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The blockchain data structure and proof-of-work protocol were designed to solve the problem of double spending in cryptocurrencies. But conventional blockchains are hard to use in many distributed system applications. Although blockchain has found many applications outside of cryptocurrency, many of its features are not well suited to common data management applications. The added trust of distributed ledgers is a valuable feature, providing greatly simplified auditability and verification of actions among multiple parties in applications such as supply chain and others, but there are tradeoffs.
We have designed and implemented a new form of distributed ledger technology (DLT), known as a data block matrix, which provides the integrity assurance of blockchain but allows for controlled revision or deletion of data. This is an essential property for using DLT in applications that must support privacy requirements for deletion of private data at a user's request. The block matrix data structure has been implemented with an API for practical use in distributed database applications, and is now included in the open source release of Next Generation Database Access Control (NDAC).
Blockchain's hash-based integrity verification provides trust, at the cost of an inability to delete or update records, leading to design complications that would not arise with conventional database management systems. Similarly, the sequencing guarantees of blockchain consensus protocols are needed for cryptocurrency in the absence of a universal timestamp. Moreover, actions within the distributed ledger must be connected with other actions in the real world, through accurate timestamps. We are developing a new architecture that provides the trust features of blockchains, with characteristics that allow for simpler designs and greater practicality in conventional data management problems. This alternative can lead to new approaches to incorporating trust into distributed systems applications. The data blockmatrix data structure provides key capabilities:
Open source code