What is Hyperledger? A comprehensive Guide for Innovators and Entrepreneurs

As the decentralization is gaining immense interest, a lot of blockchain projects have emerged to support the blockchain development. Among the blockchain world, Ethereum and Bitcoin were propelled a lot by media coverage.

There is one blockchain project that has not been covered widely by media but is doing tremendous work to ease the lives of blockchain developers. Since many blockchains are created from scratch for different purposes, the Linux Foundation launched the Hyperledger Project to democratize and standardize blockchain for the business world.

To help companies solve their issues efficiently, Hyperledger combines a cross-industry knowledge to allow organizations to build custom blockchain apps that address specific business needs.

Let’s have an in-depth understanding of what is Hyperledger.

What is Hyperledger?

Hyperledger is an open-source project founded by the Linux Foundation. It provides a diverse suite of projects and frameworks to businesses and developers to build the blockchain networks and applications. Hyperledger Project aims to ease the collaboration between enterprises, developers and businesses in the field of DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology).

Defining what is Hyperledger, Brian Behlendorf, Executive Director of Hyperledger said:

“Hyperledger is an open sourced community of communities to benefit an ecosystem of Hyperledger based solution providers and users focused on blockchain related use cases that will work across a variety of industrial sectors.”

More than 250 organizations are supporting Hyperledger currently and that number is increasing rapidly with time. The list of organizations includes many tech giants such as Airbus and Daimler, IBM, SAP, Huwaei, Fujitsu, Nokia, Samsung, American Express, JP Morgan and blockchain startups like Blockstream and Consensys.

The director quoted, “You’ll never see a Hyperledger coin, by not pushing a currency, we avoid so many political challenges of having to maintain a globally consistent currency.”

It made the foundation of Hyperledger Project more strong and shaped the goals of developing industrial applications of blockchain and isolating it from get-rich schemes evolving from currency backed blockchains.

Hyperleger Project offers enormous opportunities and includes over 28000 participants and 3.6 million lines of code. Hyperledger comprises of 10 projects, including 6 tools and 6 frameworks. The Hyperledger project can be divided primarily into two sections:

  • Modular Tools
  • Modular Frameworks

Since it is clear what is Hyperledger, we shall now discuss different types of Hyperledger Projects and Tools that contribute to blockchain development.

Hyperledger Projects

Hyperledger follows the umbrella strategy which promotes and incubates a diverse range of business blockchain technologies including smart contract engines, graphical interfaces, distributed ledger frameworks, application and libraries.

The Hyperledger encourages reusing of building blocks and enables innovation of distributed ledger technology components.

Hyperledger Burrow

Hosted by the Linux Foundation, Hyperledger Burrow is one of the Hyperledger Projects that provide a modular blockchain client to build a permissible smart contract machine with the specification of Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). Some of the capabilities of Burrow include high transaction throughput and transaction finality because of the proof-of-stake consensus engine.

Burrow consists of the following components:

  • Consensus Engine
    Transaction ordering and execution is done with the Byzantine Fault-Tolerant Tendermint Protocol which offers high throughput for a set of known validators and protects the blockchain from forking.
  • Smart Contract Application
    Transactions are validated to the application state in the order that the consensus engine has finalized. The application state comprises of the validator set, name registry and all accounts. Burrow accounts either correspond to the public-private key pair or include smart contract code. A transaction that interacts with the smart contract code runs the code of an account on a permissioned virtual machine.
  • Application Blockchain Interface (ABCI)
    Application Blockchain Interface allows smart contract application to interact with the consensus engine.
  • Application Binary Interface (ABI)
    Transactions should be formulated in a binary format so that the blockchain nodes can process them. Tools for Hyperledger Burrow provide the functionality to deploy, compile and link smart contracts written in solidity and execute transactions to call smart contracts on the chain.
  • API Gateway
    Burrow reveals JSON-RPC and REST endpoints to communicate with the application state and blockchain network by querying the recent state of the application or broadcasting transactions.

Hyperledger Indy

Built explicitly for decentralized identity, Hyperledger Indy is a distributed ledger that provides libraries, reusable components and tools to create digital identities on the blockchain.

It provides an ecosystem for secure, robust and private identity. Indy aims to put users in the control of their data, thereby protecting their identifiable information from privacy breaches and hacking.

Users’ private data is not stored on the Hyperledger Indy ledger. Instead, it utilizes the blockchain to allow third parties to validate that the trusted organizations have issued private credentials. Both ordering and validation are done via RBFT (Redundant Byzantine Fault Tolerance) in Hyperledger Indy.

Hyperledger Fabric

Underpinned by a modular architecture, Hyperledger Fabric is a distributed ledger platform that delivers resiliency, scalability, flexibility and confidentiality. Explicitly designed to offer pluggable implementation of various components, it can resolve complexities that exist across the economic ecosystem.

Unlike an open, permissionless system that allows unknown participants to enter the network, Hyperledger Fabric enrolls members via a trusted membership service provider.

Hyperledger Fabric’s ledger subsystem comprises of two components:

  • The World State
    The component describes the state of the ledger at a specific point of time.
  • The Transaction Log
    It records all transactions that have generated the current value of the world state.

