By Anna Irrera
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Hyperledger Project, a group led by the Linux Foundation, has released its first blockchain code that can be used by large businesses to build software.
The group, whose more than 120 members include International Business Machines Corp, Cisco Systems Inc, the Bank of England and JPMorgan Chase & Co, said on Tuesday that it had released the first version of Hyperledger Fabric, a type of distributed ledger code.
The developers involved in the project believe Hyperledger Fabric 1.0 is strong and secure enough to be used by corporations to start building blockchain-based business applications, the group said.
Blockchain, which first emerged as the system powering cryptocurrency bitcoin, is a shared record of data that is maintained by a network of computers, without requiring a trusted third party to validate the veracity of the information.
Banks and other large corporations have been investing hundreds of millions of dollars in developing the technology in the hopes it can help them simplify some of their most cumbersome and costly processes, such as settling securities trades.
More than 150 engineers from 29 organizations contributed to the project.
"These kinds deep revolutions take some time, but I am confident that competent development teams inside organizations can start to look at that [Hyperledger Fabric] and go all the way to running it in production," Brian Behlendorf, Hyperledger's executive director, said in an interview.
To speed the development of blockchain, many organizations have formed or joined industry groups. Earlier this year JPMorgan, Microsoft Corp, Intel Corp and others formed a blockchain group called the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance, while many of the world’s largest banks invested $100 million in blockchain consortium R3.
Despite the excitement, blockchain has yet to be deployed in a large scale project by large companies, and skeptics have cautioned that its benefits may be overblown.
Hyperledger Fabric, for example, does not yet scale to handle as many transactions per second as the payment network of a major credit card company, Behlendorf said.
Proponents note, however, that it is still early days for the technology, likening the current landscape to the early days of the internet.
"If this were the web, what year would we be in?" Behlendorf said. "I've felt that we were in 1995, but with this release I am ready to say we are in 1996, when you started to see enterprises saying 'Now it is not just a research project.'"
(Reporting by Anna Irrera; Editing b Steve Orlofsky)