Developer Showcase Series: Cody Burns, Accenture

Our Developer Showcase blog series serves to highlight the work and motivations of developers, users and researchers collaborating on Hyperledger’s incubated projects. Next up is Cody Burns, a blockchain architect at Accenture. Let’s see what he has to say!

What advice would you offer other technologists or developers interested in getting started working on blockchain? 

The best time to get into blockchain was likely 9 years ago, the next best time is today. The world of distributed computing and specifically blockchain is rapidly growing up. This is a great time to take the leap into the technology that the next 20 years of the internet will be built upon. Awesome tools and new languages are being developed and rolled out every day. I really see these as what will be the formative years of the next generation of technology and it is being built by the best and the brightest from around the globe today.

The only thing holding you back from getting in on the ground floor is yourself. The open source projects and communities are always looking for help, there are hundreds of hours of video online, and many free and paid courses are available to you right now. Enterprise companies are really leaning forward in the space, Accenture has dedicated an entire floor of their innovation center in Ireland, known as the Dock, specifically to blockchain tech and regularly hosts hack-a-thons and meetups.

Finally, I would strongly recommend everyone avoid the temptation of becoming a “trader” or becoming overly fixated on the money side of the tech. The public blockchain space has become lousy with developers who, through no fault of their own, became rich quickly through purely the adoption of blockchain technology. The fact that the tech you are working on becomes valuable doesn’t mean you are suddenly Gorden Gekko. It means you were lucky. Technology is about exploration and learning, not lambos and getting rich quick.

Cody Burns, blockchain Architect at Accenture

Give a bit of background on what you’re working on, and let us know what was it that made you want to get into blockchain?

I’ve been involved with applied cryptography since around the year 2000 and have always loved the concept of encrypted communication systems and peer to peer networks. I joined the Marines out of high school and was assigned as a 2841, Ground electronic repairman, so anything electronic in the military you could talk to or through I ended up working on, learning about, and teaching others. After I left the military I went to college, and along the way found bitcoin and fell in love. I continued learning about it and expanded to other projects like ethereum and ethereum classic and, after getting my MBA, I decided it was time to move into enterprise level systems and began looking for leaders in the technology field with exposure to fortune 500 companies. I found what I was looking for when I joined Accenture.

Here at Accenture, we have been working with enterprise clients on projects solving problems that have been pain points for decades; logistics, health & safety, and risk management. Companies are learning that some areas they traditionally viewed as impossible to collaborate on are now within their reach since we can cryptographically verify with a single source of truth. We are exploring proof of concepts with a wide variety of industry players, from food safety and provenance with Campbells soup, global identity solutions with the World Economic Forum, and helping streamline freight bill audit and pay in the oil field services arena. I am currently working on a project that will be presented at theWorld Economic Forum as part of a global traveler identification system. Very cool stuff.

What do you think is most important for Hyperledger to focus on in the next year?

This is a very exciting time for Hyperledger. Over the next 12 months, I think the ecosystem will see many of the PoCs it partners have been working on move into larger scale roll outs. From conversations and summits I’ve been involved with, I can say many enterprise companies are very interested in the technology and are looking for the right opportunities and partners to move forward.

I do think the two largest barriers that will bring the largest adoption improvements are oracle & api integration and improving the overall user experience. As companies begin to interact more and more with blockchains they will be looking for the best pathway to onboard their legacy data into the new systems. Making this seamless should be everyone’s priority number one. Another shortcoming in the blockchain space in general is the poor design of UI/UX. I’m very comfortable using the cli for nearly everything I do on my system. But that experience doesn’t translate well to mass adoption.

As Hyperledger’s incubated projects start maturing and hit 1.0s and beyond, what are the most interesting technologies, apps, or use cases coming out as a result from your perspective?

Intel’s Proof of Elapsed time consensus algorithm being integrated with Seth on the Hyperledger Sawtooth project is exciting. It has the potential of making both public and enterprise chains much more energy efficient without relying on overly convoluted game theory systems to solve leader election.  

What’s the one issue or problem you hope blockchain can solve?

I hope that we can continue to improve on the inefficiencies that have been left over from the pre-internet era In the enterprise environment; wasteful data storage practices, mis-aligned industry standards on the same project, and lost revenue due to time-to-process to name a few. Having an immutable ledger tying together industry players is something that has never been capable before at the scale blockchain allows for.   

Where do you hope to see Hyperledger and/or blockchain in 5 years?

Silently and securely grinding away in the background of many enterprise networks. The industry is in its wild teenage years and needs to embrace the fact that its ok to be boring. Reliable systems are awesome. Focus on formal verification of code, mitigation of risk through bug, and scaling. For me the true measure of success will be when blockchains are as exciting as databases are today. They will become trust machine in the background obediently connecting the worlds logistics, finance, and commerce systems together.

What is the best piece of developer advice you’ve ever received?

Find something you are passionate about and never give it up. I love open source communities and specifically the blockchain communities, I have been fortunate enough to be able to work on public and enterprise systems and love every minute of it. Do not get too focused on the 1% of disagreement that you have in the communities. Everyone is there because they are as passionate about the tech as you are.

What technology could you not live without?

I use my Trezor for everything. U2f and key management. It is the must have device for blockchain architects and crypto enthusiasts everywhere.