A Taxonomy to Understand the Blockchain Application Platform Market

The blockchain technology space is exploding with innovation. Every month, new technology stacks are entering the market with the promise to finally take blockchain application development mainstream. Venture capitalists are certainly excited about the market and new funding mechanisms such as initial coin offerings(ICOs) have provided blockchain platform startups with the resources to achieve initial relevance in the market.

The rapidly increasing number of blockchain platforms is certainly accelerating innovation in the space but it has also brought some confusion and misunderstanding. Today, if you are company evaluating blockchain application platforms it is incredibly easy to feel overwhelmed and confused by the large number of options in the market. Most analyst firms are still very early in their coverage of blockchain applications platforms and, frankly, there far too many articles out there comparing apples and oranges. I certainly don’t claim to have any solution to magically make you understand the blockchain application platform market but there is a taxonomy that I frequently rely upon and that I think some of you might find useful.

5 Types of Blockchain application Platforms

If you are evaluating technology platform to build and scale blockchain applications(especially in the enterprise) you can think about the market in terms of the following categories:

1 — Blockchain Infrastructure Platforms

In this group we can place the “low level” or tier 1 blockchain platforms that enable the construction of blockchain networks and the implementation of decentralized applications. This type of platforms include artifacts such as smart contracts, oracles, decentralized applications, consensus protocols or distributed ledgers which can be assembled to implement highly sophisticated blockchain applications. Ethereum is the prototypical example of this type of technology but we can also include platforms such as IBM Hyperledger Fabric, R3 Corda, Intel Sawtooth, Tezos, J.P Morgan Quorum or Nasdaq Linq in that category. This group of platforms can be seen as an enabled to other blockchain technologies included in this taxonomy.

2 — Blockchain Application Development Frameworks

Building mainstream applications such as website or mobile apps powered by a blockchain infrastructure is really complex even when using blockchain infrastructure platforms. As a result, there is a segment of the blockchain application platform market composed of frameworks that streamline the implementation of common types of applications such as websites or mobile apps. Eris Tech is a good example of this group.

3 — Blockchain as a Service

Blockchain as a service(BaaS) are native cloud services that enable the provisioning and management of blockchain networks and infrastructures. BaaS are typically provided by the big cloud platforms which use the model to expand the model with their own blockchain technologies. Azure BaaS(Project Bletchley, Coco Framework, Enterprise Smart Contracts) and Bluemix BaaS are among the leaders in this space.

4 — Blockchain PaaS

Blockchain platforms as a service(PaaS) are suites of cloud services and frameworks built with blockchain technologies as the underlying platform. The goals of blockchain PaaS is to enable the implementation of decentralized application without caring about the underlying blockchain infrastructures. There are obvious overlap between the BaaS and blockchain PaaS models. However, there are enough differences to classify as two different groups. Differently from BaaS stacks, blockchain PaaS can operate on hybrid blockchain networks and include proprietary application development model. Platforms such as Nxt or BlockStack are leading the charge in this area.

5 — Decentralized Application Infrastructure Services and Tools

Like any other type of software solutions, blockchain applications require capabilities such as identity management, storage, integration and many others. There is a group of technologies in the market that has specialized on enabling those capabilities using different blockchain infrastructures. BigChainDB(database) or the aforementioned Azure Enterprise Smart Contracts(integration) are some examples of this type of technologies.

I hope you found previous market taxonomy useful. The goal is not to create an exclusive categorization of blockchain application technologies in the market but rather to provide a guidance that may help you navigate this increasingly complex ecosystem.

CEO of IntoTheBlock, Chief Scientist at Invector Labs, I write The Sequence Newsletter, Guest lecturer at Columbia University, Angel Investor, Author, Speaker.

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