Blockchains and Interoperability: Helping Enterprise Step into a Larger World
Richard Brown of R3 recently wrote of his admiration for the public chainvision of Ethereum, but also noted that its current scaling and privacy challenges are too great and that “[o]nly the Corda network can deliver this.”
While we disagree with his conclusion, there is a deeper message in Richard’s comments that we think bodes well for the future of Ethereum. Enterprise blockchain providers like R3 and IBM, long purveyors of “blockchain good, bitcoin bad” pronouncements, are now accepting the inevitability of public chain use cases in industry. The walled gardens of consortium blockchains, though useful as proofs of value, pale next to what a scalable, interoperable blockchain network could do for enterprise. Brown himself clearly acknowledges this:
“The possibilities that open up when these disparate applications, initially deployed by different groups for different purposes, can interoperate in the future are mind-boggling. There’s no genius on our part here, of course: THAT is the obvious implication of the Ethereum vision applied to business.”
On the other hand, Brown does not provide any description of how the global Corda network will work — only vague promises that they have experimented with a few users and will be rolling it out soon. Indicating “wrong” and “right” in a comparison graphic does not count as technical detail. The Ethereum community, conversely, has been transparent and exhaustive with its technical concepts and plans.
Over the past year, some twenty working groups have collaborated on white papers, research, and education on sharding, zero-knowledge proofs, homomorphic encryption, and layer 2 solutions like Raiden and plasma. The documentation for all of this work takes into account extensive comments from leading researchers and is made readily available to the larger Ethereum ecosystem.
Moreover, Brown himself comments that a perfect network is not useful if no one has joined. The public Ethereum network has million of members, and, contrary to Brown’s writing, many enterprises are securely transacting for its base use case of transferring and storing value already.
Nonetheless, we would still take this opportunity to rebut a few of his points:
- Scaling for enterprise. We acknowledge there are currently challenges with public Ethereum scaling, which plasma and sharding are meant to ease. Progress has been steady and deliberate by design, to ensure the safety and resilience of the features on a network that is storing nearly $40B in value. R3 is developing cutting-edge features for a public chain but in an environment with only a few users. This exercise reminds us of Plato’s allegory of the cave: the shadow of threats cannot substitute for the real thing. Moreover, in private networks, Proof-of-Authority (PoA) consensus has been available for over a year and can provide several multiples of greater transaction capacity.
- Enterprise privacy needs. Ensuring that transactions are private is still a challenge on public Ethereum. This is why many enterprises currently use the Quorum implementation, a fork in near parallel with public Geth. In addition, both Quorum and Ethereum have implemented zero-knowledge proofs for transaction level privacy. PegaSys, the protocol engineering team at ConsenSys, is among a number of companies exploring next-generation privacy solutions for Ethereum. We are actively researching and developing solutions for transaction, smart contract, and ledger level privacy to meet enterprise needs. Generally, the volume of activity and innovation on Ethereum should not be underestimated — and we would like to take this opportunity to point to the level of developer mindshare on the network, an advantage compounding over time.
- The pace of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA). Work is going on extensively behind the scenes to develop an official EEA spec, which should be available in the coming months. The EEA spec will enable many of the same valuable use cases envisioned by Brown’s post. It will be built directly on a protocol that has been in public production for over two years.
- Quorum team development. JPMorgan has been a leader in the blockchain space for several years, including its deep engagement with the EEA. Moreover, its open-source positioning from the beginning has allowed an ecosystem to develop around Quorum, both from features in the code base (Constellation) and from many of its leading-edge concepts (IBFT consensus mechanism). We expect the Quorum ecosystem to continue growing.
At ConsenSys, we have developed several use cases for the world’s most innovative central banks, some of whom chose Quorum over R3, as well as in partnership with JPMorgan, and we continue to use Quorum as a basis for experimentation in secure and regulated environments. We are confronting many of the enterprise challenges head-on using Quorum’s frameworks, including settlement finality, private transactions, and security.
Richard Brown’s comments and R3’s changing view are valuable insomuch as they acknowledge the point that we have been making all along: there is no comparison between the use of “blockchain as network” and “blockchain as database.” Our work with the EEA, JPMorgan, and many others — both in the open source community and with blockchain teams at leading enterprises — continues to gain momentum, and cannot be estimated by a cursory glance at a single GitHub repo. Rather, this effort exists across the many channels, project teams, and working groups of the Ethereum community at large.
In summary, we’d like to point R3 to one of our favorite quotes on the power of networks: “That’s good. You’ve taken your first step into a larger world.”
Get in touch with ConsenSys
Consult our blockchain experts
Connect with our team of blockchain experts to explore a solution for your organization. We help enterprises, governments, non-profits, and startups across the globe build, test, and deploy public and private blockchain solutions.
Watch our free Enterprise Ethereum webinars
Learn how your business can benefit from blockchain technology. Our webinars focus on the features and industry applications of Enterprise Ethereum.
Explore our blockchain platform transforming the future of finance
We've built the blockchain operating system powering global commerce and finance. It optimizes business processes, activates digital financial instruments, and deploys production-ready blockchain solutions.
Learn more about Enterprise Ethereum
11 Ways Ethereum Can Benefit Enterprise
Here’s how Ethereum blockchain solutions can future-proof business networks.
6 Questions to Ask When Considering Blockchain Solutions for Enterprise
ConsenSys Chief of Staff Jeremy Millar poses the foundational queries innovative developers and IT managers must ask when looking to integrate blockchain technology into enterprise.
5 Reasons Why Enterprise Ethereum Is so Much More Than a Distributed Ledger Technology
Here’s how Ethereum compares to other blockchain business solutions.
Busting the Myth of Private Blockchains
It’s time to talk about layers.
Designing Trust at Scale: Hiding Enterprise Blockchain Complexity in Products
Questions to ask when integrating design thinking into enterprise blockchain development and some measurements of success.
Blockchains and Interoperability: Helping Enterprise Step into a Larger World
Enterprise blockchain projects are seeing the inevitability of public chain networks.
Enterprise Ethereum is the foundation for many industry blockchain use cases and case studies. Find out more about blockchain applications in banking and finance, digital identity, energy, government, healthcare, insurance, law, media, real estate, retail fashion and luxury, sports, supply chain, and social impact. Explore our blockchain insights and read our case studies:
- komgo: Bringing commodity trade finance into the 21st century
- August Debouzy: Introducing joint security token offering services
- Project i2i: Driving financial inclusion in the Philippines
- Project Khokha: Pushing the limited of interbank payment settlement with blockchain
- Project Ubin: Exploring the potential of distributed ledger technology in central banking
- Zug: Introducing civil identity on the blockchain
- Smart Dubai: Forging a seamless city experience in the UAE
- EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum: Accelerating blockchain innovation in Europe
- Project Unblocked Cash: Revolutionizing humanitarian cash transfers in Vanuatu
- Hala Systems: Saving lives and mitigating war crimes in Syria
- Impactio: Realizing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030
- Luxarity: Tackling unsustainable consumption practices in luxury retail
- Devcon Scholars: Broadening access to the Ethereum ecosystem
Help us build a decentralized future. Find your spot in the Mesh.