Blockchain startup Monax has joined Hyperledger, the Linux Foundation-led open-source consortium building a wide-range of enterprise-grade solutions based on the technology.
While Hyperledger now counts among its members more than 100 companies, Monax’s admission to the consortium makes it the first to also submit a codebase with an ethereum virtual machine, the component that handles state computation on the public ethereum blockchain.
Following news that Monax had also joined the stealthy Enterprise Ethereum consortium, the announcement today is part of a larger push in the blockchain industry to prepare ethereum for primetime. (JP Morgan, Santander and BNY Mellon are reportedly among the banks and financial firms so far involved in that effort.)
In conversation with CoinDesk, Monax CEO and co-founder Casey Kuhlman said that, if his company’s codebase is accepted to Hyperledger, it would not only accelerate ethereum development for business applications, but also give Hyperledger’s members a chance to steer the product's future direction.
"If we are successful in passing through the incubation process, we would be the first ethereum virtual machine compatible blockchain ... within the Hyperledger umbrella project."
Preparing for change
Founded in 2014 as Eris Industries, the company (whose group of followers is known as the 'Marmot Den') formally changed its name to Monax last year. It offers both a command-line interface toolkit for blockchain lifecycle management, as well as the Eris DB blockchain client, which will soon rebrand.
One of the organizations that has experimented with Monax's open-source blockchain tools is Swift, the interbank messaging platform currently considering building blockchain into its payments platform.
At the moment, seven other projects have been accepted by Hyperledger for incubation, including Sawtooth Lake contributed by Intel; Cello, contributed by JP Morgan; and Fabric, contributed by IBM. R3's Corda and Axoni's Axcore are also expected to be contributed.
Prior to Monax’s preparations to join Hyperledger, the startup's Eris DB platform had been licensed under GNU’s General Public License. But as part of the preparations to be formally admitted to Hyperledger, Monax reconfigured its offering, placing it under the Apache 2 license.
Based on the change, previous open-source contributors to the Monax codebase have submitted agreements to license future derivatives works under the Apache 2 license, Kuhlman said.
Also as part of the possible integration, Monax expects to finalize the rebrand of its software – possibly including a community-driven vote on the new name.
"We want to give a clean IP slate to the Linux foundation," said Kuhlman.
But like many other companies working with blockchain, Monax isn’t in only the one single consortium.
Just yesterday, the Connecticut-based startup announced it was also among the founding members of Enterprise Ethereum, a secretive consortium rumored to be launching soon.
According to Kuhlman, being in multiple consortia is core to what it means to work with open-source software on which anyone with the skill-set can build.
In fact, he positioned his firm's joining of Hyperledger as just the latest step in an evolution Monax and many other companies are experiencing where they cease owning an application in the traditional sense, and instead "participate in an application".
If Monax is successful in its incubations with Hyperledger and in Ethereum Enterprise, said Kuhlman, "then our codebase essentially acts as a bridge between these two large communities".
One small step for ethereum
The announcement today is part of a larger announcement scheduled for later this month, in which Hyperledger is expected to unveil a number of new members.
The news, planned to be formally confirmed on 28th February, follows months of searching by executive director Brian Behlendorf for an ethereum virtual machine to join the consortium, he told CoinDesk.
Since at least September, Behlendorf said, he’s been sorting through multiple applications "looking for the right project", along with other members of the Hyperledger technical steering committee (TSC).
Over and above just the “quality” of the code, Behlendorf indicated that he and the TSC were looking for whether a prospective codebase might "complement" the other technologies, and how committed is the team behind it to working with other companies during a possible integration process.
"This seems to have that potential,” said Behlendorf. "And it’s very much focused on implementation, on running code that now will potentially benefit from having an even larger audience of developers and users around it.”
Rite of passage
Now that the code has been prepared, the next step is for a formal written proposal to be submitted to the TSC during one of its weekly open meetings.
From there, Behlendorf anticipates it might take as little as a week or two from the time of submission to final approval.
Once the Monax codebase is accepted by the governing board and subjected to final ratification, it will be available side-by-side with the other projects currently in incubation.
Speaking about the possible applications of Monax in Hyperledger, Behlendorf concluded:
"You can use it in ethereum. But maybe you can use it on Fabric, you maybe could use it on top of Sawtooth Lake. We’ll find out."
Marmot image via Shutterstock