The blockchain is accelerating the business operations to make them smarter. It is all set to transform numerous industries, including healthcare, supply chain, financial services, and many more.
A research report by CB Insights says that big companies like Pfizer and Walmart have successfully built blockchain pilots in medicine tracking and food safety. Also, ICOs based on the blockchain, have gained a lot of traction, resulting in $2B+ funding in 2017.
If you are an entrepreneur and looking to invest in the blockchain, you should understand the comprehensive blockchain development process.
This guide is intended for entrepreneurs, product managers, founders, and innovators looking to have knowledge of the blockchain development process, and how to integrate blockchain into the businesses.
Read further to know the step-by-step process of developing an application based on the blockchain.
Introducing the Blockchain
The blockchain is a chain of time-stamped digital records, known as blocks, which are linked together cryptographically. Since every record that goes into the blockchain always stays there, it can be traced anytime, and nobody can tamper the blocks of information.
The technology comes with the following benefits:
- Decentralization to remove the single points of failure from the system
- Transparency by making it possible for every member of the network to access the data at the same time
- Trust through mass consensus
- Security through immutable records of transactions
Let us decode what all is needed to build a scalable and secure blockchain-based application.
Here is a step-by-step guide to the blockchain development process for building a blockchain-based solution
1. Identify the problem and goal
Before we go deeper into the blockchain development process, firstly it is essential to define a problem statement. At this step, you should know what all problems a proposed solution is expected to solve.
Make sure investing time and efforts in blockchain would benefit your business capabilities or not. You can also migrate your current application to the blockchain network without building it from scratch.
Identify a use-case for your application and ensure if your idea requires blockchain or not.
For example, if you are a food supplier and looking to build a blockchain-based supply chain application, you should understand the multiple use-cases of the application and how it is going to benefit your business and the consumer.
Once you have identified that your business requires a blockchain-based solution, the next step is to choose the right blockchain platform for your project.
2. Identify the suitable blockchain platform
You require a blockchain platform to build a decentralized application without having to create a blockchain from scratch. The blockchain platform you need depends on the consensus mechanism and the problems you are going to solve.
Here are some of the blockchain platforms you can choose on the basis of their functionality and mechanism:
Designed as a general programming platform, Ethereum is an open-source and public blockchain-based distributed computing platform, featuring the functionality of smart contracts.
Ethereum uses a proof-of-work algorithm, called “Ethash” which requires more memory to make it difficult to mine using costly ASICs- specialized mining chips.
Build your application on Ethereum if you want to develop a decentralized public application with smart contracts.
Hyperledger Fabric is open-source blockchain platform suitable for building the enterprise applications. It supports distributed ledger solutions on permissioned networks where all participants have known and authorized identities.
Built on the modular architecture, Hyperledger Fabric has the potential to maximize the flexibility and resilience of blockchain applications. The pluggable architecture components include encryption or consensus.
Hyperledger Fabric supports smart contracts and calls this feature “Chaincode.” A chaincode can be written in any of the programming languages and executed in containers.
The first language which fully supports chaincode is Golang.
If you want to build a decentralized solution for your enterprise which should not be available to the public, choose Hyperledger Fabric for your project.
Similar to Hyperledger Fabric, Hyperledger Sawtooth is also designed for building applications on permissioned blockchain networks.
Originally came from Intel, Hyperledger Sawtooth uses a consensus algorithm called “Proof of Elapsed Time.”
Proof-of-Elapsed Time implements the following strategy:
- Every participant in the blockchain network waits for a random amount of time.
- The first participant who completes the waiting time becomes the leader of the new block.
This consensus mechanism needs to meet the two requirements to work fairly. Firstly, did the lottery winner choose a wait time randomly? Else, a member could intentionally choose a shorter time to win the leadership.
Secondly, did the winner actually complete the specified amount of waiting time.
If you want to build an enterprise-grade and scalable application, it is ideal to choose Hyperledger Sawtooth for your blockchain development project.
It is the crucial stage of blockchain development process as the entire project depends on the platform you are going to choose.
