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Brian Behlendorf

Onward and Upward for Hyperledger in 2018

By | Blog, Hyperledger Burrow, Hyperledger Cello, Hyperledger Chaintool, Hyperledger Composer, Hyperledger Explorer, Hyperledger Fabric, Hyperledger Indy, Hyperledger Iroha, Hyperledger Quilt, Hyperledger Sawtooth

As 2017 comes to a close, it’s beneficial to look back and reflect on the progress we have made, and where we will see evolution and growth in the new year. This year, the world has acknowledged distributed ledgers and smart contracts as transformative technologies with tremendous potential to impact how business is conducted in many industries. Within  Hyperledger, the technology foundations have now been set. In the coming year, that will turn into more production software releases, real world implementations, and the first real business returns on our collective intellectual and financial investment.  

Below are a few observations from the year, milestones and thoughts on what will come in 2018.

Blockchain maturation and more production implementations

  • Companies large and small, IT vendors and end-user organizations, consortiums and NGOs, everyone took notice of Hyperledger in 2017 and made moves to get involved. This was evident in the ever increasing Hyperledger membership, which nearly doubled in size. We sold out of our Premier memberships at 21 total, adding eight new companies just this year including SAP, American Express, Daimler, Change Healthcare, NEC, Cisco, Tradeshift and Baidu. Hyperledger now has support from 197 organizations, and remains the fastest growing open source project ever hosted by The Linux Foundation. This has given Hyperledger a very solid footing financially, enabling us to double the resources we can apply towards building and supporting the community in 2018.
  • We have grown our Associate Member ranks to include organizations as diverse as Mercy Corps, the National Association of Realtors, the Illinois Blockchain Initiative, and the Monetary Authority of Singapore.  These relationships are key to extending Hyperledger’s reach into different sectors and environments.
  • Attesting to our focus on developing code suitable for enterprise use, this year saw the launch of the first production ready Hyperledger blockchain framework, Hyperledger Fabric 1.0. This was a true community effort pulling together contributions from more than 100 different developers and 30 different companies. As one result, we have 45 members listed in our Vendor Directory, providing products and services based on Hyperledger technology.
  • We have seen substantial uptick in POCs, pilots and production implementations of Hyperledger technologies, many of which are being tracked at the PoC Tracker on the Hyperledger website. Just a few examples of projects building in Hyperledger code include:
    • The Monetary Authority of Singapore’s Project Ubin, implementing an RTGS system;
    • the soon-to-be-production diamond supply chain tracking system implemented by Everledger, SAP and IBM;
    • and the Plastic Bank, a plastics recycling initiative.

In 2018, we will see:

  • more 1.0 milestones made next year by various Hyperledger projects;
  • more production deployments: for example, Change Healthcare, has announced an early 2018 go-live for their claims processing blockchain built on Hyperledger Fabric;
  • a growing Hyperledger staff and presence at events, creating more content, supporting a growing set of projects and working groups;
  • and more membership growth. We are reaching out to a broader set of industries than ever, and are deepening our relationships with our existing members.  

The fast expanding developer and end-user community will continue to grow

  • Demand for developers, and developer interest in Hyperledger, has exploded. We are now seeing sold-out Hyperledger meetups in dozens of cities, strong attendance at our semi-monthly HackFests held around the world, thousands of participants on our email and chat networks, non-stop requests for speakers at conferences, and of course more and more code flowing into our repositories.
  • We launched the first Hyperledger online training course this year: Blockchain for Business – An Introduction to Hyperledger Technologies. Currently, there are  44,966 total enrollments, and 1,074 learners have completed the course with a passing grade. We have an average of 2,500 new enrollments per week. The course is second only in growth to the original intro to Linux operating system course launched by The Linux Foundation. We have now launched a Training and Education Working Group to involve core maintainers and other volunteers in the development of additional courseware.
  • 150 people participated in the Hyperledger Member Summit in November in Singapore, representing 83 different member companies.  

In 2018, we will see:

  • the development of additional training courses and certification options;
  • more frequent and larger face to face developer gatherings;
  • and more developer activity across additional Hyperledger projects.

