The 1st BSN Global Tech-Innovation Summit | Brian Behlendorf:Hyperledger’s Five-year Fight for Open Blockchain Infrastructure Full Script

On November 27, 2020, Brian Behlendorf, the executive director of Hyperledger, gave a keynote titled Hyperledger’s five-year fight for open blockchain infrastructure at the 1st BSN Global Tech-Innovation Summit in Wuhan, Hubei Province.

The full script is organized as follows (some minor edits were done):

Hi, I’m Brian Behlendorf. I’m the executive director of Hyperledger, the blockchain initiative hosted at the Linux Foundation. And I’m really excited to be here at the Blockchain-based Service Networks, the BSN’s very first Technology Conference, and really excited about the initiative and appreciative for the opportunity to talk with you all about blockchain technology today. You know, some people say that enterprise blockchain technology is in some degree of a blockchain winter. Certainly, the economic environment has been a challenging one for any new and emerging technology in 2020.

Cryptocurrencies get a lot of the excitement these days but enterprise blockchain projects that we’ve been tracking at Hyperledger are certainly getting down and building, being busy in building out the next generation of infrastructure for enterprises.

Just to give a couple of examples. You might have heard of the TradeLens project. TradeLens is an initiative put together by IBM and Maersk, and it has been around for a few years, kind of bubbling quietly, but it now connects over 175 different organizations, who represent collectively over 50% of the shipping containers out in the world. In fact, on the TradeLens network today 34 million different containers are tracked in the ledger over the last two years, more than 1.6 billion shipping events have been posted. This is quiet. You don’t see anything like this show up in CoinMarketCap or, you know, on in the price of tokens on exchanges or things like that. But these quiet successes are seeping in and starting to form the new systems of the world and how they work.

Another organization operating in the blockchain space is Walmart. Both there in China, as well as globally Walmart’s project with DLTlabs in Canada, has now digitized the logistics and freight shipping. Part of Walmart’s businesses there in which they connect with over 70 different partners already they processed over 200,000 different invoices disputes over those invoices have gone from 70% to 1.5%, which is huge savings operationally and cost-wise. We’ve also seen carrier invoice resolution go from six to eight weeks to under a week. So, these are things that, again, it’s hard to get people pumped up about, it’s hard to put out press releases about that. These quiet successes are where enterprise blockchain technology is really starting to seep into some really important places.

Now we have seen the pandemic certainly affect the ability for organizations to prototype and to experiment and to try applying these technologies and new ways. But actually, it’s also created some new pressures to dive in and implement these and some new places, particularly in the fight against the global pandemic. And really, we see that people are working on these kinds of projects, not just focusing on how do we try to tackle COVID-19 and all the related crisis that it brought. But how do we build capacity for the next pandemic for the next systemic shock to the way the world works.

So, one of the big success stories here has been a network called Trust Your Supplier. Trust Your Supplier is a blockchain network tracking the reputations and successful deliveries of 10s of thousands of different organizations globally. It’s a place to go to look at whether that party that you’re doing business with on the other side of a border has a reputation of delivering quality products on time and all of that. And they’ve been dramatically pressed into action in the procurement of personal protective equipment for first responders and many others around the world. Suddenly whole new supply chains had to be built out of thin their whole new actors had to figure out how to trust other parties on the other side of the planet to be able to do work. And so, it’s been a key part of that fight.

We’ve also seen sites like MiPasa. MiPasa is a blockchain network, HyperLedger Fabric-based network actually, that acts as a repository in a metadata repository for data associated with the fight against the pandemic. And it’s where data sets get published. It’s where you can find out information on how to access those data sets. How frequent are they, what’s the provenance of that data, how has it been transformed? And it’s having a tremendous degree of success.

We’re also seeing that supply chain traceability in the vaccine domain is heating up there are quite a few projects in this space. Some of them government-funded, particularly in the United States. And we’re going to see. I think that’d be a key part of the vaccine distribution story in 2021. Not only that, but everyone wants to move to digital vaccination credentials. We want to be able to cross borders.

