Old Flames, New Code: Ripple and Hyperledger Reunite for Interledger Effort

Michael del Castillo
Sep 14, 2017 at 13:45 UTC
FEATURE

Ripple and Hyperledger might soon get a chance to reignite an old flame.

Following an early promise by Ripple to contribute code to the Hyperledger blockchain consortium's open-source repository, the two organizations parted ways over differing opinions on blockchain design. Whereas Hyperledger's members largely focused on private blockchains that required permission to join, Ripple instead created hybrid technology featuring a cryptocurrency more reminiscent of a public blockchain.

But now, the star-crossed companies have found an unusual Cupid who may have what it takes to finally bring them together: NTT Data, a Japanese system integration company.

The story begins with NTT Data (through its subsidiary Everis) working on a new version of Ripple's open-source Interledger protocol beginning in July 2016. The plan was to reimplement Interledger using the Java computing language, since Interledger is currently only available in JavaScript.

When Ripple learned of NTT Data's efforts to rebuild the platform, the company was not only intrigued, it wanted to help.

Together, the companies have submitted the results of that collaboration to Hyperledger, of which NTT Data is a founding member. If admitted, the new Interledger implementation could mean not just a new language for developers to build with, but a bridge to connect all of Hyperledger's open-source codebases, including Fabric, Sawtooth and Burrow.

In an exclusive interview with CoinDesk, Ripple CTO Stefan Thomas expressed enthusiasm about the effort, yet also relayed that there are final obstacles to be overcome to finally make things official with Hyperledger.

Thomas said:

"We are supporting that effort, but there's still a lot of decisions to be made."

Marrying blockchains

Described in a November 2015 white paper as a bridge between traditional banking ledgers, public blockchains and private blockchains, Interledger has evolved into a product capable of conducting a single transaction across as many as seven different ledgers.

And with that, NTT Data increasingly saw it as a way to connect its clients to a diverse set of the "world's existing payment networks," according to Everis blockchain program manager Isaac Arruebarrena.

In interview with CoinDesk, Arruebarrena explained how NTT Data, which last year conducted $15.7 billion (17 trillion Japanese yen) in sales, grew from being a founding member of Hyperledger in 2015, to identifying Interledger as "one of the cornerstones" of its corporate strategy.

"Our main goal is to become the best technology partner for the companies we work with," said Arruebarrena, adding that, while there is a complicated history between Interledger and Hyperledger, he's dedicated to bringing the two together.

He said:

"We are determined to contribute to the evolution of the Interledger protocol in order to enable interoperability between distributed ledger platforms and financial institutions' existing ledgers."

The fun begins

However, several steps must be accomplished before NTT Data moves Ripple's proposal into Hyperledger, according to the project's executive director, Brian Behlendorf.

First is the formal selection of a name, which is currently the unwieldy "Hyperledger Interledger-Java," taken from the platform's key distinguishing trait.

But Hyperledger members are currently discussing how to make the platform's name more accessible, and possibly more easily trademarked. Alternatives include Hyperledger Connect, Hyperledger Liquid, Hyperledger QuILt (IL standing for Interledger) and Hyperledger Jill (a portmanteau of Java and Interledger).

Outside the collaborative naming process, the technical steering committee is now evaluating the code and could accept or reject it as soon as next week, but likely no later than "another few weeks," said Behlendorf.

Once the code is approved, he said, the collaboration will begin the onboarding process as an incubating project, adding, "and then the fun begins."

Behlendorf concluded:

"As Interledger appears to be a compelling way to build bridges across chains to transfer messages and assets, it's something I personally really hope to see accepted into Hyperledger."

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

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