Back to our blog series that focuses on the motivations and backgrounds of the individuals that make up Hyperledger’s Technical Steering Committee (TSC). The TSC is a group of community-elected developers drawn from a pool of active participants and is a core element of Hyperledger’s Open Governance model. The TSC is responsible for all technical decisions – from which features to add, how to add them and when, among others.
Now let’s introduce the next Hyperledger TSC member, Hart Montgomery from Fujitsu . Let’s see what he had to say about Hyperledger, his role in the TSC and the community!
Describe your current role, background and why you wanted to be a part of the Hyperledger TSC?
I’m a cryptographic researcher. I consider myself very lucky to have a day job where my main responsibility involves coming up with new cryptographic protocols for practical applications. A typical day for me usually involves more work with a pencil and paper (or whiteboard and marker) than coding.
There are several reasons why I wanted to participate in the TSC. Most importantly, I wanted to help out on issues regarding security. I want to continue to help ensure that rigorously proven/tested crypto standards and consensus protocols are used and that we as a community can have confidence in the security of Hyperledger projects. Perhaps somewhat selfishly, I want to make it as easy as possible to do research and development in the blockchain space. To sum it all up, I think it’s beneficial to have someone with an academic crypto background on the TSC, and that’s my role.
How are you or your company currently using Hyperledger technologies or how do you plan to?
Fujitsu is using Hyperledger in many different aspects of its business, and will probably use it for even more applications in the future. Hyperledger will be used in everything from our cloud unit K5 to our fintech business to our healthcare offerings. I like to say that blockchain (or, in our case, Hyperledger) is needed when you want the functionality of a distributed database where the users don’t have a trusted central authority on which they can all rely. For an IT company like Fujitsu, this primitive turns up in a large number of business applications, so Hyperledger is important to a large amount of business units in Fujitsu.
What are the benefits of Hyperledger’s open governance model?
I think the (upcoming) Introduction to Hyperledger paper will make this argument better than I can here. If you’d like a sneak peek, visit the whitepaper github (https://github.com/hyperledger/hyperledgerwp).
What advice would you offer other technologists or developers interested in getting started working on blockchain?
This is a question I get asked a lot! I think it’s extremely useful for people looking to get involved in development to have a good understanding of the foundations of the technology. I’ve seen quite a few blockchain proposals where a lack of understanding of cryptography or consensus algorithms has led to serious problems. To that end, I’d highly recommend things like the Stanford cryptography course (taught by the inestimable Dan Boneh, with all course materials available for free at https://crypto.stanford.edu/~dabo/courses/OnlineCrypto/).
What’s the one thing you hope to accomplish by being a part of Hyperledger’s TSC?
I have two main goals for what I’d like to accomplish on the TSC: ensure that we maintain best security practices while using cutting-edge technology and help to bridge the gap between industry and academia in the permissioned blockchain space. I think maintaining good security (and particularly ensuring that our distributed ledgers are algorithmically sound) speaks for itself.
I’m of the opinion that both the people and the techniques of the world of academic cryptography and security can be incredibly useful for building blockchain platforms and I would like to see more of both of them involved in Hyperledger. On the other hand, blockchain is probably one of the few areas of computer science where practice has gotten a bit ahead of some of the academic research. I think it’s important to accurately convey to the academic research community where we are and what we consider some of the important problems in the space to be.
What’s a missing feature or spec that you hope Hyperledger can add in the soon future?
I’d really like to see a shared crypto library that allows all of the projects to use the latest implementations of things like cutting-edge zero knowledge proof techniques and SNARKs, as well as modular calls for existing standardized crypto. We don’t need three different people to build implementations of threshold signatures, for instance—we could save effort if we only had one library, and improve security as well. This would hopefully make it much easier for developers of projects to interact with crypto primitives and save people working on and developing Hyperledger a lot of effort. I’m planning on working on this in the near future.
What’s the biggest struggle or challenge you see Hyperledger having to overcome?
Charles Kettering once said, “If you want to kill any idea in the world, form a committee on it.” While a cross-industry collaboration like Hyperledger offers a wide variety of benefits, we have to make sure that we can continue to move forward and make good progress despite the many differences of opinion held by Hyperledger members and contributors. As more and more companies and people join Hyperledger (a very good thing!) it could become more and more difficult to move the projects forward. For instance, Bitcoin has seen struggles due to large differences of opinion amongst key stakeholders. While I think the current governance structure (and the people involved in it) are excellent, I view maintaining cohesion as the biggest challenge for Hyperledger in the long run.
What use cases are you most excited about with Hyperledger and/or blockchain?
As a cryptographer, I’m most excited about applications that have interesting and nontrivial confidentiality and privacy requirements, for the obvious reason that they typically involve novel uses of cryptography. There are quite a few applications that involve heavy cryptography, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to work on them.