Ant Blockchain BaaS, Tested in Real Business Applications

Alibaba Cloud
9 min readSep 18, 2019

Since released in June 2018, Ant Blockchain Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) has continued to make several technological leaps, which have only contributed to a growing number of advantages of the system, making it as one of the leading blockchain services, which, as of now, has been implemented in dozens of real-world applications across several different industries. And now, as the age of blockchain to make its step into the commercial economy is just around the bend, the main goal of Ant Blockchain is to empower the global economy through its unique technological system while also building a larger trust system with partners in China and abroad.

What is Ant Blockchain BaaS?

Ant Financial Blockchain BaaS (Blockchain as a Service) is an open BaaS platform based on Ant Financial and Alibaba Cloud’s private blockchain. Ant Financial Blockchain BaaS is a cloud service that has supported lots of real-world applications as well as data traffic on the blockchain. It is a basic blockchain solution in the industry. Ant Blockchain BaaS aims to build an open collaboration platform, which can provide convenient services for enterprises and individuals around the world and bring more equal opportunities.

What’s the Difference between BaaS and Blockchain?

Open blockchains, as BaaS, based on the cloud platform can fully utilize the elasticity, high availability, and flexibility of cloud computing. At the same time, the trust of blockchains on infrastructure can be utilized, such as multi-party consensus, tamper resistance, and reliability. BaaS can serve as the infrastructure of blockchain solutions in different industries and provide a reliable and solid foundation of trust. BaaS specifically also has three following advantages (over simple Blockchain):

  1. Customers can choose and customize proper blockchain services based on their actual needs.
  2. Customers can quickly deploy and use required services and save time.
  3. BaaS allows customers to minimize costs and allow solutions to be efficiently replicated across various industries.

The Advantages of Ant Blockchain BaaS

In April 2019, thanks to the BaaS solution operated by the Ant Blockchain team, Alibaba Cloud had been evaluated as one of the six leading blockchain cloud service providers by the world renowned consulting firm Gartner. Judging from the capabilities of the platform, Ant Blockchain BaaS has five major advantages:

  1. High performance and high reliability. In addition to the fast concurrency and consensus and transaction confirmation in seconds, the platform also provides high reliability and high fault tolerance.
  2. Trust and privacy protection. The platform provides high privacy protection in the blockchain layer and enables enterprise identity and real-name authentication in the BaaS service layer.
  3. Simplicity and ease of use. The platform significantly reduces customers’ investment in blockchains and lowers the threshold, allowing customers without in-depth understanding of blockchains to empower their business with the blockchain technology.
  4. Cross-network support. Blockchain provides the celebrated notion of decentralization. Ant Blockchain BaaS provides corresponding support and automated deployment for platforms across networks and clouds in different scenarios across public clouds and different users’ IT environments through a system of decentralization.
  5. Network security on the cloud. The platform makes full use of the cloud platform security capabilities on Alibaba Cloud, for example through such products as VPCs, to ensure the security of blockchain networks.

The Core Features of Ant Blockchain BaaS

In enterprise-level private blockchain scenarios, Ant Blockchain BaaS mainly provides the following core features:

  1. Private blockchain management. Creating and managing private blockchains is a basic feature provided by BaaS.
  2. Authentication. Each enterprise that wants to join a private blockchain must complete the authentication steps first. The platform will issue certificates to help enterprises verify their identities on a specific private blockchain.
  3. Automated deployment. The platform enables the automated deployment of blockchains. This method allows customers to quickly deploy their blockchain platforms at a low cost.
  4. Blockchain capability. Ant Blockchain mainly enables two types of platforms. One is a high-performance platform, and the other is high-reliability one.
  5. Business configuration. Different scenarios and services have completely different business data and workflows. In this regard, the platform provides business views and workflow subscription services to help customers configure business-oriented applications.
  6. Development support. The application of blockchains in different scenarios requires innovation and technical development. This platform provides full-fledged technical development components to help customers have the best implementation and extend their scenarios.

The Technical Architecture of Ant Blockchain BaaS

The following figure provides a holistic view of Ant Blockchain products, where the technical architecture of BaaS consists of three layers.

  1. The bottom layer is BaaS Core, which serves to enable easy and simple cross-platform operation and deployment based on cloud resource management platforms that provide flexible support for hosts and containers. It provides the corresponding hardware services and a highly reliable and privacy-protecting trust execution environment for trust hardware, namely Alibaba Cloud Dragon Server. In addition to evidence preservation and smart contract platforms, BaaS will provide services across heterogeneous chains based on services homogeneous chains. In the current market, a single chain has its own limitations. The cross-chain technology will play an important role in building trusted infrastructure and mutually trusted ecosystems in the future. Currently, the BaaS platform has already implemented interconnection internally by using cross-chain services. The BaaS platform also allows access to trusted data sources on the Internet thanks to smart contracts and cross-chain services. Additionally, BaaS Core also supports some other basic features, such as private chain management, security and privacy, and certificate key management. In addition to the self-built Ant Blockchain system, the BaaS platform also supports open-source systems such as Ethereum-based Quorum and Hyperledger Fabric to meet customers’ diversified requirements.
  2. On the BaaS Core layer is BaaS Plus, which encapsulates and servitizes bottom-layer services and capabilities and makes them standardized interfaces so that they can be available to partners. This significantly reduces customers’ investment in infrastructure and the time needed for service connection. So far, the platform has provided services such as trusted evidence preservation, general-purpose tracing, in-person authentication, and enterprise authentication. More services will be available in the future.
  3. The top layer is BaaS Marketplace and solutions. Partners of Ant Financial can provide their own capabilities on the Marketplace. At the same time, a set of standard solutions are developed from practical applications implemented in different scenarios. This allows users to reference others’ platform capabilities in similar scenarios and apply them in their own applications.

