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Digital Asset Holdings Details Work on Hyperledger Blockchain Platform

(@pete_rizzo_) | Published on January 25, 2016 at 17:16 GMT
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Digital Asset Holdings has released new details about its long-secretive Hyperledger blockchain platform.

The information follows last month's announcement that the code was to be moved to, and developed in collaboration with, the Linux Foundation, and comes just days after Digital Asset raised more than $50m from 13 financial incumbents.

A number of major companies have already made commitments to what has been called the Linux Foundation's Open Ledger Project, including IBM, JP Morgan and Wells Fargo. At the time, Digital Asset was unique among them, however, as its contributions were to go beyond code in that it would provide the brand "Hyperledger", which it acquired in 2015, for use by the effort.

Less clear were the technical specifics of Digital Asset's approach to blockchain technology.

Founded in 2014, the startup has long categorized itself as a software provider that leverages "distributed infrastructure" to deliver "asset settlement" services to customers, terminology that didn't offer much insight into its work beyond identifying its target market.

However, a statement released from Digital Asset last Friday further details the technical side of the project, which it described as a "enterprise-ready blockchain server with a client API".

The release continued:

"Hyperledger employs an append-only log of financial transactions designed to be replicated at multiple organizations without centralized control."

Digital Asset's writing suggests Hyperledger will be positioned as a "data backbone" that coordinates data across a client's services and a low-level "communication and consensus layer", one that will aim to upgrade the global financial infrastructure.

"The goal of Hyperledger is to allow expansion of the data backbone concept to the multi-organization level," it continued, adding:

"We are open sourcing this project with the belief that as a critical part of the new financial infrastructure, this part of the software stack should be commoditized, collaborative and serve as the robust backbone to value-added applications."

Emphasis on scalability

The release did much to relay the message that Digital Asset views its technology as a complement to the current transaction systems in place at major financial institutions.

"Hyperledger was built with the requirements of enterprise architecture in mind by a team that has worked in financial institutions for decades. It has a highly modular design at both the code and runtime levels to allow for integrations with legacy systems," the release noted.

It went on to state that Hyperledger's networking rules would be configurable "to allow for distinct interoperable consensus groups, each with its own functional and nonfunctional requirements".

Digital Asset indicated the technology is its "latest stable version" of the code, which will now be reviewed by the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger project and its Technical Steering Committee.

It further promised a number of forthcoming improvements, which would include some features released as part of Blockstream's Elements project, which was aimed at increasing functionality on the bitcoin blockchain.

Stance on bitcoin

Notable was Digital Asset's admission that it would draw on concepts from the open-source bitcoin blockchain, a subject its CEO Blyth Masters has been relatively quiet on in her many public appearances.

"Hyperledger utilizes the same UTXO/script-based transactional decision of bitcoin and extends it with features required in financial services," the startup wrote.

The release goes on to state that while it does not believe bitcoin is "suitable for many uses within regulated financial infrastructure", it offers valuable insight into how blockchains should be secured.

"Much of its design and mature cryptography has been withstanding attacks in the wild, protecting tokens with a market cap in the billions of dollars," Digital Asset wrote, adding:

"By conforming to the UTXO model as a de facto standard there is a larger ecosystem of innovation to draw from."

The statements provides insight into how so-called private or permissioned ledger companies are evaluating the bitcoin network as they seek to build alternative systems.

Byzantine fault tolerance

Digital Asset also confirmed it would be utilizing a consensus system that offered an alternative to proof-of-work mining. The process, pioneered in bitcoin, uses a decentralized network of computers to secure the bitcoin blockchain and process transactions.

Digital Asset said Hyperledger includes a "prototype implementation" of the Practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance consensus module, which would serve as an alternative to the mining process.

"We are collaborating with many of the other members of the project on the consensus module to ensure there is a scalable, secure, Byzantine Fault Tolerant consensus protocol that can provide settlement finality for wholesale financial institutions," the release said.

The concept has been in development since the original Hyperledger team began to develop its blockchain system in 2014, and appears to still be undergoing evaluation.

Dan Palmer contributed reporting.

Mysterious library image via Shutterstock

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