OPINION: What’s Wrong with a Mauve Blockchain?


Anyone remotely connected to the distributed ledger conversation has seen that Dilbert cartoon. The one in which Dilbert asks his boss what color blockchain he wants and the pointy hair boss wants a mauve one since it has the most RAM.

The humor comes from the bosses complete lack of understanding of the technology and the issues surrounding it, but a lot has changed since Scott Adams published the cartoon.

Only a year or two ago, it seemed that everyone and their sibling were developing their proprietary platforms and seeking that one poster-child deal that could springboard them into additional sales.

If the industry and the technology’s maturity remained the same, the punchline would still have the same punch, but things move on; nascent technology matures; the market weeds out the VHS from the Betamax, or the Facebooks from the MySpaces depending when one entered the industry.

Just as few firms have the luxury of standardizing on one make of SQL and NoSQL databases, pretty soon firms won’t have a choice in selecting the blockchain architecture they will need to support. It won’t be a matter of one blockchain to rule them all, but the market standardizing on the top three or four architectures.

Soon, everyone will need to connect to Hyperledger, Ethereum, Corda, and Sawtooth as well as one or two proprietary architectures. Firms that participate in consortiums will have some say in selecting the architecture the project will use, but it will be the marquee infrastructure-as-a-service providers that determine which blockchain architectures win the bake-off by their choice of which platforms they will offer as a hosted service.

Individual firms should spend more time and effort addressing issues further up the blockchain stack as third-party middleware providers and smart contract scripting languages continue to abstract away the blockchains on which they sit.

This trend isn’t new; it’s only the latest phase of infrastructure abstraction the IT industry has witnessed since the rise of Java and the introduction of virtual machines decades ago.

Although color won’t be a differentiating characteristic for blockchains, a lot of previously essential aspects will not be as well.

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