Therefore, a ledger is the combination of transaction log history and the world state database.

Fabric’s smart contracts are written in chaincode and invoked when the application has to interact with the ledger. Chaincodes can currently be written in Go and Node programming languages.

Understanding the needs of the participants in a Business-to-Business (B2B) network where people can be sensitive about the information they want to share, Hyperledger Fabric can support systems where privacy is a crucial requirement.

Hyperledger Fabric allows network starters to select a consensus algorithm that represents the best relationship between the participants of the network.

Hyperledger Iroha

Hosted by the Linux Foundation, Hyperledger Iroha is one of the Hyperledger Projects used to build trusted, secure and robust blockchain applications using Byzantine Fault-Tolerant Consensus algorithm.

The platform can be used to manage identity, serialized data and digital assets. It is useful for apps like central bank digital currencies, national IDs, logistics and interbank settlement.

Iroha does not have any native cryptocurrency; instead, its interaction with the system is permissioned so that only people with access can participate in the system. Moreover, queries are permissioned, enabling data access control. With prebuilt commands, Hyperledger Iroha allows users to do tasks like creating and transferring digital assets.

Iroha is based on a consensus algorithm called Byzantine Fault Tolerant Algorithm which offers high-performance and allows transactions with low latency. By limiting the attack vector, Iroha improves the overall security of the system.

The peers of Hyperledger Iroha are validation nodes that can distribute partially-signed transactions on the gossip protocol as a part of multi-signature transactions. Blocks are saved in files whereas the ledger state is stored in the PostgreSQL database.

Hyperledger Sawtooth

Hyperledger Sawtooth is an enterprise blockchain platform used to build distributed ledger networks and applications. It is designed in a way that it keeps the ledgers distributed and ensures the safety of smart contracts.

The platform facilitates the blockchain development by isolating the core system from the app domain. Developers have the choice to specify the business rules in the language of their choice. Modularity of Hyperledger Sawtooth allows enterprises to select the permissioning, transaction rules and consensus algorithms as per the business requirements.

Every application defines the custom transaction processors according to the specific requirements. SDKs for transaction processors are available in various languages that simplify the creation of new contract languages such as Go, C++, Python, Rust, Java and JavaScript.

Sawtooth provides an advanced parallel scheduler that divides transactions into parallel flows. Transactions can be executed in parallel, protecting from double-spending with various modifications to the same state. Parallel Transaction Execution results in increased performance over serial execution.

Hyperledger Sawtooth supports Ethereum Contract Compatibility with Seth, Sawtooth-Ethereum integration project. With the Seth transaction family, smart contracts that run on Ethereum Virtual Machine can be deployed to Hyperledger Sawtooth platform.

Sawtooth uses different types of consensus algorithms on the same blockchain which can be selected initially at the time of network setup and can be modified on a running blockchain with a transaction.

Presently, Sawtooth supports the following consensus implementations:

  • Proof of Elapsed Time
    The consensus algorithm is designed to be a production-grade protocol which can support large network populations. It depends on secure instruction execution to obtain the scaling benefits of a Nakamoto-style consensus without the drawbacks of power consumption in Proof of Work algorithm.
  • Dev Mode
    A random-leader algorithm used for testing and development.
  • PoET Simulator
    It provides PoET type consensus on any hardware such as a virtualized cloud environment.

Transaction language and data model are implemented in a transaction family that includes:

  • IntegerKey
    Designed to test deployed integers.
  • Identity
    Manages on-chain permissioning for validator and transactor keys to simplify the management of identities for lists of public keys.
  • Settings
    Offers a reference implementation to store on-chain configuration settings.

Hyperledger Grid

Since the supply chain is one of the most promising use cases of the distributed ledger, Hyperledger community has taken the initiative to focus on developing supply chain solutions via reusable and shared tools. Hyperledger Grid possesses the shared capabilities to speed up the development of distributed ledgers for cross-industry supply chain solutions.

Hyperledger Grid provides reference implementations of supply chain-focused data types, smart contract based business logic and data models anchored on the existing, industry best practices and open standards.

Grid is neither a blockchain nor an application; it is an ecosystem of frameworks, libraries and technologies that work together and allow developers to choose the components that are appropriate for their market model.

Hyperledger Tools

Hyperledger Caliper

Hosted by the Linux Foundation, Hyperledger Caliper is a blockchain benchmark tool that allows users to compute the performance of a specific blockchain implementation using a set of predefined use cases.

The tool generates reports containing various performance factors like transaction latency, resource utilization and transactions per second (TPS). The significant component of Caliper is the adaption layer that can integrate multiple blockchain solutions into Caliper framework.

Caliper NBI is a set of blockchain interfaces which include operations to communicate with a backend blockchain system, for instance, to invoke contracts, install smart contract or query state from the ledger.

Hyperledger Cello

Hyperledger Cello is a blockchain module toolkit which aims to propose the on-demand “as-a-service” deployment model to the blockchain ecosystem.

