Since the technology is so new, much of its underlying infrastructure isn’t yet stable or automated, and as such, it demands that developers spend time rebuilding. The executives of Elemential know that headache well, and as such, are using their company to simplify the process of building enterprise blockchains.
To do this Elemential, which is based in Mumbai, India, seeks to remove the pain of “blockchain administration” – which translates into the many hours every week that developers must spend on things like node deployment and configuration and maintenance activities, such as ensuring run-time and language dependencies.
These are all things the firm’s executives, CEO Raunaq Vaisoha and chief technology officer Anil Dukkipatty, dealt with during their first three years working with blockchain, first using “colored coins” (an early protocol that ran on top of bitcoin) and later with enterprise solutions like Hyperledger and Tendermint.
“When we started looking at blockchains, whenever we tried to take an application to production things would always go wrong,” Vaisoha recalled, adding:
“As developers trying to build business value on top of blockchain, we had to spend way too much of our time actually worrying about the risk and actually automating stuff at the protocol levels.”
But the process of automating these processes is tricky on a blockchain since there’s no single administrator. So the team at Elemential put together a node-level software called Hadron and a decentralized protocol for administrative communication and decision-making called the Federated Network Protocol (FNP).
“What we are trying to solve here is the logistics of decentralised decision making for large-scale enterprise networks,” Vaisoha said.
And according to several high-profile investors, including Matrix Partners, Lightspeed India Partners and Digital Currency Group (among others), who recently put a combined $1 million into the company, the project is exactly what the industry needs.
Blockchain ‘hall monitor’
Administration on private blockchains has proven to be a challenging problem.
This is because many tasks, such as allowing another member to join or leave the network, will need to be executed in a coordinated manner.
For example, if a new member has to be added everyone on the network will have to whitelist the new member’s IP, open certain ports and make changes to configuration files like the genesis file, Vaisoha said.
In such a scenario, it’s much more efficient and reliable to automate these tasks – just what FNP is designed to do.
“Coordinating a decision on important activities such as adding or removing network members, network topology design [and] scaling up the network requires federated as opposed to a centralized method of decision making,” Vaisoha said.
As such, the FNP essentially acts like “a hall monitor” to ensure nodes are behaving, he continued. If a validator node is about to crash, for example, a so-called “predictive correction feature” kicks in…