Again, and it’s sounding like the airlines and the airport authorities and national authorities are starting to consider requiring that vaccinations as a condition to be able to cross borders, it would not surprise me as well to see movie theaters and restaurants start to also require vaccinations. In order to be able to go into those kinds of spaces as well. So, everybody from the World Health Organization and the United Nations to the IATA which is the Airline and Transport Association, to IBM and other companies are trying to figure out what is the technology that should underpin this global system for doing credentials and increasingly they’re discovering that digital identity foundations that we’ve built inside of HyperLedger around DID and verifiable credentials. Other types of foundational technologies are the right way to do this, and to set a global standard for digital vaccination credentials. So, all of this is really exciting. This is actually saying that in 2020 blockchain kind of went underground a little bit in the enterprise. It got deployed, but it’s starting to now bubble up and become really part of the foundation of how the world works. So, the systems of the world, as I like to talk about it.

This year HyperLedger is turning five years old and I dare to say Hyperledger is more popular than ever. We have seen the projects that have been part of Hyperledger from the beginning like Fabric. Fabric in particular has now become the default infrastructure for enterprise blockchain deployments and this is data that’s given to us by Forbes who tracks.

The blockchain 50 the top 50 networks in and usage by enterprises out there. This is data that’s tracked by groups like IDC who you know survey the landscape and try to ask people what technologies are using and they often come back. With Fabric or other Hyperledger technologies, we know that we’re getting out there and that’s due no doubt to a number of factors. One of them is the open-source community that we’ve built around it. Part of it is the commercial community that we’ve built as well. Just as with the Linux operating system you needed lots of vendors around that, to be able to help reassure people that this was the technology that they could trust with Hyperledger Fabric.

Now, every major cloud provider, including the cloud providers there in China, BSN, of course, but also Baidu and Tencent and Alicloud. And so many of the others provide Fabric as a managed service. And we think that it has established it as a standard. It’s also the basis for and countless trade finance supply chain projects other digital identity projects other government projects. And it’s really also become the premier platform for explorations in the field of central bank digital currencies. And that’s really exciting.

I mean, it’s one thing to get excited about the cryptocurrency approach and bitcoin and Ethereum but when you talk about the digital Yuan or the digital dollar or the digital euro or stable coins that represent claims against either those fiat currencies or other types of de novo currencies. That’s, I think, where enterprise blockchain is really set to shine. And I think we have a really a better infrastructure there for being able to do within with permissioned blockchain technology, the wholesale level of exchange between banks in a central bank network and potentially in a retail setting as well.

That’s going to be really exciting to watch on it, from a technology point of view, the Hyperledger project which has always been a family of technologies has also grown in the last few years. In addition to Fabric, really as a category-leading platform. We now have a project called HyperLedger Besu which is a full Ethereum client for use in the permissioned blockchain networks, as well as for the public ledger and it’s become one of the predominant public chain clients out there. Second really only to get in terms of distribution. And that’s really saying something because Besu brings the security guarantees and the confidence that come from the use of a public blockchain. To enterprise deployments and allows for the same technology for those enterprise teams who are really going to be dealing with both public blockchain and private blockchain use cases. So that’s really great to see.

But we know that the universe of different available blockchain technologies is starting to get overwhelming for enterprises, who are being asked to connect, not just to a Fabric network, but also to a Corda network over here or maybe a Quorum-based network over here, and we’re never going to see just one protocol win the day because they’ll always be different relative advantages and disadvantages to them for any use case.

But we think it’s important to be able to make it easier to work with these technologies in a harmonious way. And so, we have a project now within Hyperledger called Hyperledger Cactus, which is all about interoperability of blockchain systems so that a company can conduct business on to change at the same time correlate transactions across them so that if you are shipping a package and tracking with a movement of that package or the wanted to trace the provenance of that package on one blockchain ledger and want to pay for that package at the same time in a cohesive transaction on another ledger. This is a toolkit to be able to do that kind of thing. And it’s pretty exciting. It’s still pretty young, but it has the backing of Accenture and Fujitsu, and other companies and we’d certainly welcome more developers and more companies to be involved in that project.

