Understanding the Blockchain App Platform Space: Challenges and a Market Taxonomy
Blockchain application are an area of research and prototype across many major industries. Similarly, the ecosystem of blockchain application platforms and tools has been growing steadily. With that growth, the market has created several clearly defined groups of technologies that abstract tithe fundamental capabilities of modern blockchain applications. However, there is still disconnect between the potential of the technology and its practical adoption.
A Slower than Expected Growth
Lets’ face it, blockchain applications are a super exciting trend but their adoption remains relatively slow. In fact, blockchain technologies has been growing at a slower pace than many other hot technology trends in the enterprise. There is nothing necessarily wrong with that as different technology markets evolves at different paces but it is a fact that we should acknowledge in order to understand the blockchain app platform market.
There are different factors that have been conspiring to cause the slow adoption of blockchain application platforms. The following list includes some of my favorites:
1 — Challenges for Mainstream Developers: Blockchain platforms such as Ethereum or Hyperledger remain difficult and non-intuitive for mainstream developers. Some of the concepts in these platforms such as smart-contracts or decentralized autonomous organizations have no equivalent in traditional application development platforms an, consequently, require a larger than usual learning curve for developers.
2 — Complexity of Private Blockchain Infrastructures: Private blockchain infrastructure are notoriously difficult to setup, scale and maintain which results in a challenge for most organizations.
3 — Uncertainty About Public Blockchains: Recent security flaws in public blockchains such as Bitcoin or Ethereum continue to add uncertainly to organization looking to build on those infrastructures.
4 — Talent Availability: Hiring and acquiring blockchain talent remains a challenge for many companies.
5 — Lack of High Level Application Development Platforms: The ecosystem of high level blockchain application development tools and frameworks remains relatively small compared to other mainstream technologies.
Despite the aforementioned challenges, the blockchain application platform ecosystem has been steadily evolving. There are different groups of technologies that have become relevant in that market. The following list might help you to better understand the different moving forces in the blockchain app platform space:
1 — Tier-1 Blockchain Platforms: This category includes platforms such as Ethereum, Hyper ledger or Chain that provide the fundamental building blocks of blockchain applications.
2 — Tier-2 Blockchain Platforms: This group includes platforms that abstract the implementation of web or mobile apps using Tier-1 blockchain platforms as the underlying infrastructure. ErisTech is a great example of a Tier-2 blockchain platform.
3 — BaaS: Blockchain as a service(BaaS) are groups of native cloud services that enable the creation, scaling and management of blockchain applications (typically Tier-1). Azure BaaS and Bluemix-Hyper ledger are well-known examples of BaaS stacks.
4 — Blockchain PaaS: Blockchain platform as a service(PaaS) technologies enable cloud services ranging from databases to web application hosting powered by the blockchain. Blockstack and Nxt are lead examples of this type of technology.
5 — Blockchain Management & Monitoring Tools: I believe there is an underdeveloped segment of the market and one with a lot of potential. Tools and platforms that manage the lifecycle of blockchain applications including aspects such as application testing, management, deployment, monitoring could become a very relevant category in the market.