Integration, standards and interoperability will take center focus

In 2018, we will see:

  • The industry get a lot more serious about interoperability above the layer of the DLT, and looking for simple and open cross-blockchain approaches, leading them to Hyperledger Quilt and the rest of our community;
  • and our projects explore integration and interoperability with each other even further, allowing a greater number of options to be available to developers.

We’re proud of the work our vibrant and diverse community has accomplished this year. We have made great strides and could not be more thankful to everyone who has played a part in this success. It goes without saying the stakes can be even higher in open source, it’s a balance of creating a welcoming, collaborative environment and at the same time making sure everyone gets a say and all voices are heard. We strongly believe the open governance model that Hyperledger naturally inherited from The Linux Foundation has been a crucial part of the continued success of the project.

Finally, you can stay up to date with all Hyperledger news here or follow us on Twitter. We hold regular hackfests for Hyperledger, so be sure to check out the events page and join us for the next one. You can also plug into the Hyperledger Community at github, Rocket.Chat, the wiki or our mailing list.

Here’s to a successful 2018!

 

Hey – You got your Ethereum in my Hyperledger!

By | Blog, Hyperledger Burrow

Last Thursday marks another important milestone in the Hyperledger books: the Hyperledger Technical Steering Committee (TSC) approved a proposal submitted by engineers at Monax and Intel, to incubate the community’s first Ethereum derived project – Burrow, a permissionable smart contract machine.

The Burrow project originated with Monax as eris-db, and has been open source since December 2014. The project has been relicensed to Apache Software License 2.0, in accordance with the Hyperledger governance requirements.

Burrow, becoming a project under Hyperledger, is important for a variety of reasons:

First, and foremost, having an Ethereum derived project under the Hyperledger umbrella should send a strong message that any positioning of the Hyperledger and Ethereum communities as competitive is incorrect.

The blockchain technology community still has many technical challenges to solve, and many different possible approaches to solving them. “Permissioned” and “unpermissioned” represent two ends of a range of options for configuring a distributed ledger, not a binary choice. Choices we can make at the smart contract layer are even more complex. Being able to collaborate on various approaches to these problems is fundamentally important to getting really innovative ideas into production-quality code as quickly as possible.

Secondly, with an Apache licensed Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM), other distributed ledger projects in Hyperledger (e.g. Fabric, Sawtooth Lake and Iroha), can now experiment with integrating the EVM into their respective platforms. There is still much work to do to make this happen, of course, but the prospect of this is now much more tangible. This also marks the start of a productive relationship with the broader Ethereum community, including the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance as we monitor the specifications developed there for their application towards Burrow.

“We’re extremely excited that Burrow has been accepted into Hyperledger. This is a huge step in creating a forum in which the larger enterprise community can contribute towards building production-grade applications with the EVM smart contact interpreter. Inclusion of the code base in Hyperledger will ensure the longevity of the open source project under the mature devops and governance of The Linux Foundation and will be a primary driver toward the realization of enterprise grade ecosystem applications.” – Casey Kuhlman, Monax

I know that many in the community have been looking forward to (and working towards!) this day. I think it will mark an important point in Hyperledger’s (and blockchain) history. Stay tuned, as we’ll be moving the Burrow project to Hyperledger infrastructure over the next few weeks.

Our Incubator’s First Graduate: Hyperledger Fabric

By | Blog, Hyperledger Fabric

I’m thrilled to announce that yesterday, Hyperledger’s Technical Steering Committee (TSC) agreed to grant the project team’s request to advance the project’s status from Incubation to Active. As a reminder, we see Hyperledger as an “umbrella” for software developer communities building open source blockchain and related technologies. Fabric falls under that umbrella and is the first of the five Incubator projects to graduate. While Hyperledger Fabric has not yet reached its v1.0 release, the TSC members unanimously agreed that the project has satisfied all of the Incubation Exit Criteria.

