IBM Corp has come out with a cheaper alternative for startups and medium-sized companies to build new projects or applications on blockchain.
The new Starter Plan is currently in test mode and is being offered for free. IBM hasn't disclosed what it would charge for the plan once commercially released, saying only that it will be "low-cost". The company charges a membership fee of $1,000 for its Enterprise Plan.
"The new plan is perfect for pilot projects and early-stage development work for those who want to build solutions on the IBM blockchain platform which currently has over 250 active blockchain networks," Marie Wieck, general manager at IBM Blockchain, said in the report.
She added that the new plan will allow IBM to share its expertise across a wide ecosystem.
IBM's blockchain platform is a little different than other public blockchain platforms such as the one that underpins bitcoin or ethereum. The company calls it the "permissioned" blockchain. This means that only a limited number of parties can access the chain rather than a sizeable population in case of public blockchain platforms.
The tech giant also said that it was launching new services that would help organisations develop and sell their blockchain applications. Earlier this month, the company had said that it was working on 400 blockchain projects alongside 63 clients including companies such as Dupont, Walmart, Nestle, Visa and HSBC.
"For us, blockchain is a set of technologies that allow our clients to simplify complex, end-to-end processes in a way that couldn't have been done before," IBM chief financial officer Jim Kavanaugh had said on an earnings call late last year.
The CNBC report also quoted Wieck as saying that IBM was not interested in cryptocurrencies. "IBM's bet is on the blockchain technology underneath cryptocurrencies since it powers new multi-party transactions and business models," she said.
Last year, the company had partnered with startup Stellar and currency exchange service KlickEx to come out with a platform that allowed banks to settle payments. Under the partnership, Wieck said that IBM was using Stellar's cryptocurrency called lumens for speeding up the settlement times.
According to researcher Markets & Markets, the market for blockchain-related products and services will reach $7.7 billion in 2022, up from $242 million last year.
In a separate development, IBM research director Arvind Krishna said at the company's annual conference in Las Vegas that the blockchain technology can be used to root out fakes from any system, especially healthcare in terms of drugs.
“In the next five years, cryptographic anchors and blockchain technology will ensure a product’s authenticity from its point of origin to the hands of the customer,” Krishna was quoted as saying by The Economic Times.