“This is the year of pointless blockchain projects” and anything you build with blockchain will need to be ripped out and replaced within 18 months, according to Gartner fellow Ray Valdes.
Speaking to The Register in Sydney today, Valdes said blockchain is among the most secure technologies he's ever seen, having survived seven years at the heart of bitcoin. But he said the technology remain immature and is often misrepresented. Some “implementations” he's seen have nothing to do with blockchain and instead represent “blockchain washing” in which projects involving integration and security are labelled as having something to do with blockchain, just as legacy IT scored “private cloud” labels in the early 2010s.
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Plenty of other projects he's seen can best be described as “blockchain tourism”, as they are small scale proof of concepts that don't touch core systems.
Others he's seen see teams bogged down in complex integration projects turn to blockchain as an act of “wishful thinking for magic middleware.” Such efforts predictably fail.
He's also seen blockchain projects conducted in closed environments, which he thinks is futile because the whole point of the technology is to build a network of trust. If you're only going to run blockchain on one machine, he asks why you wouldn't just use a database that is already very good at recording transactions.
IBM and Microsoft's blockchain-as-a-service efforts confuse him for the same reason. The whole point of the technology is that the network collectively makes transactions trustworthy, yet Microsoft and IBM are offering themselves up as centralised blockchain hubs. In private, Valdes says Microsoft will say its blockchain effort is to help developers understand the technology. Real implementations can wait.
Valdes says it's futile trying to pick winners in blockchain, because it's at a stage similar to the Web in 1995, a time when the first wave of innovators started to build services and win millions of customers. Just as the likes of Lycos and Magellan were surpassed by Google, and early social networks were swamped by Facebook, Valdes believes the world's dominant blockchain concerns will emerge in a second wave of innovation that takes place years from now.
But the analyst was at pains to say he is not recommending against experimentation. He's convinced blockchain will be important, but equally sure that anything you do with it now will be a learning experience rather than game-changer for your organisation. ®