Can your business “go blockchain”? You bet it can. Just follow these seven easy steps, distilled from the Eris Industries distributed systems cookbook, and you’re rolling:
- (Re)Assess the landscape.
- (Re)Define the problem.
- Put the user first.
- Make it free. Revolutionary software should be free.
- Engage your best.
- Join the open-source movement and save the world (and your business).
- Dive on in. The water’s great!
Step 1: (Re)Assess the landscape.
Let’s speak frankly. I can see why the cryptocurrency/blockchain space can be hard for enterprise, the public sector and the non-profit sector to come to grips with.
But let me venture an alternative view: maybe it’s not business that needs to get real about blockchain people, but rather it’s blockchain people that need to get real about business. By way of example, I offer my experience with the popular industry podcast, Let’s Talk Bitcoin, over the summer.
The week the podcast was recorded, the New York State Department of Financial Services had issued its first draft of the “BitLicence” Bitcoin regulation proposal. When asked what I thought of it, I basically said that it shouldn’t be a surprise that businesses dealing in Bitcoin - which functions like money - should be regulated like businesses which deal in money.
It was, I said, a simple matter of consistency.
When asked to sum up how one could accept the idea that financial regulation was too restrictive at the same time as accepting that such laws should be followed, I said:
Your politics and how you then approach your philosophy of change have to be two separate things. If you’re going to be a political actor who gets taken seriously, if you’re going to be working in commerce, you have to compromise on what you do and your approach to these problems.
This was not a crowd-pleaser. As one commenter put it:
[Preston] knows full well that the legal and political systems have been captured and corrupted by the fascist central banking cartel. We don’t need their help, we don’t need their permission, we never did.
Regulation has been fact of life since human beings first settled in towns and cities. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon, whether we like it or not - and Eris Industries’ Distributed Application Software Stack has been designed with this in mind.
Step 2: (Re)Define the problem.
Can you get the utility of a blockchain in your business,
without needing to marshal vast quantities of computing power to secure your blockchain through “mining,” and
without being exposed to excess regulatory or operational risk?
You bet you can. Why?
Because that’s what business thinking demands. So that’s what we built.
Eris Industries takes a firmly commercial approach to blockchain technology. Then again, we’re not your typical blockchain startup.
We’re headquartered in London, the beating heart of international economic activity in many industries. Our three-man founder team includes two lawyers (being Casey Kuhlman, our CEO, a regulatory lawyer, software engineer and former U.S. Marine; and yours truly, a securitisation and derivatives bod by training and current fellow of the Adam Smith Institute). This isn’t our first rodeo.
Which means that, before starting our business, we took a hard look at
- how blockchains are being used,
- how blockchains should be used.
Forget about currency. Forget about payments. Forget about politics. And above all, forget this idea that to be useful, a blockchain can’t have an administrator. Blockchain is about infrastructure and data. So start with data. You can work your way up to payments and value from there - and once you do, you’ll have a much more secure and inexpensive software stack backing it up.
Blockchains are authentication databases possessing unique properties. They can be used completely legally in mainstream applications if their consensus and security parameters are correctly defined.
We like Bitcoin and the others, and hope they succeed, but we recognise that their use currently involves high levels of uncertainty and risk - legal/regulatory, reputational, and operational. So we recognise that no corporate, charitable foundation, or public sector body of consequence is going to engage with this technology as more than a curiosity until they can do so while containing their risk within acceptable thresholds.
In most cases, risk control means control of the application, because what cannot be broken - as with Bitcoin - cannot be fixed. An application-specific chain such as Eris Industries’ Thelonious blockchain design can be parameterised to provide most of this utility while removing much of this risk.
We know that as complexity in a software stack rises, costs rise even faster. Blockchains have already demonstrated powerfully that they can reduce reliance on physical infrastructure to simplify organisational complexity to scale. Businesses, public sector bodies, and charities do not want to wait for regulatory change to accommodate “Blockchain 1.0” protocols in order to benefit from their usefulness. With Eris, they don’t have to.
For many applications, full decentralization - or the use of one jack-of-all-trades “master chain” - creates more commercial problems than it solves.
No single piece of software in your stack today tries to solve every conceivable commercial problem you face all at once. Blockchains are no different.
Step 3: Put the user first.
A. Eris isn't a cryptocurrency.
We haven’t built a currency. We never will. And we’ve made it so you don’t need to create one either to secure your Eris deployment.
