"Because blockchain is really successful, we need to understand where and why to distribute it"


Interview with Dan Middleton, Chairman of the Hyperledger Technical Steering Committee

JAXenter: what are the technical challenges that await us for the blockchain? What are the opportunities?

Dan Middleton: Hyperledger is focused on the use of corporate blockchains. In this space, blockchains aim to facilitate agreement between the parties that may be in competition with each other. To provide that contradictory trust, the nodes of the network must evaluate the transactions and communicate to reach agreement with the protocol. This process will necessarily be slower than a centralized database architecture. This is one of the costs of receiving the main advantage of a blockchain network. The performances will represent a fundamental challenge for any reasonably distributed architecture.

Privacy and confidentiality fall into the same boat. A blockchain is essentially a shared database. I have Hyperledger colleagues who hate when I say this. It simplifies the transactional functionality of these systems too much. However, the ultimate goal is that parties that do not trust each other can basically read and edit the same database. Since this is a shared data layer, it is basically not a secret between the participants. Hyperledger projects are actively researching and experimenting how to meet the conflicting objectives of a shared state agreement between the parties and the confidentiality of information between the parties.

Before companies can interact on a network and enter into commercial agreements, they must speak the same language of data.

Today, most systems are forced to exchange one of these requirements with respect to the other. For example, it is possible to maintain the confidentiality of some data simply by not putting this information on the chain, but obviously at the expense of actually having a network agreement and keeping that information state.

Perhaps it is less interesting to talk about common definitions of data. Before companies can interact on a network and enter into commercial agreements, they must speak the same language of data. Historically, standardization bodies have covered this role, but the rapid development of blockchain development can lead to less traditional organisms.

Each of these challenges is, of course, also an opportunity. Privacy and confidentiality stand out as the biggest of the three technical opportunities here. Given the amplitude of blockchain architectures and uses, there will also be a variety of privacy and privacy solutions.

JAXenter: Hyperledger currently has 10 projects under its roof, but even though it has become a reliable name in the blockchain ecosystem, there are still some misunderstandings. What is the wrong idea that annoys you the most?

Dan Middleton: Well, we gave ourselves a misunderstanding at the beginning. The name Hyperledger is fantastic, and soon adapts to the premise that we would create a single block block. However, this premise has rapidly evolved to the point where we now find ourselves with a variety of projects. When people first meet the name "Hyperledger", many still understandably understand that it is a single project, which is a single ledger. I invite everyone to come and take a look at our greenhouse and see all the interesting ideas that we are growing here. Hyperledger is much stronger to have a variety of ideas.

SEE ALSO: "A shared code base is a great way to simultaneously create a standard to coexist on a blockchain"

JAXenter: companies and institutions all over the world have achieved excellent results with blockchain. For example, the German central bank and Deutsche Börse have successfully completed a blockchain settlement procedure. Given all the recent success with this technology, I have to ask: is blockchain a technology that we can not live without?

Dan Middleton: I really like NOT to sell people on blockchain. I think this technology solves a narrower problem than some of the general statements in the industry suggest. Because blockchain is really successful, we need to understand where and why to distribute it. In my opinion, it is of paramount importance when there are several parties who have to change and agree on the status of the information without an intermediary. Being more specific about the problem space does not reduce the value. Rather, it is simply important to center our enthusiasm.

JAXenter: what fascinates you about the blockchain?

Dan Middleton: I love the problems of distributed systems. One aspect of them is emerging behavior. Can you give autonomous systems each a small and uniform set of rules or behaviors and does the interaction of these systems translate into higher-level behavior? This fascinates me This is exactly the problem for consensus algorithms, especially random leader algorithms like PoW and Mic Bowman's Poet.

Blockchains also provide practical requirements for cryptography that preserves privacy. The zero knowledge techniques (which prove things without giving away any information) have been around for years, but there were not a lot of practical places to use them. The explosion of techniques that have exploded since Bitcoin came on the scene is very exciting.

