Wenbing Zhao

Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Cleveland State University

Title: On Blockchain: Design Principle, Building Blocks, Core Innovations, and Misconceptions


Dr. Zhao is a Professor at the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Cleveland State University. He got his BS and MS degrees from the Physics Department in Peking University. He earned his Ph.D. at University of California, Santa Barbara in 2002. He has over 200 peer-reviewed publications and the author of the research monograph titled “From Traditional Fault Tolerance to Blockchain.” Dr. Zhao’s research spans from dependable distributed systems, human centered smart systems, and engineering education. His research has been funded by the US NSF, US Department of Transportation, Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, Ohio Department of Higher Education, the Ohio Development Services Agency, and Woodruff Foundation. He has delivered more than 10 keynotes, tutorials, public talks and demonstrations in various conferences, industry and academic venues. Dr. Zhao is an associate editor for IEEE Access, Human-centric Computing and Information Sciences, MDPI Computers, and PeerJ Computer Science, and a member of the editorial board of several international journals, including Applied System Innovation, Internal Journal of Parallel, Emergent and Distributed Systems. He is currently an IEEE Senior Member and serves as the Treasurer of the IEEE Cleveland Section.


Blockchain is one of the most significant innovations in the field of cloud computing. The technology could potentially lead to a new generation of decentralized applications and decentralized autonomous organizations. Unfortunately, there is simply too much misinformation regarding blockchain. Most notably, blockchain has been used as a buzzword synonymous with data immutability and trust. In fact, this is far from the truth. In this talk, I will provide a concise description of exactly what blockchain technology is, including its design principle, building blocks, core innovations, and benefits. This is followed by an analysis of data immutability. We show that to create an insurmountable barrier against attacks on data immutability, decentralization and system scale are both necessary. Based on this analysis, we further dissect what benefits private and consortium blockchain could offer when decentralization is removed. We show that private and consortium blockchain cannot offer data immutability and trust as many works in the literature have claimed or implied. Instead, the centralized version of blockchain technology provides an elegant solution to achieving fault tolerance and atomic contract execution, which could make private and consortium blockchain useful for enterprises that would like to provide high availability to their customers and for their internal operations.