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Here's everything you need to know about testing blockchain

A blockchain is an encrypted list of records anyone can add to. But should you be worried about testing blockchain? Expert Gerie Owen explains what you need to know.

A blockchain is an encrypted list of records. What makes it unique is that it is distributed and anyone or anything can add new records to the blockchain. It gets validated based on a master list.

Blockchain came of age when bitcoin became popular, because bitcoin is a record of anonymous transfers and ownership of a currency. In effect, adding to the bitcoin blockchain adds to the wealth. If you add a block, you will get paid. It's a complicated formula, but payment is in bitcoin through transaction fees and by maintaining the integrity of the blockchain.

To understand whether or not you need to be testing blockchain, start by realizing that it is a type of data or records management system. It is unique in that it is not centralized, and anyone can update the blockchain. This makes it very compelling for records, such as medical data, that are generated in different physical locations but have to be a part of a larger entity.

You shouldn't have to be testing blockchain, per se, because the algorithms are well-established, and because it is a distributed system, blockchain copies (there is no master copy) typically exist in multiple locations.

But the transactions themselves may require validation. Testing blockchain will mean asking questions such as, "How do you know that a transaction is valid before it can be approved?" There are approval authorities for different blockchains, and they must test the integrity of the transactions.

Blockchains are being used for an increasing number of applications where data is arriving from distributed locations and systems. The fact that it is encrypted is also compelling for many uses.

You may well see a blockchain implementation at some time in your testing career. It is likely that testing blockchain will be similar to testing a database, except that there is more going on. When testing blockchain, you might be asked to confirm that the encryption works or that you can successfully extract records. Keep an eye on the technology and its uses, because this isn't the last you will hear of it.

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