Blockchain is known for creating trust and transparency in multi-party workflows, but it can also ensure the immutability of business-critical data. Technology giant Oracle recognized this potential and announced a crypto-secure data management offering that is being made available as a free feature to users of converged Oracle databases.
Juan Loaiza, executive vice president, Mission-Critical Database Technologies at Oracle, told Cointelegraph that customers who deploy blockchain solutions often do not need all of the capabilities of these implementations. Loaiza also pointed out that the complexity of introducing an entirely new technology stack into an IT environment can be very stressful.
Blockchain is useful for protecting data
For this reason, Oracle has developed a crypto-secure data management offering that uses blockchain tables in the Oracle database. This feature differs from Oracle’s blockchain platform, which is based on Hyperledger Fabric and is widely used for supply chain management. Rather, Oracle’s blockchain tables are immutable tables specifically designed to protect corporate data from illegal changes.
As mentioned in Oracle’s recent blog post, this is made possible by a series of cryptographic hashes. Immutable tables organize rows of data into multiple chains. Each line – except for the first line in the chain – is concatenated to the previous line, much like a cryptocurrency blockchain network. The hash is then automatically calculated based on the insertion based on that row’s data and the hash of the previous row in the chain. Timestamps are also recorded for each line when data is inserted.
According to Loaiza, blockchain tables enable customers to use the Oracle database when they need highly tamper-proof data management but don’t want to split the ledger across multiple organizations. In addition, blockchain tables are not based on a decentralized trust model. Loaiza said:
“We are not trying to solve a decentralized multi-party problem, but are releasing a new technology that integrates the idea of the blockchain into an Oracle database. This ensures that mainstream enterprise applications require minimal changes. We are trying to combine blockchain with all the functions that Oracle offers today in order to make blockchain accessible to the masses. “
In particular, Loaiza stated that the purpose of Oracle’s blockchain tables is to protect business-critical data from being changed or deleted. “This feature protects against anyone who could potentially lawfully (corrupt insiders, criminals using stolen credentials) or unlawful (hackers) access to the database,” Loaiza said. He also noted that this offering serves as an additional layer of protection on top of the traditional data security features provided by the Oracle database.
Such a solution can be particularly useful when you consider that database security breaches are an ongoing problem. According to a 2020 report by the data company Risk Based Security, around 36 billion database records were compromised between January and September 2020.
Concerns to consider
Loaiza noted that Oracle Blockchain Tables are currently being used by customers using the version most widely used today, Oracle Database 19c. He explained that customers use the blockchain tables to protect contact information, property rights, payments, transfers, ledgers, and bank statements.
“These tables allow customers to leverage the tamper-proof and non-rejection properties of blockchain in use cases that don’t involve multiple organizations or the need to deploy a decentralized trust model,” he noted.
While this may be true, there are some drawbacks to consider when using a blockchain to store business-critical data. Lior Lamesh, CEO and co-founder of GK8 – a blockchain security company – told Cointelegraph that companies storing sensitive data on a blockchain need to be aware of the endpoints’ vulnerability, adding:
“As soon as you have a company’s private key, all blockchain-based assets are in your hands. Migrating a company’s internal database to the blockchain has its advantages – as long as the endpoints are protected with the highest cybersecurity standards.”
According to Lamesh, Loaiza noted that this risk is evident when migrating from a database to a distributed ledger or decentralized trust model. However, he made it clear that Oracle does not recommend customers do this when using blockchain tables. “We provide the tamper-proof and non-repellant properties of the blockchain in the Oracle database,” he said.
Loaiza added that Oracle’s security features include transparent data encryption, a database firewall, database vault, label security and data editing. “You can think of this as an extra layer of security within the Oracle database, not a mechanism to replace the database,” Loaiza said.
However, corporate customers may still be curious about how data can be deleted once it’s inserted into the blockchain tables. According to Loaiza, companies can set a time limit on how long data must remain immutable. “By default, it’s forever, but there are business cases where after three months or a year it’s okay to delete data because it’s no longer valid or required. Users cannot see the data in a blockchain table until it expires.” delete the deadline, ”he remarked.
Is this what will enterprise blockchain look like?
While Oracle’s blockchain tables are a clever way to take advantage of the blockchain in a secure database, the offering differs significantly from typical enterprise solutions that focus on decentralization across multiple entities.
However, this could very well be a good thing as some business blockchain offerings have failed recently. If Oracle’s new solution proves effective, organizations may use blockchain as a middleware rather than an entire implementation.