Opening Hyperledger: Consortium to Create Experimental Labs for Startups

Hyperledger, the open-source business blockchain consortium,  just got a little more open.

Founded in 2015 to help businesses more easily spin up enterprise blockchain solutions, the consortium approved a measure last week to create what it’s calling Hyperledger Labs. As an effort to bring early-stage startups together with companies that are formally recognized by Hyperledger, the measure stands to accelerate the rate at which new ideas find traction and reach maturity.

“This is a way to expand the Hyperledger community,” said Chris Ferris, the chairman of Hyperledger’s technical steering committee and chief technical officer of IBM Open Technology.

Companies were previously required to go through a grueling application process to prove the maturity of their code and a commitment of resources before becoming “formally recognized” by the consortium and obtaining “incubation status” for their code.

To give an idea of how rigorous the application process for that status is, there are at least 185 Hyperledger members, but only eight codebases have been formally granted the status.

Of those eight codebases, only three frameworks have graduated to “active status” – Intel-contributed Sawtooth, IBM-contributed Fabric, and Iroha, contributed by Japanese startup Soramitsu, with support from Hitachi and several others.

But this new measure now gives startups access to some of the benefits that only those companies formally recognized – such as IBM, Intel and Monax – had access to.

Perhaps the most important being access to a separate GitHub code repository, where existing Hyperledger members can examine code being pushed to the repository, test it and provide feedback.

In a conversation with CoinDesk, Ferris explained why the labs were necessary in the first place, and in turn, why the measure was unanimously approved by the TSC.

He said:

“We’ve had a couple of projects proposed for incubation [to] the TSC, and the TSC has declined the request, but not because the work was shoddy, but rather because we felt that the project wasn’t ripe enough yet, hadn’t matured to the point where we could really understand and see that there’s a solid community behind it.”

Continuing, Ferris said the measure will be a way to engage those companies more closely, instead of turning them away.

Perks of participation

True, startups could already host a project on the general Hyperledger GitHub. “But then it’s sort of lost in all the other thousands and thousands and millions of projects,” Ferris said.

Having the opportunity to get code directly in front of Hyperledger members is the key advantage to taking part in the initiative, according to Ferris. And with that increased visibility, Hyperledger members can provide valuable feedback that might possibly accelerate a startup’s time to market, he continued.

The code submitted to the Github repository under Hyperledger Labs will not be required to meet any functional requirements, but the startup that pushed the code will also not receive intellectual property rights to identify as a “Hyperledger Project,” like those companies with incubation status have…

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