Welcome to Fabric

Hyperledger Fabric is a social innovation that is about to free innovators in startups, enterprises and government to transform and radically reduce the cost of working together across organizations. By the end of this section, you should have the essential understanding of Fabric you need to start knitting together a great business network.

Fabric is a network of networks, like the Internet itself. An application can use one or more networks, each managing different Assets, Agreements and Transactions between different sets of Member nodes. In Fabric, the Ordering Service is the foundation of each network. The founder of a network selects an Ordering Service (or creates a new one) and passes in a config file with the rules (usually called Policies) that govern it. Examples of these rules include setting/defining which Members can join the network, how Members can be added or removed, and configuration details like block size. While it is possible for one company to set and control these rules as a “dictator,” typically these rules will also include policies that make changing the rules a matter of consensus among the members of the network. Fabric also requires some level of “endorsement” in order to transact. Check out the power and intricacy of Endorsement policies , which are used across the Fabric landscape - from a consortium’s network configuration to a simple read operation.

We mentioned that the Ordering Service (OS) is the foundation of the network, and you’re probably thinking, “It must do something beyond just ordering.” Well you’re right! All members and entities in the network will be tied to a higher level certificate authority, and this authority is defined within the configuration of the Ordering Service. As a result, the OS can verify and authenticate transactions arriving from any corner of the network. The OS plays a central and critical role in the functionality and integrity of the network, and skeptics might fear too much centralization of power and responsibility. After all, that’s a principal feature of shared ledger technology - to decentralize the control and provide a foundation of trust with entities who you CAN’T wholeheartedly trust. Well let’s assuage that fear. The OS is agnostic to transaction details; it simply orders on a first-come-first-serve basis and returns blocks to their corresponding channels. Perhaps more importantly though, control of the ordering service can be shared and co-administered by the participating members in the network. OR, if even that solution is untenable, then the OS can be hosted and maintained by a trusted third-party. Fabric is built upon a modular and pluggable architecture, so the only real decision for business networks is how to configure an OS to meet their requirements.

(This notion of the OS as a pluggable component also opens the door to exciting opportunities for innovative teams and individuals. Currently there are only a few OS orchestrations - Solo and Kafka. However, other options such as Intel’s PoET or certain BFT flavors could be powerful supplementaries to Fabric, and help solve challenging use cases.)

To participate in the Network, each Organization maintains a runtime called a Peer, which will allow an application to participate in transactions, interact with the Ordering Service, and maintain a set of ledgers. Notice we said a set of ledgers. One of Fabric’s key innovations is the ability to run multiple Channel s on each network. This is how a network can conduct both highly confidential bilateral transactions and multilateral, or even public, transactions in the same solution without everyone having a copy of every transaction or run the code in every agreement.

Watch how Fabric is Building a Blockchain for Business .

If you’re still reading, you clearly have some knowledge and an interest in distributed ledger technology, AND you probably think a key piece is missing. Where is consensus in all of this? Well, it’s embedded in the entire life cycle of a transaction. Transactions come into the network, and the submitting client’s identity is verified and consented upon. Transactions then get executed and endorsed, and these endorsements are consented upon. Transactions get ordered, and the validity of this order is consented upon. Finally, transactions get committed to a shared ledger, and each transaction’s subsequent impact on the state of the involved asset(s) is consented upon. Consensus isn’t pigeonholed into one module or one function. It lives and exists throughout the entire DNA of Fabric. Fabric is built with security at the forefront, not as an afterthought. Members and participating entities operate with known identities, and no action on the network circumvents the sign/verify/authenticate mandate. Requirements such as security, privacy and confidentiality are paramount in some manner to nearly all business dealings, and they, like consensus, are stitched into the very essence of Fabric.

So what problem do you want to solve? What assets are at stake? Who are the players? What levels of security and encryption do you need? Fabric is designed to provide an answer and solution to this challenging collective of questions and beyond. Just like fabric - in the literal sense of the word - is used in everything from airplane seats to bespoke suits, solutions built on Hyperledger Fabric can range from diamond provenance to equities trading. Explore the documentation and see how you can leverage Fabric to craft a PoC for your own business network.

Note

This build of the docs is from the “master” branch