Hyperledger, the open-source business blockchain consortium, just got a little more open.
Founded in 2015 to help businesses more easily spin up enterprise blockchain solutions, the consortium approved a measure last week to create what it's calling Hyperledger Labs. As an effort to bring early-stage startups together with companies that are formally recognized by Hyperledger, the measure stands to accelerate the rate at which new ideas find traction and reach maturity.
"This is a way to expand the Hyperledger community," said Chris Ferris, the chairman of Hyperledger's technical steering committee and chief technical officer of IBM Open Technology.
Companies were previously required to go through a grueling application process to prove the maturity of their code and a commitment of resources before becoming "formally recognized" by the consortium and obtaining "incubation status" for their code.
To give an idea of how rigorous the application process for that status is, there are at least 185 Hyperledger members, but only eight codebases have been formally granted the incubation status.
Of those eight codebases, only three frameworks have graduated to "active status" – Intel-contributed Sawtooth, IBM-contributed Fabric, and Iroha, contributed by Japanese startup Soramitsu, with support from Hitachi and several others.
But this new measure now gives startups access to some of the benefits that only those companies formally recognized – such as IBM, Intel and Monax – had access to.
Perhaps the most important being access to a separate GitHub code repository, where existing Hyperledger members and others can more easily identify the relationship to the consortium, examine the code being pushed to the repository, test it and provide feedback.
In a conversation with CoinDesk, Ferris explained why the labs were necessary in the first place, and in turn, why the measure was unanimously approved by the TSC.
Continuing, Ferris said the measure will be a way to engage those companies more closely, instead of turning them away.
Perks of participation
True, startups could already host a project on the general Hyperledger GitHub. "But then it's sort of lost in all the other thousands and thousands and millions of projects," Ferris said.
Having the opportunity to get code directly in front of Hyperledger members is the key advantage to taking part in the initiative, according to Ferris. And with that increased visibility, Hyperledger members can provide valuable feedback that might possibly accelerate a startup's time to market, he continued.
The code submitted to the Github repository under Hyperledger Labs will not be required to meet any functional requirements, but the startup that pushed the code will also not receive intellectual property rights to identify as a "Hyperledger Project," like those companies with incubation status have.
The code will also not receive legal and security checks before major releases and will not be supported by the official Hyperledger marketing campaign like those with incubation status. But the companies that pushed code will be shared on the Hyperledger.org website.
Overseeing the initiative will be a group of four "Labs stewards" from Hyperledger's TSC, who will give quarterly project reports to the broader community about participant progress, and kill projects that become dormant.
Bas Van Oostveen, a Lab steward and director of engineering at software firm Context Labs BV, told CoinDesk he hopes Hyperledger Labs "will also provide a solid ground for smaller projects to find more contributors and guidance from the greater community."
In spite of the complex process for moving code into incubation, Hyperledger, a non-profit part of the Linux Foundation, has had a number of successes over the past year.
In March, Hyperledger graduated Fabric, Sawtooth and Iroha to active status, setting the stage for the July launch of Fabric 1.0, deemed the consortium's first "production-ready" platform.
The following month, an open-source version of Interledger, developed by Ripple, was submitted to Hyperledger, with the goal of streamlining any number of blockchain integrations.
Ferris said that's just a small taste of what's in store for Hyperledger in 2018. And if Hyperledger Labs does its jobs, the diversity of contributions will only increase.
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