The exit criteria by which projects are evaluated in order to graduate from Incubation include legal compliance, community support, test coverage and continuous integration support, documentation, architectural alignment, published releases, and infrastructure support for such things as requirements and defect tracking, code reviews, continuous integration testing and more.

One of the most important of these criteria is the community support criteria. The most successful and sustainable open source projects grow out of a diverse community of contributors, where the loss of any one individual or company can be compensated by the community as a whole. Hyperledger The TSC members agreed that Fabric had made significant progress towards that diversity goal, and given the trajectory, agreed that the criteria was satisfied.

IBM contributed the codebase that, in part, became the basis of the Hyperledger Fabric Incubator. In the year since the project entered incubation, the diversity of contributors on Fabric-related projects has grown from nearly no diversity of contributors to 45% of the contributors – representing individual contributors or developers working for one of nineteen other companies, be they exchanges, banks, large ISVs or start-ups. The project’s 10 maintainers – those individuals tasked with leading the project’s development – represent three different companies and two individual contributors. Hyperledger Fabric has also grown in terms of sub-projects contributed by other community members such as London Stock Exchange, DTCC, Fujitsu, and others. In my experience, few open source projects achieve that level of diversity in so little time.

Hyperledger Fabric has published two releases, the latest of which was their v0.6 release in the fall of 2016. The team is working on finalizing the development of the v1.0-alpha release, which they hope to publish this month.

This is a huge step for the Hyperledger community. The graduation of Fabric represents a milestone for the Hyperledger community as a whole, and I’m eager to see the other projects follow suit. As always, we encourage developers to join our efforts on Fabric, as well as other projects, via github, Rocket.Chat the wiki or the mailing lists. You can also follow Hyperledger on Twitter or email us with any questions: [email protected]

Happy Birthday, Hyperledger!

By | Blog
Last February, The Linux Foundation announced 30 founding members and six of those proposed contributions of code to advance blockchain technology under Hyperledger. Fast forward to today, Hyperledger is now the fastest growing project ever hosted by The Linux Foundation. More than 110 member companies that span numerous industries make up the project and support five incubated open source projects. Hyperledger membership is truly global with 39% in APAC (25% in China), 20% in EMEA and 41% spread across North America. Below is an overview highlighting the important achievements in Hyperledger’s first year. Read More

Meet Hyperledger: An “Umbrella” for Open Source Blockchain & Smart Contract Technologies

By | Blog

It’s hard to believe I’ve been working at The Linux Foundation on Hyperledger for four months already. I’ve been blown away by the amount of interest and support the project has received since the beginning of the year. As things really start to take off, I think it’s important to take a step back to reflect and recapitulate why and what we’re doing with Hyperledger. Simply put, we see Hyperledger as an “umbrella” for software developer communities building open source blockchain and related technologies. In this blog post, I’m going to try to define what we mean by “umbrella,” that is, the rationale behind it and how we expect that model to work towards building a neutral, foundational community.

The Hyperledger Project was initially seeded with various blockchain-supporting commercial members, some of whom had interesting internal or nascent open source efforts that needed the kind of home that the Linux Foundation could provide. It emerged at a time when it was clear that three points needed to be made to the market:

  1. Open, transparent governance of the software development process for blockchain technologies matters
  2. Intellectual property provenance and safeguards of the software matters
  3. Key use cases are driving permissioned or “consortium” chain models

Out of that set of initial principles, the Technical Steering Committee determined that the two initial projects should be delivered into the project in an “incubation” state: Fabric and Sawtooth Lake. These two projects differ significantly in many ways, and thus could perhaps provide different, yet also sometimes overlapping purposes.  In the spirit of putting all the wood behind the tip of the arrow, attention and efforts began to focus on those two.

While still in a pre-alpha state, Fabric is attracting growing developer attention and significant mindshare around its unique approach. We are seeing additional interest in new projects that build directly upon Fabric, but exist separately and may have different release schedules and priorities. For example, the chaincode management tools, or the Hyperledger Explorer (initially). We would expect to see further exploration of work that has already been demonstrated in concept, such as hooking up the Ethereum virtual machine to Fabric. And Sawtooth Lake’s unique approach to consensus – Proof of Elapsed Time – is garnering attention, too.  Both Fabric and STL just cut another developer preview release.

