“Blockchain puts a whole new spin on the DevOps process”
Blockchain applications might not be easy to use but that’s about to change. We talked with Andrei Anisimov and Albert Santalo of 8base about the DevOps/blockchain combination, the adoption rate of this technology and how it can become more accessible to developers.
JAXenter: Blockchain developers need a far-reaching skill set which includes proficiency in software engineering, cryptography, mathematics, information security and the list goes on. How can we simplify this process in order to encourage more people to experiment with this technology?
Andrei Anisimov: Often, in order to start experimenting with a given blockchain technology, one needs to spend days studying APIs, documentation, setting up a local development environment, debugging errors, etc. Even more so when building a production application. Not all developers are interested in protocol-level details nor is this the highest value-add activity in any given circumstance. There is a real need today for tools that enable developers to bypass the infrastructure configuration stage and jump straight into prototyping real-world solutions.
JAXenter: How can we make blockchain more accessible to developers?
Andrei Anisimov: Currently, most of the development is happening at the protocol level. Just like in the early days of the internet, developers had to interact directly with the TCP protocol until web browsers were developed and higher-level tools became available for building rich applications without necessarily dealing with low-level protocols. It is clear that in order to scale the adoption of the blockchain, a similar thing must happen. The good news is this has happened before.
Understanding blockchain technology at first can be a daunting task as it involves a combination of software engineering, cryptography, mathematics, information security and data all at the protocol layer, not the application layer most consumers of the internet are used to.
Just like you don’t need to implement video streaming and encoding from scratch every time you add a video to your site, in the future we’ll be able to utilize blockchain for common use cases without re-implementing all the underlying details. This is even more critical given that blockchains deal with value, trust and assets. A software bug introduced in a custom environment can carry significant financial risks.
JAXenter: What is 8base and how can people use it to build and deploy blockchain applications more easily?
Andrei Anisimov: 8base is a platform and ecosystem that drastically accelerates development of business applications that can include blockchain and other technologies. The 8base platform includes advanced tools for developers that simplify building complex backend applications as well as visual tools for non-technical Citizen Developers that allow the creation of applications without coding. At the same time, the blockchain-powered Piece of 8 Ecosystem allows developers all over the world the ability to contribute new capabilities into the open 8base platform in a decentralized manner and earn tokens in exchange for doing so.
The current state of software development results in a lot of redundant efforts, where the same functionality is being built over and over again. Open source software partially solved this redundancy. 8base is adding accretive value to this dynamic by providing a native set of capabilities commonly used in business applications, such as authentication, role-based security, audit, auto-scaling, backups and others, while giving developers in the ecosystem the ability to add new capabilities, share them with the community and earn recurring compensation for usage of those capabilities.
We believe that business will benefit from both traditional centralized cloud approaches and decentralized blockchain protocols that coexist and complement each other. With that in mind, 8base is designed as an open, extensible platform that serves as a glue that abstracts away the complexity of underlying technologies and protocols, providing the shortest path to building robust business applications.
JAXenter: Right now we perceive blockchain and DevOps as two different terms used in different contexts. But do they mix well together? Do they have a shared future?
Andrei Anisimov: DevOps is used to automate and improve the software delivery process. It can be thought of as a conveyor belt that streamlines all activities around building, testing, deploying and monitoring software products. Blockchain puts a whole new spin on this process. In a traditional cloud environment, logic is executed in containers or serverless functions. In the blockchain world, smart contracts serve as a unit of execution.
What’s interesting is that deploying smart contracts by itself is done via a blockchain transaction. As such, deployment and execution of applications on blockchain has properties of a regular blockchain transaction: the ability to track the entire history of deployments out-of-the-box, and the ability to achieve consensus on the deployed code or results of an execution. Further, if the application is decentralized and is managed by a DAO, a voting process might be necessary to deploy a proposed protocol change.
This requires modifications to existing DevOps workflows. It will be interesting to see what products will emerge to address these issues. At 8base, we plan to develop tools to make it straightforward for our users to deploy, monitor and run both on-chain and off-chain applications, making it seamless for the end-user.
JAXenter: Do you think developers’ lack of blockchain skills will no longer matter in the foreseeable future?
Andrei Anisimov: It’s not that the blockchain skills will not matter; they will for sure. It’s more about giving application developers who are not necessarily skilled at the protocol level the ability to integrate blockchains into their solutions. Abstraction and specialization are key to scaling development and adoption of technologies. We still need network and hardware engineers today. However, you are not required to be an engineer to build a production web application because there are products that abstract away this complexity and give you high-level, reliable tools to solve common problems.
As more such tools are developed, blockchain technology will become available to broader masses of developers, which in turn will increase the number of applications on the market and accelerate the mass adoption of this technology.
We believe that business will benefit from both traditional centralized cloud approaches and decentralized blockchain protocols that coexist and complement each other.
JAXenter: Has it become easier to include blockchain in a company’s backbone?
Albert Santalo: Understanding blockchain technology at first can be a daunting task as it involves a combination of software engineering, cryptography, mathematics, information security and data all at the protocol layer, not the application layer most consumers of the internet are used to. Our goal is to democratize blockchain applications so that a regular user can consume it. At 8base, we believe that is an achievable goal. We are working towards making deployment of blockchain technology easy and accessible to business people with limited technical proficiency. We call these folks citizen-developers. We are creating a suite of visual tools that allow people to easily develop applications in minutes and then connect those applications to the blockchain of their choice. We are working with both the Hyperledger Foundation and the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance towards that end.
So yes, very soon, blockchain applications will be much easier to use and therefore the adoption rate will skyrocket. We believe we are well positioned for that growth.
JAXenter: What are the new areas in which blockchain is likely to be used this year?
Albert Santalo: We see blockchain expanding later this year into the antiquated U.S. healthcare system. I founded CareCloud in 2009, a cloud-based practice management and electronic health records (EHR) software, revenue cycle management and patient engagement system. I’m painfully familiar with the patchwork of private companies that handle sensitive patient data. In addition, there are over 1,100 EHR systems in the United States. In essence, this means that your personal, private health data can be in multiple or even dozens of different systems, each with its own level of security, access and technology maturity.
What if there was a better way? What if we the people owned our health record? The blockchain can make that vision a reality. A healthcare blockchain could be used to secure a person’s identity so that only the patient can cryptographically release their data. This same healthcare blockchain could consolidate the interactions of various and disparate healthcare providers onto the patient’s data, making it a single source of truth, that is encrypted and secure. Additionally, ancillary healthcare assets, such as prescriptions, could be issued, tracked, and delivered to the patient via a healthcare blockchain.