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Amazon's Quantum Ledger Database Threatens Blockchain Vendors

On Sept. 10, 2019, Amazon unveiled its Quantum Ledger Database service in five regions. This service threatens vendors who build bespoke blockchain solutions without peer-to-peer functionality.

Quantum Ledger Database (QLDB) is a database service designed to provide AWS users with an immutable, append-only log of transactions.

The explosion of interest in crypto currency over the past few years has spurred interested in the original underlying technological innovation that enabled Bitcoin: blockchain.

In the crypto use case, the advantage of blockchain is that it allows for direct, peer-to-peer transactions without the need for a trusted intermediary, even if the peers do not trust one another.

For some enterprise "blockchain" use cases, however, the primary desired feature is that of an immutable, append-only record of transactions that provides an audit trail whose integrity can be verified by use of cryptography.

I refer to this as a "blockchain" use case because such functionality does not actually require a blockchain – the proper value of blockchain is in the direct, peer-to-peer use case where users cannot trust one another.

But some vendors have been taking advantage of the hype surrounding blockchain to tout the "immutable ledger" use case as a defining characteristic of blockchain's value proposition.

Unsuspecting customers who pursue the blockchain route just to obtain an immutable ledger are essentially building a rocket to power a skateboard: yes, it works, but it’s overkill and completely unnecessary. They're adding a lot of complexity to their technology stack even though that’s not required to achieve their desired functionality.

This is where Amazon Quantum Ledger Database comes in. It offers precisely the "immutable ledger" functionality many enterprises are craving for in an auditable trail of transaction data while removing the added complexity and wasted effort of bespoke blockchain solutions.

Developers can interact with QLDB using what Amazon calls a "SQL-like" API, which should make it relatively easy to incorporate into existing architectures.

Amazon also describes QLDB as "serverless" – meaning that the customer does not have to manage any servers or define any parameters to handle database load. Amazon manages all the infrastructure and simply bills the customer on a per transaction basis.

Source: AWS

Our Take

Amazon Quantum Ledger Database has a buzzwordy name – we're not exactly certain what's "Quantum" about it – but the offering addresses a real need possessed by many organizations.

In moving the "immutable ledger" use case away from blockchain, Amazon has thrown down a gauntlet at certain unscrupulous blockchain tech providers, who have been riding the hype to peddle blockchain as the append-only ledger of choice, along with its expense and complexity.

Info-Tech expects that smart enterprises will buy functional solutions based on their business uses cases, rather than hopping on the bandwagon of the latest hyped-up back-end tech.

As for the vendors of bespoke blockchain solutions – those who have positioned their product offerings around blockchain’s unique value proposition (peer-to-peer transactions by parties who don’t trust one another) will have nothing to fear from QLDB. Others should beware.

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