As both Fabric and Sawtooth Lake have picked up new contributions and developer momentum, and the commercial interest has continued to grow, we are now seeing interest in applying this model to additional technology efforts, potentially leading to new projects at Hyperledger. In some cases those will be a useful spin-out of an existing project and community; other times they will bring in a new community of developers, both on the new project and spilling over onto existing projects.

The Rationale: Why an “Umbrella”?

Blockchain and smart contracts are still in the early stages of a 20-year, if not a 50-year, adoption and maturation cycle. Some have compared it to 1994 and the Web (MIT’s Joi Ito sees it as 1989). There are clear examples of efforts that have seen widespread adoption and scale: Bitcoin and Ethereum. There are clear examples of commercial blockchain stacks, running in production. There is clear momentum around Fabric and Sawtooth Lake. Yet by no means is this a mature industry – we are still seeking better consensus mechanisms for both permissioned and permissionless chains, a better range of choices for smart contract platforms, and still exploring the right identity models. We have no idea if one specific package of software can serve all these needs at the same time, or if the approaches are as divergent as, say, ACID-compliant SQL databases and eventually-consistent NoSQL databases. Furthermore, some needs may span multiple existing efforts – a graphical user interface, for example, that could just as easily span Fabric and Sawtooth Lake.

What we do know is that there are no software development resources to spare. There is a global talent shortage for developers who understand not only cryptocurrency and blockchain engineering challenges, but who also understand distributed systems. The guts of these platforms are not unlike the complex balancing acts that operating system kernels or hardcore database efforts can reflect. Debugging multi-threaded applications was a challenge when all we knew were single-threaded applications; now debugging distributed applications is that much harder. Software that wouldn’t benefit from a rewrite doesn’t exist (or fresh thinking on old problems). Given the amount of duplication of effort we see today on the same core functions, we need to constantly be looking for opportunities for developers to be working on common code and roadmaps whenever possible. We’re not only building consensus mechanisms, we need to live them as a development priority.

In this environment, the most valuable role the Hyperledger Project can play is to serve as a trusted source of innovative, quality-driven open source software development community, creating modular, open source components and platforms. The optimal focus of Hyperledger is to advance industry goals of distributed ledger and smart contracts. Hyperledger will forge a brand that will be seen widely to reflect the accepted default “safe” deployment platform for enterprise teams, and be seen as a great home for active collaboration around new technologies, only then our mission will be accomplished.

Another way to think of this is to consider Hyperledger’s potential role in the emerging landscape of public blockchain technologies. Most of today’s open source blockchain efforts outside of Hyperledger are focused on permissionless chains, necessarily implementing a cryptocurrency as a means to fund mining and participation in consensus. This has tremendous challenges, and not all of them are technical, as the debates over the Bitcoin blocksize or the DAO demonstrate. What may appear to be technical debates at first glance often are really about different visions for the roles these platforms should play in society and who should govern them. We’ve crossed this bridge before, though. The Domain Name System was fortunate enough to rise to ubiquity long before anyone outside the early Internet architects realized how important it was – how important having a widespread network of root nameservers all consistently serving up the same answers for domain names would be. To get there, we might have started with a few developers building a better replacement for “/etc/hosts”, but which eventually evolved into a three-part structure: standards bodies (IETF), implementers (sendmail, postfix, qmail, etc), and global governance (ICANN).

Hyperledger Pie Chart

Mapping this to today, there is no reason why a particular cryptocurrency needs an entirely novel technology stack. The scaling needs of a particular cryptocurrency has tended to drive the technology roadmap for a given stack, but the code behind ETH and ETC (Ethereum and Ethereum “Classic” tokens) is almost entirely the same. The configuration settings, mining community management, trademark questions, and regulatory agency and law enforcement relationships will likely differ, and are really a matter for the global governance of ETC and ETH as cryptocurrencies.

