2018 Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) Platform Review: Part I
2017 is a great year for blockchain and cryptocurrency. Yet, 2018 will be even better and sweeter (of course, you don’t have to believe). Many people argue that 2018 will be the year of blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) platforms. There are already a few strong candidates to stand out and challenge the current leader, ETH, which has been a great role model as an ICO platform.
The blockchain technology (aka, distributed ledger technology) is popular for its being decentralized, secure, anonymous, and non-revocable. As a BaaS platform, it may focus on providing business solutions by tailoring one or several dimensions of the blockchain technology.
To qualify as a BaaS platform, the project needs to
- operate on its own blockchain network
- have a scalable platform architect
- have well-packaged application tools to support the ecosystem
- be flexible enough to satisfy different business requirements
This is Part I of the Review Series, which will cover ETH, Stellar, NEO, ARDOR/NXT, EOS, NEM. Each project evolves forward quickly and facts become outdated quickly. The moment this review was written, some bullets might be no longer valid. Please double check the status of the project to stay up-to-date. The review only reflects the project status as of 02/2018.
BaaS Platform Basics
- Total Supply — Both ETH and NEO have a total supply of ~100 million tokens while XEM has a total supply of 9 billion tokens and XLM has a total supply of 100 billion tokens. The total supply largely depends on the business application scenarios. If the total supply cannot commensurate with the addressable market, this may limit the scalability of the project and create opportunities for other projects. Both Ardor and EOS have a total supply of about 1 billion tokens.
- Consensus Protocol — ETH is the only project based on PoW currently and will migrate to PoS later in 2018. Other projects’ consensus protocols are in line with PoS in general. They are slightly different in certain ways in selecting the validators. Compared to PoS, XLM’s SCP claims to have more advantages over PoS. Similar to PoS, XEM’s PoI considers more factors in determining who gets to verify transactoins on the NEM network based on their comparative “importance.”
- Transaction per Second (TPS) — This is an important metric to measure the capability to meet the business requirement. This is the key motivation behind scalability solutions. For payment speed, visa transaction speed of ~50K TPS is used as a benchmark most time. The requirement of TPS also largely depends on the application scenarios. EOS claims to process up to 1 million TPS using parallel processing technology in their white paper. However, some review argued that it can handle 1K TPS. As EOS project is still in very early stage, the TPS statistic needs to be updated once their MVP is out for testing. NEM has 2 transactions/second in a current version, with possibility to soft fork it up to 400 tx/s (thanks to tonetti).
- Fuel Token — Only two projects, Ardor and NEO, have separate fuel tokens, namely IGNIS and GAS. The rest of PoS projects also use the staking tokens as fuel tokens to facilitate the service provided on the network.
- Similarity/Connection — NEO is considered as ETH in China, which is capable to create smart contracts. NEM was a genetic duplicate of NXT (later Ardor) back in 2014 before it was rewritten.
BaaS Platform Functionality Comparison
- ETH is the most successful ICO platform with 1,000+ DApp ERC20 tokens created
- In October 2017, ETH is upgraded to Metropolis (Byzantium). In the future, ETH will two more upgrade phases, including Constantinople, which upgrade will add a newly flexible ether wallet, allowing users the option to pay for gas in tokens instead of ether, and Serenity, which will migrate ETH from PoW to PoS.
- Powerful platform of smart contracts, which can be also exposed to malicious uses.
- Well developed ecosystem and various tools to use, including wallet, network monitor, transaction confirmation and developer community.
- Need to solve the scalability issue as the ecosystem grows. Options to consider includes Raiden, Sharding and Plasma.
2. Stellar (Lumen)/XLM
- Jed McCaleb, is a veteran entrepreneur in blockchain space. Stellar focuses on payment function, especially cross-border payment.
- Strong business partnerships, including IBM and Stripe.
- Branding as ICO platform in 2018, Mobius is the first ICO and a great success
- Have a decentralized exchange up and running, streamlined integration with ICO support
- Support smart contracts related to payment functions. The smart contract function is limited but more secure, compared to ETH.
- Launched in December 2016, NEO shares similar role in crypto community to support DApps, ICO and smart contracts.
- NEO uses dBFT as consensus protocol and GAS as fuel token.
4. ARDOR/ARDR (NXT/NXT)
- ARDOR is the upgrade version of NXT, which was launched in 2013. ARDOR was released in Jan 2018.
- ARDOR comes with its own decentralized exchange. The Ardor client is well packaged to manage token, asset, exchange and etc.
- ARDOR is the first operational multi-chain (also called parent-child) architecture which provides a solution to blockchain bloat as well as a token per application design.
- Regarding technical discussion around multi-chain, I found that Lior Yaffe’s summary is insightful.
- ARDOR in 2018 may repeat ETH in 2016 and a lot to expect from this undervalued platform.
- EOS is most famous for its one-year long ICO until 6/1/2018.
- EOS team is strong, including Daniel Larimer, co-founder of Steemit and BitShares.
- EOS claims to be scalable to handle millions of transactions per second. It is a big fantasy and current project progress is no where near it.
- EOS is well funded and has huge potential as long as the vision is technically feasible.
- NEM is an originally duplicate of NXT back in 2014 before it was rewritten.
- NEM is also technically capable to support ICO. COMSA uses Mijin to build out an ICO platform based on NEM. COMSA is a separate project and can be treated as NEM’s ICO platform in future.
- (Thanks for tonetti’s comment) NEM can support ICO. “Also it has possibility of ICO, look through the coinmarketcap, dimcoin and ecobit are one of the first ICOs on NEM. They launched in the middle of 2017, now we have tens of new projects that gathered 10–100M USD.”