Where Are We Now — An Engineering Update

Nillion
4 min readNov 24, 2023

Hey 👋, I’m Claire Kelly, Nillion’s VP of Engineering. This is the first you’re hearing from me because for the past 15 months, the team has been quietly building to lay the foundations of Nillion — a secure computation and storage network that decentralizes trust for high value data in the same way that blockchains decentralized transactions.

We knew going into this that building a completely new type of decentralized network wouldn’t be easy, and we’ve certainly run into our fair share of challenges over the year. Thankfully we’ve overcome a lot, accomplished a lot, and have much to share about our build progress. Here’s an overview of what we’ve completed so far:

We’ve been building Nillion on two parallel roadmaps.

Roadmap #1 — Infrastructure: The first roadmap is our core infrastructure that serves as the foundation for the Nillion Network. As we move towards public network launch we have been working in a phased approach — we’ve recently completed Phase I, which involved applying our learnings from internal testing to launch a restricted network to support our core team and a secret cohort of external builders (or what we call Founding Entrepreneurs / FEs). Throughout Phase I we established a firm foundation and have been rigorously testing network operations. On this roadmap we’ve…

  • Implemented our novel pre-processing mechanism
  • Built out the first iteration of our load testing framework
  • Implemented a lightweight browser client with dealer and result node functionality
  • Enhanced networking framework using libp2p
  • Implemented our MVP blockchain and payments architecture for users and nodes using the Optimism stack
  • Built CI/CD pipeplines and automated testing to help with developer flow
  • Onboarded external nodes via our NDK (node deployment kit)

Roadmap #2 — Proof-of-Tech: The second roadmap is our product proof-of-tech (PoT), which encompasses the language, compiler and execution engine (LCX). We’ve developed various developer tools and our very own language, Nada. Nada is the MPC language used by the Nillion Network to define MPC programs. On this roadmap we’ve…

  • Built the first iteration of the platform SDK and NADA compiler
  • Completed our first library of SDK documentation
  • Upgraded our SDK to accommodate distributed storage, retrieval and compute
  • Added support for various data types including integers (signed and unsigned), fixed point rationals, booleans and arrays. Standard arithmetic operations such as addition, subtraction, product, division, power and modulo are supported for these types
  • Implemented internal proof of tech concept demos (both javascript SDK and desktop application versions) with end-to-end flow to learn more about how we can use our protocols and tech for real world use cases

Our incredible technical team has been working around the clock to bring the Nillion tech to life. We understand that people are our most important asset. We’ve assembled a diverse group of the top cryptography and engineering talent ranging from cryptography PhDs to some serious engineering wizards. It’s been a joy collaborating together each day to solve the many difficult technical challenges that come with standing up a novel network. We’ll be sharing more on some of the challenges we’ve solved (or need to solve) over the coming weeks/months.

So what’s next?

We’re now moving onto Phase II of our build and getting closer to the release of our testnet in 2024. We’ll be focusing our engineering efforts on unlocking even more developer tools, language features and innovations to ensure the network is robust and ready for eventual widespread use by the public. This involves…

  • Adding new features and testing the network to ensure that it is secure, reliable and scalable
  • Completing implementation and testing for a scalable storage solution
  • Iterating on our blockchain payments framework
  • Deploying our own L2 and block explorer
  • Integrating Ethereum Sepolia for both user and node transactions to help test and identify potential optimizations in the payment processes within the network
  • Implementing an enhanced blinding factor coordination system onchain
  • Adding to the metrics framework that enables load tests, performance evaluation, pre-processing performance and setup, all of which contribute to the networks efficiency and effectiveness

As the network infrastructure build unfolds, we are simultaneously making advancements in our Language, Compiler and Execution Engine (LCX). We will continue enhancing language features to accommodate more use cases and researching optimal protocols, tools and methods to unlock additional features. These improvements will empower devs to build an even wider range of applications when we launch the network.

The tooling enhancements we’ve made now enable developers to upload programs via the Nillion client and run a local network for easier deployment but we want to add even more tools to make the developer experience something we can be proud of. Additionally, we continue to conduct extensive research in areas like machine learning, linear regression, biometric authentication, correlation coefficient and more.

More to come…

Now that we are stepping into the light as a project, we’ll be releasing regular spotlights on our technology innovations and build progress as we build towards the launch of our network. Follow along in our blog [here] for updates covering engineering developments, developer relations insights and more.

P.S. — The testnet is coming. If you’re a developer interested in building for the future of high value data (and not afraid of a little cryptography) keep an eye out for when we drop our waitlist!

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