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Blockchain Works With Systems of Record to Integrate Data

blockchain systems of record
Illustration by Greg Mably

Distributed ledger technology blockchain links with existing systems of record (SOR) application servers and data managers. They share information and assets securely and immutably between external parties.

It can be used to track the lifecycle of a car, a financial transaction or sources of food ingredients. (Learn more about how various industries are using the technology in “The Business of Blockchain”.) The transactions are very different from those performed on mainframe transactional systems in terms of goals, timing and performance.

Simply stated, a blockchain transaction is a contract on blockchain, says Donna Dillenberger, IBM Fellow. The goal is to share data across multiple enterprises in an auditable, immutable way.

Blockchains today don’t provide millisecond response times, and a single blockchain network won’t support billions of transactions a day. However, a blockchain transaction will keep all parties on blockchain informed and will provide a record for all parties. The transaction is shared across enterprises, so many views of the immutable data are given.

In contrast, SOR transactional systems on z Systems* use transactional managers such as IMS*, CICS* and DB2*. Transactional managers process billions of transactions a day at millisecond speed with high volume, high throughput and high qualities of service, Dillenberger notes. They ensure each transaction has four attributes: atomicity, consistency, isolation and durability. When transactions are committed across all copies of that cluster of transactional managers, one view of the data exists or it doesn’t get committed at all, she says. Typically, traditional SORs don’t support multiple live copies in the manner blockchain does—although some specialist deployments of DB2 use replication for high availability.

Blockchain Uses

Enterprises are looking to use blockchain with existing SOR data managers for two main reasons:

1. An enterprise wants to share SOR data with external parties and leave a record of that data exchange. “The record would include a timestamp and list of what data was shared so the record can be audited and the data is immutable,” Dillenberger notes.
2. An event on the blockchain generates a need to interact with a participant’s SOR. That blockchain event may trigger the start of a CICS transaction or a DB2 procedure.

No matter why blockchain is deployed, it tracks the lifecycle of an asset whether it is a car, a financial asset or a real estate title, says Ian J. Mitchell, Distinguished Engineer, z Systems software. Blockchain offers transparent management of that asset between participants and requires tracking the asset inside the participants’ existing SORs.

Shirley S. Savage is a Maine-based freelance writer. Shirley can be reached at savage.shirley@comcast.net.


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