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Wittgenstein would have said Bitcoin is swell.
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I wanted to share some thoughts about the current lull in meaningful enterprise grade applications, and how blockchain-tech needs to evolve in order to become a prime database for commercial transactions.
In a Bloomberg article from July 31st you can find the following 2 quotes:
“The disconnect between the hype and the reality is significant — I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Rajesh Kandaswamy, an analyst at Gartner Inc. “In terms of actual production use, it’s very rare.”
“One reason behind the delays: Most blockchain vendors don’t offer compatible software.”
We agree with both statements, yet are still super bullish on blockchains for smaller commercial networks. Partly it is a problem of taxonomy and ontology, a distributed ledger can have properties that take advantage of blockchain related advancements (i.e. survival in an antagonistic environment), without offering all aspects of what is commonly described as a “blockchain”. Hear me out.
At Blockdaemon, we are focused on developers first. We believe that the best blockchain developers are currently working within the leading protocol space — Bitcoin, Ethereum, Stellar, and meaningful projects like AION, G Coin or Citizens Reserve. Our customers start as Explorers — individual nodes for large public chains, mostly for the purpose to support the respective network (want to help keep bitcoin “real”, deploy a node for it!) and to do one or two simple things with it (connect a wallet, pull some data).
The next stage of customers are Ecosystems customers (the aforementioned G Coin, Citizens Reserve, MAD Network as examples) — projects that require a big-bang event in order to push dozens of nodes live for external partners, while ensuring a degree of decentralization and network efficiency (features here are: global load balancing, multi-cloud, geo-dispersion etc.). Potential node participants can simply be invited via email that lands on a co-branded Blockdaemon/partner backend, that spins up a fully configured node in 30 seconds.
We have a ton of traction for our Explorer and Ecosystem products, and are now adding an Enterprise layer. Having thought through how to make blockchain-networking easy for devs, we learned a ton about dynamic networks, orchestration, consensus and most major protocols.
There is an enormous mishmash of platforms and protocols in the market, and enterprises have gotten wary of blockchain-as-an-enterprise platform play. You have to join costly and slow consortia, or ascribe to a proprietary lock-in platform owned by a single large provider, or — even worse — retain a crew of highly talented blockchain devs (tend to be anarchic). So we asked ourselves what data-abstraction can blockchains really bring to the enterprise? What we came up with we are calling (drum-roll): blockchain-as-a-database. Simplified data-attributes of a subset of blockchain functionalities plugged into an enterprise grade distributed ledger (i.e. SOC/ISO compliant etc.).
Pepper it with APIs for multiple ERPs et al., and you have a simple database that can utilize any major-chain (you don’t need to know which, just what it is good for), is by default multi-cloud, and can extract relevant data/audits within seconds. All of that requires a bunch of tech that connects permissioned-based networks via intermediaries into reasonably decentralized blockchains. It’s a simple system that can withstand the right degree of adversary, without having to master the protocol and network layer of blockchains. Just point data our way. Merci.
Database = Bad?
Interestingly enough, we have been very vocal for over a year about the lack of infrastructure and tooling that allows for enterprises to have any exposure to blockchain without giving up control or engaging in a totally cost-inefficient data transaction model. The appreciation of token values in the second half of 2017 did cloud the true state of blockchains for enterprises and non-currency use-cases which amounted to nearly none. At least, not in the way they were conceptualized — as high transaction/real-time border-crossing fully decentralized systems etc., that require years and years of POCs to spit out a sandbox that can be manually connected to a disconnected continuous deployment cycle.
Blockchains are bad databases when compared to the tooling available in the cloud formation space. It’s a bit like trying to turn a bus into a spaceship — gluing on engines for enhanced power won’t change the nature of the beast.
We figured a new paradigm needed to evolve, so blockchains aren’t seen as the porting agent of the highest degree of efficiency to replace existing data-use-cases. Blockchains need to be thought of as something altogether different. I won’t bore you with the taxonomy and definition of what a blockchain actually is, suffice it to say that blockchains are great to document adherence or non-adherence of value transmissions between parties that don’t want to know much about each other. Rather than blocks on blocks on blocks, this is much better done with one-block on chain on chain on chain. Sounds confusing? Think of it as single transaction blocks that get locked into higher transaction chains. It is a switch in dimension and a focus as to when something becomes real — something our old pal Wittgenstein knows a thing or two about. He once defined infinity as: not an endless amount of time, but everything at once. Not the longest chain, but the block that is hashed into every other chain. Solving logical propositions sometimes comes with simplification. Which is what we are doing — less choice, less data, more logic. What would Wittgenstein make of blockchain?
Well, I won’t go too much into technical detail — we got to make a living and build something unique so stay tuned for updates. Even better, you can launch a Bitcoin node for free via Blockdaemon’s Explorer product and ensure its survival, while joining our community and experience our product first hand. We will incrementally push updates onto our Explorer back-end that yield itself to ecosystems and then, over time, to enterprises. We will have achieved our goal when you use our database, without knowing that therein lies a blockchain.
Until then we leave you with this little tidbit from good ol’ Ludwig: If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done.