3 key blockchain trends to watch out for in 2020

14 Jan 2020

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Forrester’s Martha Bennett sees distributed ledger technology moving beyond proof of concept in 2020 with interesting blockchain combinations on the horizon.

Overall, Forrester’s 2019 predictions for distributed ledger technology (DLT), otherwise known as blockchain, panned out pretty much as expected.

Some of the key trends outlined then will persist in 2020, such as enhanced services and tool offerings, and the most forward-looking firms will continue exploring strategic approaches to the tokenisation of digital and physical assets supported by smart contracts.

The quest for dominance among the frameworks will continue to play out in 2020. We’ll continue to see the usual suspects of Hyperledger Fabric, Ethereum-based Quorum, R3’s Corda, and MultiChain, but there’s also a chance of a newcomer upsetting the existing balance. With Digital Asset now firmly focused on its smart contract modelling language, DAML, and integrating it with other frameworks, we’ll see one or two interesting combinations emerge.

‘For now, only the most forward-looking enterprises and their technology partners are going where others fear to tread’

While there are still occasional headlines featuring blockchain as the miracle cure for some intractable problem or other, the irrational exuberance of mid-decade has been firmly replaced by pragmatic and realistic approaches to DLT projects. The projects underway in North America and Europe today may be fewer in number, but they’re serious enterprise endeavours rather than speculative proofs of concept.

In 2020, enterprises will increasingly focus on operational matters, demanding deployment flexibility and interconnectivity between networks.

Here are three of Forrester’s 2020 predictions for DLT:

1. More than 80pc of blockchain deployments will be hybrid or multicloud – or both

Whether it’s because of regulatory requirements (eg needing to run a node on-premises in a country where the chosen cloud provider has no presence) or network participants wanting to stick with their respective existing public cloud providers, enterprises have made it amply clear to technology vendors that it’s not acceptable to only offer blockchain-as-a-service in that provider’s cloud. Tech companies have already responded with enhanced offerings and will continue to build these out to meet enterprise demand.

2. Interoperability will move centre stage

We’ve already witnessed the emergence of multiple networks addressing the same use case (eg tracking of foods and other goods, or trade finance) and there are also processes that span multiple chains (eg both tracking and trade finance are part of an end-to-end supply chain). Participants in these permissioned networks are keen to understand whether, and how, these various chains will be able to interact.

In parallel, we’ll also see a much greater focus on integration with existing systems. Providers of existing automation and business process management solutions will seek to enhance their offerings with DLT capabilities.

3. The public v private debate will reach executive teams

While it’s not realistic today to support complex enterprise use cases at scale on a public blockchain, concerns about interoperability between multiple chain silos have already resulted in discussion about the role of public blockchains in enterprise processes. Newcomers such as Hedera Hashgraph and Kadena will draw further attention to the debate.

Given the implications for process and risk management (to mention just a couple of key areas), it’s clearly not a pure tech decision. For now, only the most forward-looking enterprises and their technology partners are going where others fear to tread, but the topic is no longer off the table.

By Martha Bennett

Martha Bennett is a vice-president and principal analyst at Forrester, serving CIOs and other tech leaders, helping them understand the impact of emerging technologies on their business.

Download Forrester’s Predictions 2020 guide for more information on the major dynamics that will impact firms this year.

A version of this article originally appeared on the Forrester blog.