JP Morgan’s Amber Baldet On What Enterprise Wants from Ethereum

What do private blockchain builders really want?

According to JP Morgan blockchain lead Amber Baldet, they’re faced with the same concerns as anyone building public blockchains today.

“These problems really aren’t so far apart, it’s just that people are trying to solve the problems in different ways,” Baldet told the audience at EthCC, an ethereum conference in Paris on Friday.

In a tightly packed lecture hall, Baldet laid out the mechanics of her company’s private blockchain network, Quorum, while seeking to put forth a broader message about how her bank, one of the largest globally, is looking to foster collaboration across blockchains.

And Baldet is in perhaps a unique position to advance the dialogue: not only is Quorum the first project that JP Morgan developed in its Blockchain Centre of Excellence (BCoE), it’s based on a fork of ethereum’s software. As such, Baldet spoke at length about how her time is spent engaging with cryptocurrency communities in an effort to find common ground.

“I spend a lot of time talking about ethereum and cryptocurrency and open blockchains to enterprises, businesses, central banks and corporates,” Baldet said, “I don’t spend a lot of time going the other direction.”

Yet, according to Baldet, these conversations are crucial to mutually educate and improve both sectors of the industry. While public and private blockchains are often pitched against each other, Baldet told CoinDesk in an interview, “I don’t think those two things need to be so different or are necessarily mutually exclusive.”

And while there are trade-offs with public blockchains that enterprises simply cannot afford, what businesses want from ethereum, and what ethereum wants in return, she said, is the ability to interoperate.

In this way, enterprises can inhabit their own private universes away from the public network, but publish data to gain the security and auditability of a public blockchain.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be all enterprise disaster recovery systems over here, and all anti-fragile public blockchain anonymous transaction things over here,” she said.

Rather, Baldet continued:

“Pragmatically, it’s probably more likely that we’re going to end up with some kind of hybrid network of networks that can hopefully talk to each other.”

Building connectivity

And interoperability is an area in which Baldet feels businesses have typically failed.

In a refrain on how enterprise software tends to be complicated, fuzzy and proprietary, Baldet told the audience, “When we talk about enterprise blockchain, this is where people get stuck.” And, she believes, the impact of this is that businesses struggle to attract developer talent.

“[Developers] don’t necessarily want to work on something that looks like it was developed in the 1990s,” Baldet said.

As such, it’s down to businesses to cooperate along these lines to create simple, user-friendly software that can interact with existing tech, and work towards interoperability solutions such as Cosmos, Polkadot and Interledger that would allow blockchains to share data.

Elsewhere, Baldet has warned about what she has called “crypto-balkanization,” the splintering of blockchain communities into increasingly uncooperative factions, “virtual continents along political axes” that could “weaken privacy and make interoperability harder.”

Between the two extremes of distributed ledger projects and public blockchains like ethereum, there is a “fuzzy grey area in the middle” that Baldet has termed “mutualized infrastructure.”

A system like this would allow blockchains to communicate while meeting the requirements of different camps, and this, Baldet argued, is the best way to ensure an equal access to services in a fully-fledged internet of value.

She told the audience:

“We’re going to need to do a better job at making software work not exclusively for one group or the other which will continue to bifurcate those power structures, but to actually integrate these things together into one thing.”

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