerge as a true market leader across the financial industry and beyond.”
John Velissarios, managing director and global blockchain technology lead at Accenture

As such, it is expected to be a key driver of blockchain uptake in the real world.