Last week at the Salesforce Developer conference, TrailheaDX, Salesforce announced a new product, Salesforce Blockchain. This would enable organizations to build their own distributed ledgers using the blockchain framework. Admins will now be able to build trusted networks using blockchain which is made up of blocks and linked together using cryptography and hashs’.
Did the above mean very little to you? Great, me too, let’s start using fewer buzz words.
Blockchain for Dummies
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s very hard not to see Blockchains and Bitcoin being talked about all over the world. Ever since Bitcoin’s value shot up from less than $20 to over $20,000 in only a few years, it was hard to ignore. But what does it all mean, and what does it mean for Salesforce? Let’s dive in a bit further.
As most of us have probably heard of Bitcoin, let’s start there. Bitcoin is a technology that is built using the blockchain framework. In essence, Bitcoin is a payment technology that allows you to send and receive payments with no central party (Like a bank in our current financial world). This is done through a P2P network, think back to your days of Limewire or Kazaa. What a P2P network allows you to do is have many nodes (Computers), connected to the network, each contributing in some small way, with P2P sharing technologies its providing bandwidth for others to download files you are hosting. The way that this payment system uses no central party, is that everyone who joins the P2P network (Also called a distributed ledger), has a copy of all transactions that have occurred. In order to send or receive a payment, others on the network must verify this before the payment can go through to ensure you haven’t tried to falsify a payment.
As we know that a Blockchain is the technology that Bitcoin is based on, how does this then work?
A blockchain is made up of many blocks that are all linked together in a linear chain. “Block-Chain”. A block is made up of a few components.
Data – Contains some kind of data, in Bitcoin’s case, the information is in regards to the sender, receiver and amount of coins.
Hash – A unique ID that is created using cryptography, essentially a way to convert text and data into a long unique string.
Previous Hash – The Hash of the previous block that allows the new block to chain the Blockchain in a sequential fashion.
Why use Blockchain?
There are many benefits to using Blockchain technology in the day and age we live in, the fact that there is no middleman with Bitcoin already presents itself with many benefits to its users compared to the traditional financial system…
Transparency – Because a Blockchain is based upon a distributed ledger, all transactions are publically available and easily accessible. This means anyone can verify a transaction.
Integrity – But how can you be sure what you’re seeing is true? It is impossible to be able to change any previous blocks on the system due to the fact others on the network have to verify your transaction.
Security – Due to the Blockchain being transparent and verified by others, it is secure by design.
Reduced Costs – Because of the removal of a middleman or third party, costs are reduced when transacting on the network.
Real world use cases
It’s all well and good having Blockchain technology, but how can this be applied to real-world examples? There are already many industries experimenting with Blockchain, and a lot of companies have already implemented solutions that are seeing amazing results.
Payments – The first obvious use case is payments. Bitcoin while not used by the mass market, has a lot of real-world applications that make transacting fast and easy without the need for a bank.
Smart Contracts – An idea that came out of the Etherum blockchain, smart contracts allow you to and multiple other parties to agree to a set of terms and the contracted being committed to the blockchain. A great example in this video is replacing the middleman in a Kickstarter type scenario. Investors and companies can agree on certain terms e.g. Our goal is $1,000,000 in funding if this is reached everyone receives X% in the company, if not the money is returned to the investors.
Supply Chain Proof – Customers including Walmart and Everledger (Diamonds) are using blockchain technology in their supply chain to verify where products came from. For example, in the Diamond trade, there is a lot of theft and fraud. Blockchain can be used to verify all diamonds and their original source by ensuring what you have in your hand, in in the Blockchain.
Art & Collectables – In a similar fashion to the above, companies like Artory are using Blockchain technologies to verify the source and authenticity of artwork and collectibles. Once a piece of art is produced, a registration card is created and it is registered to the blockchain.
The Salesforce Blockchain
So what does this mean for Salesforce? Well, Salesforce not only announced Blockchain technology at TrailheaDX, but they also announced the tools in order to create them, it’s called “Blockchain Builder”. As you can see from the screenshot below, Salesforce have used a very similar “App Builder” type layout in order for Admins & Developers to create their own Salesforce Blockchains, and modify all of the parameters associated with this (Mapping, Partners, Permissions etc…).Building a Blockchain is complex, but with Salesforce’s new tools it looks like this will be a breeze, and being on the Salesforce platform, will automatically give you access to all of your CRM data with no off platform integrations required. Very exciting times!
Little is known about the Salesforce Blockchain as of yet, but from the Summer ’19 release, you can request a private beta from your Account Executive.