“Developers’ lack of blockchain skills won’t matter in the immediate future”
The blockchain market shows no signs of slowing down and this technology is one of the hottest skills in the freelance job market. However, according to Tom Beno and Nate D’Amico, blockchain skills won’t matter in the immediate future. How can this technology become more accessible to developers? Let’s find out!
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?
Tom Beno: Beyond the skills you’ve mentioned, I would add that there needs to be a philosophical understanding of what solutions blockchain technology can provide. Once people can work backward from the outcome, the technology becomes the set of tools used to get there. The far-reaching skills needed can be taught and learned, but the thing that will compel people to experiment is a solution-oriented understanding of the technology’s use cases in a real business.
Nate D’Amico: For end users, most of it has to do with user experience design and the applications and services that will be sitting between the users and the blockchains. To use an example, we know that users are familiar with usernames and passwords. If you lose or forget your password you just enter your email, reset or recover it and get back into your account. In the blockchain world of private and public keys, a lost key typically means an orphaned account. Providing “password reset” type UX for blockchain-based applications, while maintaining security, can go a long way.
JAXenter: How can we make blockchain more accessible to developers?
It’s a marathon and we are just in the first couple of miles of this journey as companies understand how to map their various problems and workflows to a blockchain.
Tom Beno: Blockchain technology can be made more accessible to developers by utilizing open APIs in the platform design. Many of the most well-known blockchains operate off their own programming languages. This creates a higher barrier to entry for talent that uses Java, C++ or Python.
Nate D’Amico: This is the essence of what we are trying to solve with our blockchain and tooling offerings. Our view is that the best way to make blockchain more accessible for users and developers is to make getting started and the development of user experience as efficient and self-serviceable as possible. The ideal is a simple object model to leverage the blockchain for varying use cases without having to worry about all the gory details of how things are working under the covers. An analogy would be that back in the day you used to have to know how database innards worked and how they were leveraging b-trees for storage and querying. But as tools like MySQL and Postgres came out, everything became more approachable and provided solid foundations to store your data with a simple SQL and query interface.
JAXenter: What is Catapult and how can people use it to build and deploy blockchain applications more easily?
Tom Beno: Catapult is the V2 release of the NEM protocol. As stated above, it uses an open API design to allow people to build and deploy software applications on both a public and private ledger. Catapult has been designed with features meant for real business use cases – things like aggregate transactions, recurring pulls and atomic swaps.
Nate D’Amico: Catapult is the second generation of our blockchain offering that delivers Version 2 of the NEM protocol – it powers the NEM public blockchain network. We have a “batteries included” approach to everything we deliver. Whether it’s in the open source solution, or our enterprise product line, at the end of the day we make it as easy and efficient for developers and users to get started.
For instance, we just released an open source development bootstrap tool that will start up a running Catapult service on your laptop in about 60 seconds – all you have to do is learn the APIs and programming against your test setup. We are also delivering a self-service developer lab running on various public clouds. This will allow developers a push button experience to get a free starter Catapult service going. Outside of tools like this, it’s really the power of the NEM protocol in its simplicity and minimal object model, while providing extremely powerful on chain contracts for asset management, namespacing and the most advanced multi-signature account support. Developers don’t have to write any contracts themselves, they just need to leverage the direct API calls like they would with any other REST API service.
Blockchain and DevOps
JAXenter: Right now we perceive blockchain and DevOps as two different terms used in different contexts. But do they do well together? Do they have a shared future?
Nate D’Amico: Definitely. There are two parts to that, one is how DevOps practices and tooling can make it more approachable and easy for companies and developers to get started delivering and maintaining distributed ledger solutions in production, at scale. The other part is how the practice of DevOps itself can leverage blockchain distributed-ledger technology its tooling and solutions.
For the former, as mentioned above, we strive for ease of deployment and self-service, so everything we do is approached with a goal of 100% automation and removing setup and configuration complexity from the end user. For the latter, we have a partner that has a DevOps related solution for the enterprise that is leveraging Catapult in its core for powering various features and security in its solution.
JAXenter: Do you think developers’ lack of blockchain skills will no longer matter in the foreseeable future?
Nate D’Amico: Yes! It won’t matter in the immediate future. That is our job and what keeps us up at night, besides working between EU and Japan time zones. We tell customers regularly, “You don’t need a blockchain developer, you need a regular developer who knows how to use SDK’s and talk to APIs, just like any of the other 20 services you are using.”
JAXenter: Has it become easier to include blockchain in a company’s backbone?
Nate D’Amico: It has. Catapult and other models out there are offering a BaaS (Blockchain-as-a-Service) so that companies can get a private blockchain environment established.
It has but it’s still the early days. It has a similar feel to the “big data” space, where every company had a big data initiative. It’s a marathon and we are just in the first couple of miles of this journey as companies understand how to map their various problems and workflows to a blockchain. It’s our job to accelerate that process and make it as easy and approachable as possible.
JAXenter: What are the new areas in which blockchain is likely to be used this year?
Nate D’Amico: There are some obvious ones that are already happening, at least in POC and pilot projects around the world. Most of them are on the enterprise side and have an auditing and reporting focus to them, such as logistic data logging, IoT sensor reporting, identity and access control status and, of course, tokens – whether publicly tradable cryptographic tokens, or private use ones used to track a level of asset ownership and reporting. These will continue to be the primary solutions, but I think we will start to see more B2C type solutions going into production. Those can be loyalty rewards type solutions, payments or security and verification. As more people get pulled into the space, the breadth of solutions should continue to expand.