Interview with IBM’s VP of Blockchain: Jerry Cuomo

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Jerry Cuomo / Twitter

Jerry Cuomo is probably one of the most important persons within the blockchain space, yet he has received little to no attention from bitcoin news companies. He might even be an underground hero pushing the blockchain technology further. IBM’s blockchain initiative isn’t a part of the Bitcoin Universe since it’s semi-centralized and has no tokens. But I have to admit that some of the issues with both the Bitcoin and Ethereum network are being addressed by the Hyperledger Project, a collaborative cross-industry effort dedicated to the advancement of blockchain technology.

Fun fact: Jerry’s most visible patent at IBM is the first use of the “Someone is typing…”

Hyperledger Fabric, a framework for creating enterprise blockchains, is being used in trial projects by Wal-Mart, Maersk and Northern Trust – to name a few. Wal-Mart is looking to create a trackable supply chain to increase food safety as explained in the video below:

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Maersk is working on digitizing the supply chain, for example by integrating Bill of Lading in the blockchain system and using blockchain to track and optimize supply chains with millions of containers and products. [important: this is to be a solution that Maersk is developing to offer for the industry, not simply used by Maersk]


IBM explored a number of different blockchain frameworks, including Ethereum, when the company first began getting serious about the technology, but ultimately saw some constraints in the offerings already available.

Cuomo explains:

“Ethereum is not very modular. We approached the core team to see if we could work with them on a more business and regulatory friendly blockchain system. Unfortunately the Ethereum team couldn’t spend time with us modifying Ethereum.”

I asked Cuomo what he meant by a more business-friendly blockchain system. 

“There are some strict EU regulations concerning privacy for businesses and you have to be able to identify whose manipulating the data. That is hard to come around with a project like Ethereum. We looked for other possible partners to work with for a more business oriented blockchain system. We reached out to the Linux Foundation that have a significant track record in how to manage open source projects, and we learned that several companies wanted the same. That’s when we began working with the Linux Foundation on Hyperledger.”

The governance of Hyperledger is decided by their charter. The members (122 different organizations) have different voting rights in the Governing Board depending on their membership level. IBM is one of the premium members which allows them to have one representative in the Governing Board. Hyperledger is more like a foundation rather than a decentralized ecosystem (like Bitcoin and Ethereum). Any new member of the Hyperledger Project has to be approved in consensus by existing members. 

As Jerry Cuomo told me, they wanted to “Reimagine the blockchain“. With Hyperledger they can continuously improve the system and integrate different solutions called “Fabrics” with several codebases:

Hyperledger Fabric is an implementation of blockchain technology that is intended as a foundation for developing blockchain applications or solutions. It offers a modular architecture allowing components, such as consensus and membership services, to be plug-and-play. It leverages container technology to host smart contracts called “chaincode” that comprise the application logic of the system.


Cuomo don’t believe that there will be “one” blockchain to rule them all. As he said:

“For creating the optimal solution for businesses, we need blockchains that can talk to each other, that are interconnected. There won’t be one blockchain to rule them all. We believe Hyperledger is a solution where we can create multiple blockchains, but still let them integrate with one another.”

I share his thoughts. It would be a nightmare to have thousands of different blockchains that can’t communicate with each other, and at this point it doesn’t seem plausible that we will have one blockchain solution that fits all needs. 

IBM is able to serve their blockchain solutions in the cloud, making it less capital intensive for businesses, governments and organizations to start using blockchain technology. 

What I gladly learned from Cuomo is that they do not see Ethereum, nor Bitcoin, as competitors. They see other blockchain solutions more like colleagues that strengthen the same cause.

Featured image from Shutterstock & profile image from Twitter.

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