Assuming that anyone reading this is already interested [in blockchain]I think getting your hands dirty is a great way to create experience and grow your talent.

JAX: how can developers interested in this technology start a blockchain career? What are the things to do and not to do?

Dan Middleton: I think a "do" for any career decision is to choose something that interests you. The opposite is also true – "do not" choose this as a field if you do not care. As far as I can tell, the demand for talent far outweighs the blockchain offer, but only because the recruitment in this space does not necessarily make the right decision for you.

Assuming that anyone reading this is already interested, I think getting your hands dirty is a great way to create experience and grow your talent. Working on an open source project is a fantastic way to start this exploration. Obviously it does not have to be a Hyperledger project, but to choose a project. Try using it. What did not work for you? What could be improved?

If you are a technological writer, it helps to create better explanations for that project. If you are a developer, fix a bug and submit a patch. You will quickly learn more than you wanted.

JAXenter: What is the TSC plan for the rest of the year? What would you like to achieve next year as president of the TSC?

Dan Middleton: The TSC is responsible for the technical governance of the Hyperledger projects. We help define the type of projects that Hyperledger develops. We deal with technical work groups to solve certain problems or add definitions where they are missing.

In volunteering to chair the TSC, I suggested three areas of intervention: Diversity of Participants, Interoperability and Reuse and Technical Direction. I shared this proposal with the community mailing list:

Diversity of participants: Our recent pool of TSC candidates suggests that the Hyperledger community has not grown to represent the diversity of the wider technical community. As president of the TSC, I would like to better understand where we are lacking and create programs to improve representativeness through projects, work groups and leadership.

Interoperability and reuse: A different kind of diversity is in the technologies that make up Hyperledger. We have a number of large projects, but currently the total is not greater than the sum of the parts. I would like to help grow areas of useful differentiation (particularly where it is not already well supported) by driving towards more reusable components and less redundancy.

SEE ALSO: secure smart contracts with Hyperledger Sawtooth

Technical direction: While we have successfully incubated a number of projects, the TSC is often responsive to community growth. I would like to bring together the maintainers of several projects to identify areas of confluence and actively seek new projects in areas of weakness to improve the strength of the Hyperledger ecosystem. The crypto-lib laboratory is an interesting example of this type of direct effort.

Since then we have created a committee that looks to the health of our community to ensure that we are welcoming and treating our employees. Hyperledger has grown faster than any Linux Foundation project. While it's big, it's still young. Taking an active role in managing such growth is an integral part of our goal of being the place for serious development of blockchain. We want everyone to feel welcome, and fortunately we have not had to deal with toxic behavior, which we certainly will not tolerate.

In terms of improved reuse and componentization, we have launched several laboratories designed to mature into projects that offer functionality to existing platform projects and useful in their rights.

Working directly in open source development is very rewarding.

We have also taken small steps towards a more proactive drive. In addition to coding projects, we also manage technical work groups and special interest groups. We asked our board to oversee the SGIs to focus more on the technological aspects of development projects and technical working groups. As SIGs develop materials, they will share them with the TSC and will disseminate them to projects and work groups. It is also worth pointing out that we are proud of the transparency on Hyperledger. Anyone can participate in our technical work groups, SIGS and software projects.

JAXenter: can you summarize your experience with Hyperledger?

Dan Middleton: This is easy. "The best part of my career." I've got to do a lot of fantastic technology over the years. Most of this was secret, and I could not talk to friends or collaborate extensively on what I'm working on. Working directly in open source development is very rewarding. I can talk to anyone about new ideas and learn from people who have different backgrounds from me. I can not really say enough about what a good experience is.

Thank you!

Take a look at this small series of interviews we did with seven panelists from the Blockchain Technology Conference about what the blockchain can and can not do, what it is and what it is not. This series aims to clarify the air by answering the most fundamental questions.

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