“The implementation of a blockchain solution may require major changes in a company’s processes”
Francis Nadeau, CEO at HydraLab, believes that in order to implement a blockchain solution, companies might have to change their processes. We caught up with him to talk about HydraLab’s approach, how it provides an easy to deploy cross-platform blockchain infrastructure and what’s next for this technology.
Battle of the blockchains
JAXenter: HydraLab has just launched its private data-driven blockchain Hydra Network™. Why do companies need it to create their own blockchain network?
Francis Nadeau: HydraLab has been working with the FintechLab, an observatory focusing on the impact of new financial technology for more than a year now to analyze and define real business needs related to blockchain technology.
The main needs identified in companies are to maintain control over the functionalities of the network, to have a permissioned ledger, to have access to a range of metrics concerning the use of the network, to be able to easily transfer information from the application layer to the blockchain network, to have the ability to categorize information and be able to encrypt different types of large data in the network without the need of a token.
To meet these needs, the HydraLab team developed the Hydra Network™, a private data-driven network. This private network for business and the complementary tools developed by the firm forms a framework that expands the range of opportunities for use of blockchain technology. In addition, our approach with vagrant, a lightweight, reproducible, and portable development environments, provides an easy to deploy cross-platform blockchain infrastructure.
HydraLab brings upfront:
- A private data-driven distributed ledger.
- A predictive data-console with relevant metrics. A smooth implementation using vagrant.
- A configurable permission-based consensus.
- A best-in-class enterprise-grade blockchain, the Hydra Network™.
Why use a private network?
On a public network already in place, if a company wishes to add a parameter or a feature, all participants in the network would have to agree. Imagine multiple competitors on the same network who do not want to authorize (vote) competitor xyz to add functionality. For government or large companies, it will be much more logical for them to use a private distributed network to retain some power and an overview of their network. Besides, as you know, during the last year we saw many new forks of public blockchain (a new copy of the blockchain). So, for company’s purposes, it’s practically impossible for them to plan these forks of the code and to depend on them.
Moreover, many public networks work with a token, which may be good for some projects. However, as Gartner pointed out in one of its webinars, the blockchain-as-a-service which sets up operational costs according to a ratio multiplied by the value of the token is not always unanimous. It is impossible to budget the operational costs of the network in the future. If the token is worth $1000 today, in 3 years will the token be at $2000, $5000 or $10,000?
JAXenter: Why compete with Hyperledger? What does HydraLab have to offer that Hyperledger does not?
Francis Nadeau: We know very well that the private blockchain market will explode, medium & large companies will want to keep some control and will also want to work with a solution that meets their needs. The Hydra Network™ is not a one-sauce blockchain, HydraLab sees it as a framework for enterprise blockchain solutions.
So as strengths / differentiating features, we offer a private data-driven network, the Hydra Network™, which allows to encrypt and categorize information using our own proof-of- storage consensus. In addition, the HydraLab team also integrated the IPFS protocol to optimize the exchange of large content while maintaining a very high-performance level of transaction per second. We are aware that some project’s requirements will depend on another consensus. It’s why we are currently working to integrate a consensus-as-service approach.
HydraLab has also set up the Hydra console that acts as the eyes of the network. It allows learning from the interactions with the participants and to visualize relevant metrics according to the elements contained on the ledger. In the Hydra Console, we also give access to various tools developed especially for use in business. (A ledger explorer, permission rules manager, a monitoring interface, an analytics dashboard and more)
JAXenter: What’s next for HydraLab?
Francis Nadeau: HydraLab will work towards to set up blockchain templates for different types of use case scenarios. In other words, we want to offer a range of different types of preset blockchain for different use cases to accelerate the adoption of this technology.
The blockchain approach will mainly go through the same steps of the evolution of the Internet.
For example, in the case where it is for the traceability in a supply chain the structure and the parameters will not be the same as if it is for the conceptualization of a decentralized application or to set up a voting platform, for example. These templates and our consensus-as-a-service offer will make the development of a large range of solutions possible. Again, in these cases, our setup with vagrant will enable an easy to deploy infrastructure. Moreover, the HydraLab team is currently testing different ways to add cross-blockchain connection to interact with public networks if needed.
Apart from the technology, we will be building a more structured documentation to provide an easier interaction with our solutions. We are also looking to scale our team to be able to continue our rapid growth.
JAXenter: How can we make blockchain more consumable? What are the challenges that limit its mainstream adoption?
Francis Nadeau: How are we going to make it more consumable? The blockchain approach will mainly go through the same steps of the evolution of the Internet. It’s the projects/applications developed on top of it that will start to show the real potential.
Currently, it is very difficult for corporate decision-makers to see the opportunities associated with this technology. The more the leaders understand, the more money will be invested in this ecosystem. In fact, some large companies with a small innovation team have begun to analyze the different frameworks available, even though we have not seen many real enterprise projects.
What is limiting for the moment? There are a lot of things that will be analyzed by companies before moving forward. In addition, the implementation of a blockchain solution may require major changes in a company’s processes. We will see in the coming year several projects that will be mostly still exploration projects. It is also important to mention that resources with the expertise to develop real solutions are very limited.
In business, the collaboration between the business sector and the development sector (innovation) will be a key factor to properly target if there is action to carry out in connection with the blockchain technology.
JAXenter: Will blockchain eliminate the middleman? Can it do that? Should it do that?
Francis Nadeau: The answer depends on the project.
If there is an opportunity to automate processes to make them safe and self-managed, why not do it? In this case, the answer is yes. There will be several companies or business combinations whose processes will evolve.
Reason for doing it:
- Reduction of friction in the buying process
- Cost and/or price reduction
- Increased trust and security
- Optimization of delay
- New business model
JAXenter: What is the biggest misconception about blockchain?
Francis Nadeau: For the most part, we see two types of people, those who think that blockchain is synonymous with Bitcoin and quite the opposite; those who say everything will become “Blockchain” (decentralized). We must remain realistic and make a gradual adoption.
The Internet has allowed entities to be closer together, the blockchain will add trust/security between entities.
Some technological restrictions do not yet make it possible to do everything, however, the technology is evolving very quickly and will become inevitable in the years to come. The Internet has allowed entities to be closer together, the blockchain will add trust/security between entities. It will change the way we interact, transact, record and share.
JAXenter: What are your blockchain predictions for 2018 and beyond?
Francis Nadeau: At the level of public blockchains, we will witness a more and more significant adoption concerning the use of virtual currencies.
A bunch of new platforms offering the possibility to make ICOs will emerge. New businesses will be able to join this approach to fund projects that are not necessarily related to the Blockchain ecosystem.
There will be a better understanding also about the potential of smarts contracts. The secure automation of certain business processes will make it possible to use new distribution channels. Therewith, we will see a bigger shift towards mobile devices to interact with the clientele this year.
Other companies will experience events like Equifax in 2017 before realizing that it would be possible to eliminate the single point of failure with properly implemented blockchain technology.
The use of blockchain technology will increase the number of collaborating companies, which aim at attaining Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It will be interesting also to follow in 2018 the governments which will want to innovate with this technology, but also which will try to limit or control the various accesses.