The Story of JPMorgan’s Blockchain Initiative Quorum
Many leading financial, industrial and technology firms have recently begun experimenting with blockchain technology. For over a year, the investment bank and financial services company JPMorgan Chase (JPM) has been developing an initiative called Quorum.
According to JPMorgan, Quorum is an enterprise-level distributed ledger protocol based on Ethereum (ETH). It is literally a fork of the Go Ethereum client and thus has as its foundation the previous work of Ethereum developers. It aims to be a permissioned version of Ethereum that offers certain advantages over the original.
Quorum was first launched in October 2016 as a variation on the idea of private blockchains. As its Juno blockchain project lost two senior leaders earlier that year, JPMorgan shifted its focus to creating its own version of Ethereum. Indeed, the Juno project, which experimented on smart contracts with Byzantine fault-tolerant consensus mechanisms, was shuttered in November 2016, and Quorum became the bank’s sole foray into blockchain tech.
The original plan of Quorum was to share its code with outside developers in an open source manner, limit the access of a blockchain’s transactions to certain participants in the network, and ultimately attain cost savings that would dwarf those of competitors’ purely private blockchains.
Quorum has hit many milestones since its inception. Earlier this year, Quorum formed a partnership with the privacy cryptocurrency Zcash (ZEC) and successfully incorporated the cryptography that secures Zcash into Quorum, in hopes that someday it will help hide interbank transactions from third-party snooping.
In June, the South African central bank announced that it completed a settlement pilot project using the Quorum protocol. Its report stated that the bank managed to settle 70,000 transactions in two hours and preserve transaction anonymity.
On June 21, Microsoft and Ernst & Young announced the creation of a digital rights and royalties management project based on the Quorum protocol and the Microsoft Azure cloud infrastructure. The two firms are hoping that the blockchain solution will process millions of transactions a day and make royalty payments to copyright owners more efficient.
Quorum continues to strive toward its goal of being an Ethereum-based protocol that offers transaction and contract privacy, multiple voting-based consensus mechanisms, and higher performance. Although it is not decentralized like Ethereum or other cryptocurrency blockchains and allows participants to stop the creation of new blocks, Quorum is open source and more welcoming than a private blockchain. It aims to be a platform that allows integration and experimentation with not only the financial industry but also other companies interested in blockchain technology. The massive cost savings once promised by blockchain evangelists have not yet materialized, but without a doubt, JPMorgan and other big businesses will continue to research and experiment with blockchain technology in order to find a competitive edge.