The rise of confidential computing has primarily focused on delivering technology for datacenters that can then turnaround and offer this new security architecture to enterprise customers. The goal is to get companies in sectors like finance and health care to put more sensitive data in the cloud.
But U.K.-based R3, which was originally founded as a blockchain company, wants to extend security from those enterprises to their partners and customers. To do this, R3 has launched Conclave, a confidential computing platform designed to allow data to remain encrypted as it passes between enterprises for processing.
In doing so, R3 CTO Richard Brown said the platform will allow companies to share more critical datasets to solve mutual problems without having to reveal the underlying data. The hope is that this creates additional trust and enables better security by enhancing the ability to detect fraud while also unlocking new types of analytics.
“If you’re sharing data, you’ve got to worry about what happens with it when it leaves your premises,” Brown said. “How do you make sure that it doesn’t get into the wrong hands? The idea with Conclave is to use the underlying confidential computing capabilities to allow firms to build new applications and services that can convince their customers that their data will be processed securely when they send it to you.”
The confidential computing movement had for several years been evolving around a set of technologies that allow data to remain encrypted while it is being processed by applications. Traditionally, such data had to be decrypted first, then processed, then re-encrypted, a process that made users of highly sensitive information nervous about putting it in the cloud.
About 18 months ago, a group of high-profile tech companies created the Confidential Computing Foundation, an open source group to develop standards around the emerging field. Since then, companies like IBM, Intel, Microsoft, and Google have become far more vocal about confidential computing’s potential to unleash a new generation of growth and innovation for cloud computing.
In those cases, the technology is for datacenter operators. R3 wants to complement that with Conclave.
“The key idea with confidential computing is ‘How can you take an existing workload and run it securely in the cloud?” Brown said. “Conclave is looking the other way and saying ‘If you’re a software firm providing live data processing services to your customers, how can you give your customers assurance about what will happen to their information when they send it to you?’”
In the first case, a bank sending data to a cloud provider can be sure the cloud provider can’t access the underlying data. In the Conclave example, a customer sending sensitive data to a bank to be analyzed can be sure employees of the bank can’t see or access the data.
“This technology allows you to extend that trust one step further and allow the application provider or the service provider to convince their customers that their data is protected,” Brown said.
R3 continues to offer its enterprise blockchain platform Corda, which helps digitize processes for transactions. Conclave, which is now being released in its first public commercial version after extensive beta testing, can be bought separately or used in tandem with Corda.
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