“The most valuable role the Hyperledger Project can play is to serve as a trusted source of innovative, quality-driven open source software development community; creating modular, open source components and platforms; all focused on distributed ledger and smart contract technologies. If Hyperledger can forge a brand that is widely seen as the accepted default ‘safe’ deployment platform for enterprise teams, and be seen as a great home for active collaboration around new technologies, then I think we can say ‘mission accomplished’.”

If Hyperledger could help not only forge common ground between different software development efforts, but also encourage a gradual detachment between standards, implementations, and global governance (whether that’s around currencies or other use cases), then we will also accelerate adoption of blockchain tech widely and further reduce needlessly duplicated engineering and hardening efforts.

Perhaps most importantly, we can directly address what many have observed as a major challenge with the existing open source blockchain efforts – tremendous levels of tribalism amongst developers. While invigorating, it can also make sharing code between efforts, or talking about common challenges and how to meet them, notoriously difficult. This is true even when the payoff would be less duplicated code and more eyes looking for security holes and other issues.  Multiply that rivalry with the effects of holding fungible currency whose value can be tied directly to the software in question, or open source project brands tightly associated with commercial brands in which developers own equity, and incompatible copyright license paradigms, and working together can be nearly impossible.

At Hyperledger we believe we can provide an answer to this.  Let’s bring these different implementation efforts within the same “home”, with a consistent approach to intellectual property, community collaboration standards, overall branding (“Hyperledger ____”) and an encouragement to either work together or usefully differentiate.  If we do this, it will remove barriers to collaboration, encourage developers to find opportunities to work on common code, and address the potential for confusion and wasted duplication of efforts without requiring a top-down single architecture or personality to dominate.

The Model

What does being a project under the Hyperledger banner actually mean? Consider the Apache Software Foundation. Within the ASF, after nearly 20 years of existence as a community of communities, there are nearly 300 different “top-level” software projects. Each has its own charter, developer community, roadmap, development process, etc. They mostly use the same collaboration tools, the same IP framework (the Apache license, and contributor license agreements), they use the same reporting process to the Board of Directors, and they must demonstrate the same sort of community-driven development as established and evaluated by the Apache Incubator. There are several competing projects at the ASF; this is not a problem, as projects that fail to get or sustain a critical level of participation and responsiveness to the needs of its users can simply be retired by the Board when it’s clear they’ve lost it.

There are many parts of this we would not copy verbatim, but it’s a model with proven success at turning new efforts into home runs (see Hadoop, Spark, and countless others), and a clear template understood and trusted by a broad community. In our case we can be a bit different. The Linux Foundation can provide many services that Apache depends upon volunteers to provide, from project coordination and developer collaboration tooling, to hosting and conducting virtual and physical meetings, to worrying about developer contributor agreements and trademarks and other legal issues, and more.

With this as inspiration, and through discussions at the Technical Steering Committee, we’ve come to define a  Hyperledger project as consisting of:

  1. An identified set of software developer “maintainers” who are responsible for the development process, culture, and general technical direction of the project, and engaging the public. The developers can vote in new members and people may retire, but any active project needs at least a few who maintain a heartbeat of activity, if not more.
  2. A bounded set of artifacts, including one or more Git repositories, a bug tracking/issue database, a wiki, a set of mailing lists, and other developer resources (e.g. forum, mailing lists, IRC/Slack channels, etc) tied together as part of the same particular project, and which the maintainers directly and the broader community indirectly are responsible for keeping updated and active.
  3. Dedicated space within Hyperledger to describe the project and the community, with a clear delineation on the relationship and differences with other efforts at Hyperledger (or elsewhere), and an indication that each is equally important to the overall Hyperledger effort.

That’s it. From that, all else can be derived. Ultimately, we want to increase the impact of Hyperledger across the open source blockchain landscape. The increased level of traffic to our community, and the ability to serve many different points across the map, can only enhance our ability to serve the broader blockchain community.

In my next blog post, I will go over what it means to be a part of Hyperledger; the benefits, responsibilities, and the process for launching new projects under Hyperledger.