Providing Services for the Real Economy

While embracing technical innovations, Ant Blockchain also sped up its pace to empower the real economy. Currently, the major implementation scenarios can be divided into three parts: on-chain finance, retail, and lifestyle. The following section will describe four specific cases:

Case 1: Cross-border Remittance

In June 2018, Ant Financial built the first blockchain-based cross-border channel, delivering a second-level remittance experience between Hong Kong and the Philippines. In January this year, Ant Financial opened a second channel between Malaysia and Pakistan. In the cross-border remittance scenarios, a blockchain can create the same set of ledgers trusted by multiple parties, reducing the time and cost needed for collaboration and supervision. From the user perspective, blockchain technology makes international remittance, which used to take several days to complete, as easy and fast as Alipay remittances, with lower and more transparent service fees. Currently, more international remittance channels are being developed.

Case 2: Supply Chain Financing

Relying on the accounts payable of core enterprises and based on actual trades among different participates on the industrial chain, Ant Double Chain allows the credit of core enterprises to circulate in individual levels on the blockchain. This brings equal and efficient common financial services to more micro, small and medium enterprises on the upstream supply chain. In October 2018, Ant Blockchain invited an automobile enterprise as the core enterprise and united five other enterprises at different levels of the supply chain to carry out the pilot project. At the lower end of the supply chain, one small automobile part supplier with less than 10 employees became the first to participate in the pilot. Compared with the previous long days payment outstanding (three months), in this pilot project, it only took one second to obtain 20,000 yuan thanks to the payment commitment on Ant Double Chain. This product was made officially available in January this year. Ant Financial are working with some core enterprises to implement this technology in actual scenarios.

Case 3: Trusted Evidence Preservation Chain

In September 2018, Ant Blockchain in collaboration with the Hangzhou Online Court, built the first legal evidence preservation platform with blockchain-assisted case judgment. A plaintiff can submit digital evidence online through the online appeal portal, including contracts, rights protection procedures, and service details. Then on-chain nodes such as notary offices, judicial appraisal centers, CA/RA institutions, courts, and Ant Financial provide joint testimony and endorsement, giving the plaintiff the one-stop service experience. The legal chain greatly reduces the cost of offline evidence preservation and collection of evidence and improves case judgment efficiency. With the blockchain technology, plaintiffs now can easily file cases that were previously not worthy of going to court due to the high legal cost. In the future, private chains that involve rights confirmation and protection in Ant Blockchain will be successively connected to the legal chain of online courts to form a rich on-chain ecosystem.

Case 4: Product Genuineness Traceability

As early as November 2017, the blockchain technology developed by Ant Financial was applied in food security and genuineness traceability. Each can of milk power from 26 Australia and New Zealand brands has its own identity, or more specifically, QR code for product traceability. After purchasing and receiving a can of milk power on Tmall Global, the customer can open the Alipay app and scan the QR code to see all the production information, including production place, production date, logistics, and inspection. Unlike having production manufacturers enter production information, the blockchain allows multiple “bookkeepers” to complete the accounting in a fair, independent and non-repudiation manner. In the future, the place of origin traceability on Tmall Global is planned to cover 63 countries/regions worldwide, 3,700 categories, and 14,500 overseas brands, and then extends to all the industries. During the Double 11 big promo event in 2018, Ant Financial cooperated with Tmall and Cainiao to trace the origin of 150 million items, including diamonds from Belgium, milk powder from Australia, rice from Wuchang city, baijiu, red wine, exported healthcare products, cosmetics, and Pingwu honey. Currently, a cumulative total of more than 300 million transactions have been made on the traceability platform.

Openness and Collaboration

As a trust builder between different enterprises and between enterprises and individuals, blockchain has the potential to build a network that connects the global economy. However, Ant Financial alone cannot explore all the potential of the blockchain. Instead, an open approach must be taken. The next holistic strategy targeting Ant Blockchain is to build a larger trust system and empower the real economy by sharing its own blockchain technology.

To carry out this strategy, we launched the blockchain innovation competition in January of this year and held an open day event in Shanghai in March. Currently, hundreds of enterprises and high-quality projects have taken part in solving pain points across different industries and fields. On the fifth day of July, the Demo Day for developers will be held, and the final is set to take place on the Yunqi Computing Conference in September. In addition to the total prizes valuing up to 800,000 yuan, winners will also receive various benefits and investment opportunities.

Standing on the front line of application scenarios, Ant Blockchain is witnessing and accelerating the advent of the commercial blockchain age. In addition to our own implementation cases, we are also working with our partners on developing creative applications to present the value of blockchain to enterprises and individuals worldwide and fulfill our commitment to bring more equal opportunities to the world.

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