We also think it’s really important to have a clear answer for privacy and confidentiality on blockchain networks. Sometimes there’s data you want everybody in the community to know about. Sometimes there’s data, you only want certain parties to know about. But you want them to be able to trust the integrity of that information and use the ledger to verify the integrity of that. So, we have a project that Hyperledger now called Avalon which is the development of a whole lot of tools for being able to conduct zero-knowledge proofs and zero-knowledge transactions across blockchain networks of all sorts. And this is an implementation of a set of standards defined at the enterprise that their email lines, as well as using technology from any of the chip vendors around Secure Enclave technologies. So, that’s all really exciting stuff.

But I think the place where our technologies will have the biggest consumer impact over the next year is in digital identity, whether it’s around to vaccination credentials or know your customer requirements for payment networks and central bank networks and that sort of thing. The idea of digital identity as a first-class concept is something that’s not just delivered by a centralized organization. But with many issuers and with people being able to present credentials issue to them from many different places from a wallet type of metaphor. That is going to gain ground and they’re the category-leading implementations are coming from Hyperledger.

Again, Hyperledger Indy and Aries and Ursa these three different platforms technologies work together to build out these kinds of networks, lots of information on that path. We’re really excited though with the progress that China has been making around not just the adoption of blockchain technology. But how deeply. This is woven into your, your public policy, and the coordination between the Chinese Government and the way that it sees this technology as a way to perhaps leapfrog whole generations of technology infrastructure built out as a way to bring greater confidence to markets. That’s really forward-thinking and is really worth the rest of the world paying attention to.

We realized early on in our history that China was going to be very important to the global blockchain community as one of my first business trips as executive director was to Shanghai. For the second Ethereum blockchain conference - developer conference which was also a blockchain conference in China in 2016. You see there was interest and focus from the Chinese government in understanding the technology, understanding how to regulate it, but also how to encourage its adoption. That was really impactful upon us.

And so, we made sure that in the Hyperledger community, there was a dedicated governance structure for the China market, something that we call the technical working group China. That plays a really major role in connecting the different organizations in China building blockchain technology and the unique needs there in China. For example, the Chinese encryption standards are supported and make their way into Hyperledger projects. And that’s been really key I think to make sure that what we’re building as a global technology.

It’s not an American technology. It’s not a European technology. It’s really a global technology platform, even more so than perhaps the World Wide Web was or more so than perhaps even the internet was. Because supply chains cross borders and almost all of them go through China at one point or another trade finance is key to being able to build that that global ecosystem that we all have. And this is really key to the future I think, because, you know, we, no matter what governments come and go and, in the US, we certainly have experience with a government that’s not as competent or not as effective for the last four years, as some of us would have liked even in that setting.

We know that we need technology and we need the government to be able to work together with the technology and with society and with business. And blockchain technology gives us a chance to be able to build these distributed information systems that regulators and government authorities, and public policymakers can participate in setting the rules for how the market should work, and the systems can help enforce those rules, but also to make the system more auditable no matter with a lot of rules, or just a couple of rules.

The thing that really can hurt markets is when individual actors can abuse those markets can not follow the rules can violate norms and violate laws. And to whatever degree we can build those laws and norms into the blockchain rules. The more automated, the good behavior becomes, the more difficult it becomes to be a bad actor in an ecosystem. And that is really key to being able to scale global commerce, to be able to grow our industries, to be able to recover from the recession that we’re in. Now because of the pandemic is to build these systems that society that can trust, rather than having to depend upon individuals or a corporation here or a government, they’re being able to depend on the system and trust the system is just something that most people don’t even understand how to be able to do at least in my part of the world.

Blockchain technology can help address that and I firmly believe that’s where we’re going to be heading with this technology. So, really happy to see BSN, Red Date, of course, and your support in the strategy that’s there for saying this will be a common infrastructure across all of China to be able to help systematized and build these interconnection points between blockchain systems.

That’s really smart and it’s key that open-source software is at the heart of that and that is why we’re here as Hyperledger to help make that a shared common infrastructure from a software point of view and enable networks like BSN to go out and serve the needs of the China community and really the global community as well.

So that’s all I wanted to say again, thank you so much for the opportunity to address you, and let me feel free to get in touch with us at Hyperledger if there’s any desire to learn more.

Thank you very much.

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