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Hyper Directory and the Road to Blockchain Innovation

By: Chris Spanton


With the hype surrounding blockchain rapidly approaching fever-pitch, both businesses and consumers around the world are on high alert. We don’t need to point to the next big Initial Coin Offering (ICO) to prove that point - with Bitcoin trading at over $8,000 and players like IBM, Microsoft, Amazon, and Intel investing significant resources into their blockchain positions, we can be confident that innovation is on the horizon.

As a Senior Architect in T-Mobile’s Cloud Center of Excellence (CCOE), I have the unique opportunity to represent our efforts working with this exciting technology. Over the last few years, in addition to adding over a million subscribers for 18 straight quarters and spending $8 billion on new wireless spectrum, T-Mobile has quietly positioned itself as a leader in the development of enterprise cloud technologies. We’ve been making moves into contributing to the open source community, and recently released our Jazz Serverless Platform under the Apache 2.0 License. As we work towards building out scalable cloud-based solutions to solve the unique challenges found in a large enterprise, we’ve taken a strong API-first stance and made a commitment to layering on truly usable User Interface (UI).

What does all that have to do with blockchain? As I’ve evaluated the emergence of blockchain technologies, a few questions I’ve continued to ask surround how we can escape the hype, and explore real possibilities for enterprise-scale innovation. What is the path towards finding solutions that reduce costs, and increase efficiency? What are the use cases that can truly benefit from this technology? I promise you, I’ve heard about every iteration of digital currency and supply chain management. I definitely believe in those, and think that over the next few years we’ll continue to see significant development of platforms in both spaces. That said, they hardly stretch the imagination to help us see how this tech may be implemented 10 or 20 years down the road. It’s frankly starting to feel a lot like Abraham Maslow’s Law of the Instrument, which roughly states “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

It’s difficult for the world of startups, hackers, and independent consultants, who are committed to driving this inherently open tech, to see the pain that is being experienced in the enterprise world. They are holding that hammer, and seeing a field of nails. It’s with my unique perspective then, of having nails pressing into pain points as we dramatically scale into the cloud, that I’ve been able to see some interesting and novel places where blockchain can be applied.

Which brings us to Hyper Directory. Hyper Directory is a Proof-of-Concept (POC) built with Intel, that looks to solve several unique pain points which I’ve felt in T-Mobile’s enterprise cloud.

  • What is the source of truth for identity and permissions?

  • How do we tell not just the what, but the when of permission management?

  • How do we solve the “Who’s watching the watchers” problem of auditing change management?

  • How do we do all this in a way that reduces complexity and increases efficiency?

Hyper Directory directly addresses each of these, and more. It’s first a RESTful API layer over a Hyperledger Sawtooth blockchain. A truly usable UI sits on top of that, and provides an easy to use interface for self-service web based access to the blockchain. Smart contracts handle the approval and provisioning of permissions, all within a single highly auditable solution. Integration with RESTful applications allows consumption from a wide range of modern applications (including the aforementioned Jazz Serverless Platform) and a future integration to traditional LDAP based directory services will add a new dimension to the usability and security of Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) permission management.

Hyper Directorywill be open-sourced under the Hyperledger Project, and you can check it out now on GitHub.

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