It reduces the efforts required to create, maintain and terminate blockchains. Providing a multi-tenant chain service, Hyperledger Cello works on top of multiple infrastructures, for e.g. baremetal, container platforms and virtual machine.

Hyperledger Explorer

Hyperledger Explorer is a blockchain module, designed specifically for creating a user-driven web application. Hosted by the Linux Foundation, Explorer can be used for viewing, deploying, invoking or querying blocks, network information, transactions and related data, transaction families, chain codes and other relevant data stored in the ledger.

Hyperledger Composer

Hyperledger Composer is an open development framework and toolset that makes the development of blockchain applications and smart contracts easier. With Composer, blockchain applications can be developed and deployed rapidly in weeks instead of months. Leveraging the tools like node.js, CLI, npm and other editors, Composer built with JavaScript provides business-focused abstractions and sample apps with easy to test DevOps process.

As a result, Hyperleder Composer creates robust blockchain solutions that can transform business operations with technical development.

Hyperledger Quilt

Hyperledger Quilt is a business blockchain tool that provides interoperability between ledger systems with the implementation of Interledger protocol (ILP), a payments protocol designed to move value across both distributed and non-distributed ledgers.

Also, ILP can provide atomic swaps between a single account namespace for accounts and ledgers. With the introduction of Quilt to Hyperledger Projects, the Linux Foundation has now hosted both JavaScript and Java Interledger implementations.

Hyperledger Ursa

Hyperledger Ursa is a shared cryptographic library that allows users to avoid replicating other cryptographic work, thereby increasing the overall security. Ursa comprises of following sub-projects:

  • Base-Crypto Library
    The main feature of base-crypto library project is a shared modular signature library. It can implement various signature schemes using a common API, allowing blockchain builders to modify signature schemes on-the-fly.
  • Z-Mix
    Z-mix project provides with a way to create zero-knowledge proofs about several cryptographic building blocks like commitments, verifiable encryption and signatures. Z-Mix aims to offer a secure implementation to build zero-knowledge proofs.

Developers responsible for the security aspects of Hyperledger Sawtooth, Indy and Fabric, use Hyperledger Ursa to ensure secure implementations.

Real examples of applications built on Hyperledger Projects

  • HealthVerity: HealthVerity is a cloud-based SaaS application that presents the opportunity to organizations to manage and govern consent rights across external suppliers and internal systems. Built on Hyperledger Fabric, the app is a right fit for companies that need to maintain individual consent rights to ensure compliance with privacy laws like HIPAA, GDPR, TCPA and CCPA. Project Status: Production
  • AID: TechAID Tech is a blockchain based identity/donation platform used to bring transparency and traceability across the charity and remittances. With technology tools like Hyperledger Fabric and Composer, the platform will give a piece of mind that the funds will be used for the intended purpose, not fraudulently. Project Status: Pilot
  • DigiPharm: Digipharm is the first-ever solution that uses blockchain and smart contracts for value-based payments in healthcare. The platform uses smart contracts to obtain the results between key healthcare stakeholders and contracting parties on the Hyperledger Fabric network. Hyperleger Indy has been used to manage data usage and identity within the DigiPharm system. Project Status: Pilot
  • IBM: IBM is building an application for Postal Savings Bank of China with Hyperledger Fabric, Node.js for SDK and application layer building and Golang for developing chain codes. Project Status: Production
  • TE-Food: TE-Food is a food traceability ecosystem on the blockchain that covers all food quality and logistic activities of the supply chain. By enabling traceability from farm to table, it can make food supply transparent, enhance consumer trust, reduce food frauds and verify if food is safe to eat or not. Project Status: Production

LeewayHertz has successfully launched a blockchain based supply chain solution, TraceRX using Hyperledger Sawtooth

Our team of blockchain developers built a blockchain supply chain solution, TraceRX to transform the way humanitarian aid is distributed. The solution solves three critical problems: Theft, Recall and Inventory Management.

TraceRX allows all stakeholders such as procurement manager, pharma vendors, country manager, field manager, regional manager and distribution officer to trace the drugs within the supply chain from warehouse through the last mile. With cloud computing’s accessibility and blockchain’s security, TraceRX provides the capability to NGOs and aid organizations to track inventory and communicate seamlessly.

While most of the blockchain projects emphasize on tokens and cryptocurrencies, Hyperledger projects have the potential to develop the backbone of high scaling industrial and non-monetary applications. Also, the Hyperledger projects are backed by renowned IT companies like IBM and Linux.

If you are looking to build an application on top of any Hyperledger Project, consult our team of Hyperledger Blockchain Developers and discuss your requirements.

Author’s Bio

Akash Takyar
Akash Takyar
CEO LeewayHertz
Akash Takyar is the author of Blockchain Technology and Business book. He is the co-founder of LeewayHertz and is a consultant to fortune 500 companies including Siemens, 3M, Hershey’s and others. He has a Masters Degree in Computer Science. Akash’s experience of building over 100+ apps allows him to rapidly architect and design solutions. His ability to explain complex technologies in simple and practical ways has resulted in him becoming a popular speaker at colleges, universities, and conferences.

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