Few know more about current trends in adoption of blockchain then Jon Geater, Jitsuin CTO. Jitsuin is engaged in connecting blockchain with internet-of-things, and is a partner to Hyperledger Ecosystem and IoT Security Foundation. Digital Asset Live Editor-in-Chief talked to Mr Geater about the inherent faults of blockchain that impede its adoption, about the falling hype around cryptocurrencies, and about the future adoptions of distributed technologies.
Q1: Why does it take so long for blockchain to be adopted by the corporate mainstream. What weak points do you see in the distributed ledger technologies that contribute to this slow adoption?
A1: A decade is not a long time for big companies – think of the time domain of the Gartner Hype Cycle. Even so, blockchain has one peculiar added hurdle in the way of adoption: you only really see the benefit in it if you completely change your view of how applications and infrastructure should work, and with that, change a lot of pieces of your technology stack.
Several years were wasted with companies/labs trying to just replace the database layer with a blockchain (as late as July 2017 the Wikipedia entry for “Blockchain” still defined it as “a type of distributed database”) and this obviously went nowhere for a while. Blockchains are terrible databases and if all the other layers expect it to behave largely like one the results aren’t going to be good.
Because of this, there were 3 likely negative outcomes to a blockchain project in a large traditional company:
- It didn’t work very well (because the design was too narrow and just effectively swapped the database layer for a blockchain)
- It wasn’t finished/budgeted (because the design was right, but it meant changing too many things and it got too big)
- There were no apparent benefits (because you can’t really unleash the power of DLT if you keep too many of the other design aspects in the current mold)
If you’ve been trained hard in traditional (even offline) OSI model application design is takes quite a lot to get your head fully around distributed applications (not at all helped by the early pioneers making up strange new jargon for things we already had perfectly good words for) and so we see a cycle of mistakes and learning and disappointment and ridicule and an accumulation of small successes which are only now starting to show more promise than the nay-sayers’ nay-saying.
I do believe that eventually the companies that completely miss distributed applications and collaborative data models will fail, in the same way that the majority of businesses that completely missed the Internet have failed, but it’s a generational thing in my opinion – we need a distributed mindset in the workforce and a base of libraries and tools that are accessible to the general programmer, not just wizards.
Q2: Why do you think the hype around cryptocurrencies is fading out? Is it because most of them do not deliver upon their promises, is it because ‘hodlers’ do not spend the cryptos they hold, or is it no underlying assets? What are the main reasons, in your view?
A2: All of those and none of them. It’s a classic but very exaggerated market failure. Something so volatile is clearly not a reasonable payment system.
Q3: Among the most common challenges to adoption are interoperability issues, organizational hurdles, lack of developers. Which ones are the most difficult to overcome?
A3: In the new world where “Data is the New Oil” and therefore requires data sharing and analysis on a vast scale, we need to build systems that are data-first and collaborative-first. See first answer: It’s just going to take a lot of time for the mindset in the developers to match the speed of change in corporates and the availability of standard libraries, interoperable data format standards, StackExchange answers and so on.
Q4: About blockchain developers, I am about to launch a Jobs section at Digital Asset Live. Hence my question, how do you find blockchain developers?
A4: They’re actually very hard to find. A lot of people who claim to be blockchain experts have actually only written a few smart contracts on Ethereum. In my opinion blockchain-based data applications are much more complex than today’s enterprise applications and need more of the hard engineering skills (like systems design, modelling, reliability engineering) than the industry has grown used to in recent years. Perhaps the best place to look is away from the web so-called ‘full stack’ crowd and go towards the deeper engineering skills.
Q5: Judging upon the trends above, how many blockchain standards do you think we will end up with?
A5: How many computer software standards do we have today? Lots. It’s very important for the many initiatives to start converging the simple stuff (why do different networks have different representations of time?!).
Q6: Please describe the blockchain ecosystem in short term (1-3 years), mid term (3-5 years), long term (5-10 years)
A6: My business presents a completely ordinary SaaS to its customers, accessed through a browser, searched through a Cosmos database. They don’t see the blockchain at all until they need to print an audit report or lodge a dispute.
They don’t have to understand that the cybersecurity automation is mediated through smart contracts. They don’t have to manage their own wallets. They just like the fact that they have a shared platform to communicate with their suppliers and their auditors, and it’s easier to onboard than older systems, and it’s cheaper to run.
They like the fact that they have custody of all the data that underpins their digital business model and mitigates their cyber risk and liabilities without having to engage in costly and lossy legal discovery processes.
They like the fact that their IDs are portable and they know exactly who is doing what without having to federate their ID systems.
We deliver this service to customers by using blockchain under the hood, but 99% of the time they don’t see it. This is where the blockchain ecosystem needs to go as quickly as possible. I hope that in the long term people stop talking about it altogether.
When was the last time you did a headline article on TCP/IP or XFS or BIOS? Immensely important technologies, but just part of the infrastructure.
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