B. So what's the difference between a cryptocurrency and Eris?
Cryptocurrencies are DApps utilising blockchain databases to secure themselves by incentivising “miners” to process transactions and find blocks. This process is run in accordance with rigid, pre-selected rules, in exchange for valuable tokens. Generally they are used as an alternative value transfer protocol.
Eris is a Distributed Application Software Stack which helps developers build useful blockchain-backed DApps, for any purpose, and in respect of any data-driven relationship they can define.
Thanks to EI’s original GenDoug smart contract kernel, you don’t need tokens or mining incentives to secure a Thelonious chain, you can set its security, consensus and distribution parameters to whatever you wish, and you can change those parameters over time without needing to effect a hard fork, as these parameters (customarily hard-coded into the protocol) are now stored in smart contracts, instead.
Eris is a developer platform, not a single blockchain. You’re in control of your blockchains and applications. Not us.
A new networking protocol developed from scratch in-house, scheduled for an early 2015 release, will be incorporated into Thelonious to allow Eris-deployed blockchains to work effectively within existing enterprise routing and firewall infrastructure.
We’re also publishing our smart contract library on or shortly after launch – which we call the Eris Standard Library - which we will update (and hopefully you will too - open source!) as time goes on.
In short, an Eris deployment is all about your needs.
C. Designed for developers (and industry, too).
As a result, we are free to make a blockchain platform that works for you.
Eris Industries sees a world where there are not hundreds of blockchains, but millions, each helping to secure and automate the data-driven relationship they were created to manage. Through the Stack’s Decerver web browser core, you now have a platform to build as many blockchains as you can handle, each one tailored to your exact specifications, rather than needing to use a lone blockchain built to ours.
Step 4: Revolutionary software should be free.
What we’ve built is a platform which allows you to easily build databases to securely and autonomously manage any data-driven relationship you can define:
- simple representations of monetary value,
- dynamic assets,
- intellectual property,
- title deeds,
- social networks,
- the interactions between driverless cars and traffic lights,
All made possible by running on cryptographically-secure scripts called smart contracts. Smart contracts can be designed to manage this data within well-established legal architecture, in much the same way as databases today transfer ownership and other interests entirely in accordance with legal rules.
The web browser core of Eris, which we call the decentralised server or Decerver, allows you to interface with many blockchains or other APIs as you need with ease, all through one Decerver client.
So, I hear you ask, how do I start?
Step 5: Engage your best.
Find your best and brightest - we’re talking developers, engineers, and data scientists - and give them a R&D budget and a mandate to work with this stuff for a year. You won’t regret it.
In our experience, businesses looking at blockchains have done a lot of talking - and thinking - without actually doing. Don’t let politics relating to business unit budgeting get in your way: tech moves too quickly. There’s no time like the present.
Your people are your most powerful resource: you know them well, and no-one in the world knows your business needs and your systems better than they. Give them the latitude to be creative and you’ll see the impact on your bottom line.
Step 6: Join the open-source movement and save the world (and your business).
You’re reading this because you know that you need a way to simplify your complex, layered software stack and build new systems that you can deploy and improve with ease and without incurring vast infrastructure costs.
Open-source allows your teams and others to collaborate to build new technologies that will help keep your entire industry relevant in the digital age, or for industry challengers to maximise their disruptive potential. Put differently, get busy coding, or get busy dying.
You also know that purely commercial considerations, such as reducing back- and middle-office overheads, are not the only thing on the table.
Philanthropic and international development considerations such as financial inclusion, reducing corruption or providing secure communications for people living under oppressive regimes are all on the table with this technology. Bringing low-cost, effective and transparent market infrastructure to developing countries is a win-win for everyone.
That’s why we’ve built Eris and our Decerver web browser core as open-ended and non-prescriptive as possible, capable of operating within and under the control of a corporation, charity or public sector body. Our platform will allow your developers to solve whatever problems they can define.
And from our side of things, we promise that we’ll keep working to make Eris better.
Step 7: Dive on in. The water's great!
The good news is, the Eris Industries platform is open-source, so your people can hop into our GitHub Repo, fork, commit, and contribute with others to their heart’s content.
Eris Industries isn’t a dev shop. We can, however, can make ourselves available to get you started and to offer our support.
We’re looking forward to working with you.