Blockchain technology has been hailed as the future of data storage, due to its unbreakable security and decentralized nature. But why do we need decentralized databases?
What makes them different from existing database technologies? Is there an application for them in business? What about elsewhere? In this article, we’ll be taking a look at what it takes to create decentralized databases, along with discussing the potential benefits of using them over traditional databases like Oracle and MySQL.
What are blockchains?
Blockchains are distributed ledgers that store information in a way that makes them impossible to hack or tamper with. Blockchains contain two types of data—transaction data, which is stored in blocks, and metadata, which explains how each block is associated with other blocks on a ledger. This metadata can be extremely complex; one reason blockchains are such effective databases is that they use what’s called asymmetric cryptography to link each block to all others (asymmetric cryptography uses one key for encryption and another for decryption).
In order to alter data on a blockchain, you would have to change every single block after it. And since there’s no central location storing all those blocks, trying to do so would be like trying to move Mt. Everest. How are blockchains any different from other databases? With a centralized database, anyone who has access to it can see everything that’s stored in it.
While having all your data visible may sound like a bad idea, doing so creates accountability in organizations and helps companies detect potential fraud before it happens. With a blockchain, however, you have decentralized storage—all data is stored on multiple computers at once. This means you no longer have transparency over where information is being kept or who has access to it. It also means that if someone gains unauthorized access to one node (or computer) storing your data, there’s nothing you can do about it since that person could just as easily gain access to another node with no trouble at all.
What makes blockchains different from traditional databases?
A database can be easily centralized by a single administrator. But decentralization is one of blockchain’s greatest strengths because it makes it virtually impossible to tamper with transaction data or other data stored in a database. Decentralization prevents anyone from hijacking a blockchain and also protects databases from being hacked. Businesses must think about how they will store their transactional data if they plan to integrate blockchain technology into their business operations.
If a business decides not to use a centralized database, it must choose between two forms of decentralized databases for storing its information on blockchains – peer-to-peer databases and distributed ledgers. Blockchains might be regarded as databases in the sense that they are designed to record transactional data.
However, blockchains differ from traditional databases in many ways. Traditional databases require central administration and act as a hub through which information must pass before it can be accessed or updated. In contrast, blockchain technology was developed to decentralize information storage and access.
A blockchain database is generally referred to as a distributed ledger. A distributed ledger allows information to be stored on different computers connected by a network. Each participant in a distributed ledger maintains their own copy of data, which are all cryptographically linked together. This means that every single time new information is added to any block within a blockchain, each participant’s copy of that block will also reflect that update. As such, if one were to tamper with or destroy any single instance of data within a blockchain, it would be immediately apparent because all other instances would remain intact and consistent.
How could blockchains change our lives?
Blockchains could make sharing and accessing information even easier. Businesses could use blockchains to share their data with other companies, and consumers could subscribe to services that would give them access to that data. For example, an individual seeking out a new credit card may request a full report from every bank in her region — instead of combing through each bank’s website for such information, she would simply subscribe to a service that contains all relevant data on blockchains.
In turn, banks would save on resources by not having to independently compile such reports for consumers. Blockchain technology might change our lives quite drastically in years to come; it could make accessing or sharing information simpler than ever before, potentially speeding up processes and simplifying business transactions in ways we haven’t yet imagined.
Blockchains could also revolutionize data storage. Traditional methods for storing data, such as databases and cloud storage, have their flaws. For one thing, if a company storing your data is hacked — or someone else gains access to it for nefarious purposes — you run a high risk of having your information stolen. Blockchains might alleviate some of these concerns; when any piece of information is stored on a blockchain, only authorized parties can access it.
Additionally, blockchains are much safer from physical threats such as natural disasters than other types of data storage are — after all, it would be very difficult to destroy an entire blockchain’s worth of information with a fire or flood when each piece resides in different places around the world! As you can see, there are numerous ways that blockchains could change our lives. In fact, we may already be living through that change — even though many people don’t realize it yet! There’s no telling what kind of innovations will come about thanks to blockchain technology, but it certainly seems like we’re on track for a big shift.
How can you get started with blockchain technology?
First, you need to understand that blockchain technology doesn’t exist in isolation. Rather, it serves as a platform for building new technologies, ranging from cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum to smart contracts. To get started with blockchain tech development, you should begin by gaining a basic understanding of its core technologies (e.g., consensus algorithms and key-value stores).
You should also learn about some of its most promising applications in computer science, such as decentralized file storage or distributed computation. Finally, you can build an app on top of blockchain infrastructure using a blockchain development language (such as Solidity for Ethereum or Hyperledger Composer for Hyperledger Fabric).To get started, you should find a programming language for blockchain development and familiarize yourself with its core concepts.
For example, Solidity is a good choice if you’re looking to build on Ethereum or Hyperledger Composer if you want to develop on Hyperledger Fabric. Once you have an understanding of core blockchain technologies and frameworks, you can start building decentralized applications with these technologies using your chosen platform. You may even be able to contribute to existing projects since most blockchains are open-source software that anyone can access and use.
There are numerous blockchain development companies that provide training and mentorship opportunities, allowing newbies to get their feet wet. Some even offer development tools, platforms, and marketplaces for users to share or sell apps built on blockchain. There are also hackathons and other competitions where you can win prizes for your contributions.
In addition, if you don’t have a background in software development or computer science, there are many online courses that offer basic introductions to blockchain concepts. Finally, if you’re short on time or want a more streamlined approach, you can use one of several pre-built decentralized application (dApp) templates available today.
Conclusion and next steps
For starters, blockchain doesn’t need to be stored on a server that sits in a single location. That decentralization makes it possible for public blockchains to replace centralized databases in a host of applications ranging from finance to social media. But since many organizations are already investing in their own database solutions and because most businesses don’t have any use for public blockchains, it might take some time before we see much actual blockchain-based data storage in production.
In my opinion, that won’t happen until there is more standardization around data storage formats. In fact, because transactions are unchangeable once they’ve been committed to a blockchain network, figuring out how to upgrade them will require a lot more thought and technical innovation than it does with traditional databases.
There is still a lot to learn about blockchain technology and its applications. In my opinion, that’s because blockchains are complex beasts. To give you a rough idea of what I mean, public blockchains like Bitcoin are distributed peer-to-peer networks that have no central authority controlling them. As such, they’re designed to be open platforms on which anybody can freely access data or launch new applications.
Therefore, even simple things like how standard data storage formats should be encoded into blockchain transactions are up for debate among developers. And given how quickly blockchain technology is evolving and spreading across industries, we can expect there will be many more debates like these in years to come.
However, there are some projects that are moving forward to standardize data storage formats. For example, a number of blockchain-based databases have been introduced recently in response to growing concerns over how long it takes for transactions to be added to most public blockchains.