Axelar Introduces Virtual Machine for Developers Building Cross-Chain Crypto Apps

Axelar describes its new VM as Kubernetes for Web3.

AccessTimeIconFeb 27, 2023 at 7:52 p.m. UTC
Updated Feb 28, 2023 at 12:17 a.m. UTC
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Axelar, the blockchain network that helps developers build cross-chain crypto apps, is expanding its product suite with the introduction of Axelar Virtual Machine (VM) – a generalized environment for building interconnected blockchains.

“Axelar Virtual Machine will allow developers to build their dApps (decentralized apps) once – whether on EVM, Cairo VM, Cosmos or another ecosystem – and run them on all chains,” Axelar said in a statement.

Most blockchains today are walled gardens; apps built on one chain typically lack access to data or services on another. Different blockchains can use different programming languages, and operating across chains generally means using headache-inducing infrastructure like bridges and oracles.

Axelar describes itself as “Stripe for Web3” – just as Stripe provides a one-stop-shop for Web2 developers to bake virtually any banking institution into their apps, Axelar aims to help Web3 developers integrate seamlessly across different chains.

Axelar’s main product offering is a network that was purpose-built to communicate with a growing set of different blockchains. The Axelar network and its accompanying application programming interface (API) help developers build crypto apps that work with assets on all of these chains.

But building cross-chain crypto apps remains complex – each time a developer deploys on a new chain they need to run through a lengthy set-up process and re-tool their code for chain-specific quirks. By Axelar CEO Sergey Gorbunov’s estimate, cross-chain developers spend “70% of their time” prepping their code to deploy on new chains “versus actually coding the application logic.”

“We kind of took a step back and said, ‘OK, how can we simplify all of these issues for the ecosystem?’” Gorbunov told CoinDesk. “This is where the idea of creating an excellent virtual machine – an interoperability layer – came about.”

The Axelar Virtual Machine

A virtual machine is like a software version of a physical computer – it is a place to build applications that read and write data in a shared space. (The Ethereum Virtual Machine, for instance, hosts programs – called smart contracts – that can alter the state of the Ethereum ledger.)

Axelar says its new VM will extend upon the protocol’s cross-chain mission by providing a framework for building blockchains that – like the Axelar network – can natively swap assets and messages between one another. Blockchains connected to Axelar’s new VM will be able to talk to one another, and app builders that develop VM-compatible apps will be able to deploy their software onto VM-compatible chains.

Taking the Stripe analogy a step further, Gorbunov describes the new Axelar VM as a Web3 version of Google’s Kubernetes – a popular toolkit that provides building blocks for developers to spin up and scale web apps.

“Kubernetes allows you to program how you want to deploy your application in the Web2 world. Like what are the regions where it needs to be deployed? What are the application servers? What are the databases behind it?” Gorbunov explained. “Similarly, using the [Axelar] virtual machine, we can let [Web3] developers specify their deployment configurations and then upload their code. And then with one transaction, that code will get pushed to all the chains interconnected through the Axelar protocol.”

Over the next six months as Axelar begins to roll out its VM, Gorbunov says his team will be “working with app developers and protocol developers to build templates” that will allow developers to roll out their apps with certain deployment conditions pre-configured.

Axelar’s most recent fundraising round valued the company at over $1 billion. According to Axelarscan, a tool that tracks Axelar network activity, the protocol is currently connected to 32 different chains – including Ethereum, Polygon, Avalanche and Arbitrum – and has processed $86 million in asset transfers over the past 30 days.

UPDATE (Feb 28, 00:17 UTC): Changes language in the ninth paragraph to more accurately reflect that blockchains "connect" to the VM (Axelar's VM is not a toolkit for building brand new blockchains).


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Sam Kessler

Sam is CoinDesk's deputy managing editor for tech and protocols. He reports on decentralized technology, infrastructure and governance. He owns ETH and BTC.

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