The Amazon Blockchain: Revolutionary or Hype?

Recently, Amazon announced their entry into the world of blockchain. Their announcement has confused many people, including myself. 

The confusion comes from a dual announcement which introduced a database service, that includes a few blockchain-like features, along with their “Amazon Managed Blockchain.”

The intriguing database service is explained as follows:

“If you need a centralized ledger that records all application data changes, and maintains an immutable record of these changes, AWS provides a ledger database. This database is high-performance, immutable, and cryptographically verifiable, eliminating the need for building complex audit tables or setting up blockchain networks.”

Many people read this portion of the announcement and assumed that Amazon, like many organizations before them, missed the point of a distributed ledger.  The announced database service offers an uneditable (immutable) database with cryptographic capabilities. The ability to apply encryption to a database can be a valuable tool to deal with security issues.  I’m less impressed by not being able to edit it.  I’m unsure about the uses for a centrally controlled database that can’t be edited.  Current legacy database technology easily allows for uneditable fields.  Regardless, I trust Amazon has looked at the market and has identified a market for such a database service. 

Amazon describes the second item as:

“Amazon Managed Blockchain is a fully managed service that makes it easy to create and manage scalable blockchain networks using the popular open source frameworks Hyperledger Fabric and Ethereum.”

The Amazon Managed Blockchain seems to be a tool kit to build a distributed ledger based on the mentioned existing Hyperledger and Ethereum frameworks. Such a tool kit is a compelling offering that could lend the Amazon and AWS brands and reputation to existing distributed ledger models. This isn’t a revolutionary offering, as some people touted after the announcement, but it could mainstream the use of these frameworks.  

Perhaps having Amazon acting as a catalyst to bring distributed ledger technology to mainstream development is worth something. With the bad press that blockchain has had lately, coming from its association with crypto and several failed tests, blockchain needs all the wins that it can muster.