#SundayInterview. In 2017 blockchain has gone beyond fintech

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In 2017 the world finally started looking at blockchain and distributed ledgers applications beyond cryptocurrencies. We have seen some early adopters in financial and supply chain world, but definitely 2017 was when we saw great growth – says Marta Pierkarska, Hyperledger’s Director of Ecosystem, in Bithub.pl’s #SundayInterview.

Let’s start with the blockchain landscape in general: would you say that 2017 was a breakthrough year for this technology?

Marta Piekarska: I think in 2017 the world finally started looking at blockchain and distributed ledgers applications beyond cryptocurrencies. We have seen some early adopters in financial and supply chain world, but definitely 2017 was when we saw great growth. Even if you look at Hyperledger – we hit 200 members at the end of the year, and already have more enterprises joining. We are proud of the work our vibrant and diverse community has accomplished, having released the first production build of Hyperledger Fabric, and waiting to do more next year.

I think that 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.

What in 2017 was crucial with regard to blockchain implementations? How was it an improvement on previous years?

MP: It feels like almost every month there is a major breakthrough happening in the Blockchain space. I think we need to give people a chance to experiment as much as possible.

When talking specifically about Hyperledger technologies, a crucial milestone was the announcement of our first production ready framework in July 2017: Hyperledger Fabric 1.0. That was crucial as it attested to our focus on developing code suitable for enterprise use. It was, and continues to be, a true community effort pulling together contributions from more than 100 different developers and 30 different companies. We have since seen substantial uptick in POCs, pilots and production implementations of Hyperledger technologies, which will only continue in 2018.

How did Hyperledger evolve in the previous year? What would you number among your biggest successes?

MP: The overall demand for developers, and developer interest in Hyperledger exploded this past year. 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.This is a huge testament to the developer interest in Hyperledger and a huge accomplishment. This is also a major reason why we are going to develop more training and education material on Hyperledger and distributed ledger technology.

And what are the most prominent projects developed in Hyperledger code and what are they about?

MP: Share your story, a campaign that encourages developers to share how they are using Hyperledger was a very interesting resource for us. Definitely Hyperledger Fabric is still a go-to technology – 104 of submissions were based on it. However, many developers really appreciate Hyperledger Composer – over a half of solutions used it. That is great, given that we are now enabling Composer to work with Hyperledger Sawtooth! We were pleased to see that Hyperledger Iroha and Hyperledger Indy, as well as SETH interested many developers. One of the questions we asked was „Why did you choose Hyperledger?” We were excited to learn that developers value the Linux Foundation and open source nature of the collaboration (60 submissions mentioned it). Another big reason was developing on a permissioned, enterprise blockchain which has no cryptocurrency tied to it: over 70% of submitters mentioned this as the main argument.

Excitingly, we had submissions in all fields: supply chain, voting mechanisms and healthcare applications were the three major areas. Not fintech, surprisingly! Although, looking at where we grow – that’s where our new membership base is coming from, mostly. Looks like the time has come for non-financial industries to adopt blockchain solutions.

Although most stories are on POC or pilot levels, we still have some in deployment. Many had media coverage, independent of us. Eager developers from NuArca used Hyperledger Fabric to deploy a proxy voting solution in collaboration with American Stock & Transfer. They will be releasing their production version in October.

Main Street Mission is a nonprofit that distributes food and has programs that empower individuals in poverty. They have developed a token system that allows individuals to exchange tokens called Barts in order share and receive services. Individual would receive Barts in return for taking courses, volunteering and helping at Main Street Mission. Also a new person that came to the Mission would receive some initial Barts. Now, they are converting the food pantry to a shopping model and people that need food can buy it with their Barts. Participants can also transfer them to help others or to pay them for services. The hope is to create a small cashless economy.

How would you compare Hyperledger to Ethereum and other blockchain platforms? What are the key differences between them?

MP: Hyperledger is an open consortium bringing together a community of organizations and individual developers to establish protocols and standards to improve the performance and reliability of blockchain technology. We aim to provide tools for communities to build their own chains, rather than driving everyone to one chain. We envision a world of many chains, some public like the crypto-currencies and some „permissioned.” The end goal is to develop a common distributed ledger technology that is shared, transparent and decentralized.

Ethereum is many different things: a cryptocurrency, a technology stack (which can be used without the currency in an enterprise), and a set of technology standards. Hyperledger has a project, Hyperledger Burrow, that implements the Ethereum Virtual Machine standard, and can be used in enterprise environments.  But we don’t have anything to do with the cryptocurrency side of them.

Corda is another ledger platform, like Hyperledger Fabric or Hyperledger Sawtooth, and has some architectural differences that may make it more suitable for certain applications. It was written for the financial industry in mind.  But there isn’t enough usage out there yet to really tell where its strengths are over the alternatives.

It is important to note, Hyperledger incubates and promotes a range of business blockchain technologies, including distributed ledger frameworks, smart contract engines, client libraries, graphical interfaces, utility libraries and sample applications. Some include: Hyperledger Fabric, Hyperledger Sawtooth, Hyperledger Burrow, Hyperledger Iroha, among others. You can view all the Hyperledger projects and tools here https://www.hyperledger.org/projects.

What are your forecasts for the 2018: both for blockchain and Hyperledger? Where’s the key focus on, what are the biggest trends in the the industry, the next steps in blockchain development?

MP: In 2018, we will hopefully 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. There will be 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. We really want to focus on modularity and connecting developers, enterprises and the non-tech world, which can benefit from blockchain technologies.

We think the interoperability above the layer of the DLT will be the focus for everyone. Looking for simple and open cross-blockchain approaches is a must, and we have been excited to announce Hyperledger Quilt. We hope to engage a vibrant community around it. Our projects will explore integration and interoperability with each other even further, allowing a greater number of options to be available to developers. We can’t wait to see how we can work closer with the developers and wide community to collaborate and make blockchain great.

Interview by Przemyslaw Cwik
e-mail: p.cwik/at/bithub.pl