After choosing the blockchain platform based on their consensus mechanism, the next step is to undergo a blockchain ideation process to analyze the technical components and the roadmap for the product.
3. Blockchain Ideation
Once you have identified the problem and blockchain platform to build the application, it is the right time to brainstorm ideas and business requirements.
In this step of the blockchain development process, you need to evaluate, formulate, and prioritize use cases for blockchain experimentation.
Decide what components should be added as on-chain and off-chain business entities. Prepare a roadmap of the product, i.e., when are you going to release an alpha, beta, and ready-to-launch versions of the application.
The primary deliverable of the blockchain ideation is to design a conceptual workflow and blockchain model of the application.
Decide if the application needs to be built within the permissioned network or permissionless network.
While formulating ideas, you also have to make decisions related to the front-end programming language, external database, and servers for your application.
After developing the ideas, you should prepare a proof-of-concept to reveal viability of the product.
4. Developing a proof-of-concept
A proof-of-concept is a way to demonstrate the practical potential of a blockchain project and it can either be a theoretical build-up or a prototype.
To create a PoC for your project, you can go through the following stages to show the project’s feasibility:
- Theoretical Build-up
Every project needs theoretical cases so that the end-users can understand the viability and productivity of the product. Create proposals to explain the parameters of the project.
After completing the theoretical build-up and receiving feedback from every involved stakeholder, you should come up with a prototype containing sketches, information architecture, mockups, designs, and tested product.
Once the stakeholders approve the PoC, start focusing on preparing the visual and technical designs for the application.
5. Preparing Visual and Technical Designs
Now that you have planned everything, start creating user interfaces for every component of the software. Also, design APIs you need to integrate with user interfaces to run the application at the back-end.
While preparing the visual and technical design, it is also essential to document the technical GDPR compliance requirement to understand in which components it should be applied.
GDPR has become a crucial part of the design process which should never be ignored.
After designing the user-interfaces and admin console for the application, you are ready for the development process.
6. Developing an application
Development is the core stage of the blockchain development process where you should be prepared for building the application.
In this particular stage, you are required to build APIs for distinct use cases of the application. But do you know why do we need APIs?
Here are some of the common reasons for which an API is required:
- Performing auditing functions.
- Storing and retrieval of data.
- Generating pairs of keys and mapping them to the specific addresses.
- Performing data authentication with the help of hashes and digital signatures.
- Managing and triggering of smart contracts to run the business capabilities of an application.
The application is developed under different phases. First of all, the application developed that does not undergo formal testing is said to be in pre-alpha phase.
Then, the application jumps to the next stage, i.e., alpha where the developers test the software using white-box techniques and software might not contain all the features.
After the alpha release of an application, it is prepared for the beta release. During Beta Phase, the software contains the complete feature set, but it might have unknown bugs.
The developers provide a beta version to a specific group of people outside the organization to test the application’s functionality.
Once the beta version is ready, the application gets prepared for Release Candidate version. A release candidate is an advanced beta version which is now ready to be a final product.
When the application is tested thoroughly, it is moved to the production phase to get ready to be delivered.
Now, it is the time to deploy the application to make it available to the end-users.
7. Deploying an application
Deployment is the process of putting an application onto a prepared application server. Before an app goes live, it should be deployed on the test network to test its functionalities.
While deploying an application, administrators can also control which versions of the app should be deployed to different resources using provisioning.
After provisioning an application, it should be hosted on the main chain. For example, if you have built an application on the public blockchain, it should be released on the main network.
If your application has both off-chain and on-chain business entities, i.e., it is a hybrid solution, so it should be deployed on the cloud server and app store/play store.
8. Upgrading the application
The application should have the potential to upgrade according to the new business requirements and prioritization.
For example, if you have to upgrade the smart contract, later on, you should be able to deploy the new contracts seamlessly.
Design and develop the application in a way that adding or upgrading components does not affect the existing application.
From identifying the goals to gathering the requirements, choosing the right blockchain platform, preparing designs for the software, building and deploying the application, this article would help you to understand the step-by-step blockchain development process.
If you are looking out for a team of blockchain development experts to build a blockchain-based application, our experts can help you through every step of the development process.