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CGI's Michael O'Loughlin and Kittredge Carswell

It began with nine CGI employees holed up at Ripple's San Francisco headquarters.

Spread out in two separate rooms, the team of engineers, developers, architects, testers and analysts worked side-by-side with the distributed ledger startup's staff for a week to integrate Ripple's DLT solutions into its infrastructure. And that was just the beginning of work that culminated at Sibos with the launch of CGI's new Ripple validator node.

Revealed on Tuesday in Geneva, the validator node gives the $14.1bn company a firsthand look into how a live distributed ledger network operates, offering a window into how their clients might be able to capitalize on Ripple's blockchain-inspired real-time payments solution.

"It's a third eye," CGI's head of innovation Michael O’Loughlin told CoinDesk at Sibos last week.

To O'Loughlin, the node represents a shift in perspective from being able to explain to his clients how a distributed ledger operates to being able to describe what it feels like.

But according to Ripple's vice president of product, Asheesh Birla, the node also gives CGI influence.

Birla told CoinDesk:

"By actually being part of the network through a validating node they can be part of the roadmap, they can give us features and direction to the way they want the project to go."

A public declaration

According to O'Loughlin, the node is also a sign to CGI's 2,500 clients that his company is committed to distributed ledgers and will continue to be so if they decide to start building their own applications.

But the announcement that CGI is running a node is about more than just publicity or earning its client's trust to those involved. Rather, it's a part of the network's approach to consensus building.

Once a node is set up, its manager helps determine the validity of transactions based on certain protocol requirements. Specifically, a validator groups transactions into ordered units to help prevent the simultaneous spending of the same funds in two different places, also called double spending.

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Ripple consensus

Unlike the bitcoin network, Ripple's consensus algorithm relies in part on trust.

To help ensure the accuracy of the most recent version of the ledger — the last closed ledger (LCL), validators curate a list of other nodes they believe are unlikely to defraud them.

Only transactions on a validator's Unique Node List (UNL) will be confirmed and the main two factors Ripple encourages operators to consider when building that list are a node's past performance and the operator's identity.

Though it is free to set up a validator, the only other companies or institutions that have publicly announced they have done so are Microsoft and MIT. There are currently a total of 122 nodes (none of which require any of the network's native XRP cryptocurrency to operate).

The intersection

Since building one of the earliest Ripple proofs-of-concept in 2014, CGI has expanded its work with the distributed ledger into new areas.

In July, CGI announced that it had integrated Ripple into its Intelligent Gateway service, used for sending Swift transaction messages.

Then, at Sibos earlier this week CGI announced it has launched a blockchain laboratory for its customers to experiment with using Ripple for trade finance.

The man in charge of that blockchain lab, vice president of consulting, Kittredge Carswell, said the Intelligent Gateway service is actually a nexus between CGI's trade finance work and the payments-related projects.

Carswell described how his trade effort would intersect with the work of O’Loughlin's payments team:

"We also will be able to build out other application layers there for blockchain solutions and that we provide the integration layer through our intelligent gateway. This is the same gateway that’s also being used in the payments practice to add Ripple as a payment channel."

Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Ripple. 

Image via Michael del Castillo for CoinDesk


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