Ion: The Vision

Chris Chung
Feb 14, 2019 · 4 min read

In this post, we talk about our vision for Interoperability and where we’re headed with Ion, our platform-agnostic interoperability framework.

Interoperability

General interoperability is hard. It’s not just changing one token for another across another chain. It is not exchanging through an intermediary token. It is certainly not introducing an intermediary, proprietary node. At its core, it is about the transmission of verifiable state and the associated shared security models that come with that.

As a research topic, as it currently stands, interoperability is juxtaposed between the enterprise world — creating proprietary intermediary nodes or networks — and the public space — where there is very often an intermediary token. While we straddle both, in flagship project and philosophy respectively, we see the success of inclusive interoperability hinging on an open source, protocol-first approach driven by the community.

Interoperability, at its most abstract, is about a compatible and general language for two different systems to communicate with each other. An extensible interoperability mechanism would need to be a protocol that facilitated such without making any assumptions about target systems. We wanted to design a protocol that leveraged not specific architectural decisions to facilitate interoperability but characteristics of the target systems.

Ion architecture

As discussed in greater detail in our Ion GitHub wiki, the Ion framework is broadly split into two components:

And has a general implementation architecture of:

  • Block storage
  • Block validation
  • Functional smart contracts

We are currently at a stage of understanding how Ethereum-Ethereum interoperability (even different flavours) and how Fabric-Ethereum interoperability works — all of which has been implemented via the Ion framework, without an intermediary. The separation of storage from validation is an architectural decision that allows flexibility for the bridging of any two systems.

Introducing the Ionosphere

Ion was built as a set of interfaces around universal interoperability. This framework mindset separated our thinking into two dimensions; the bilateral system communications to enable interoperation, and the applications that could be built across such systems.

Enter the Ionosphere. The Ionosphere is comprised of all software implemented under the Ion protocol. Any extensions to the suite to facilitate the interoperation between any two systems, or any use-case applications that are built on these extensions will become part of the Ionosphere. To us, open source is not just a way to allow open usage of technology but also to collaborate.

The Ionosphere currently consists of smart contract implementations of validation and storage layers for a few initially selected systems, which include Proof of Authority and Istanbul Byzantine Fault Tolerant consensus algorithms. Additionally, we have developed a use-case example of interoperability with a Hyperledger Fabric network.

We feel this is an important step in our vision of an open protocol. We tested this out in a hackathon we ran in London last week, where novel use-cases were envisaged. We look forward to seeing how the community interacts with the Ion framework.

Ion and Beyond

Implementing the Ion vision

Our vision is to have secure system interoperability. Our development is moving towards this with a growing library of implementations of both framework extensions and applications.

In our work around cross-platform interaction, we are gaining valuable insight around the security properties of each system, which we will share with the community in due course. We believe this will guide important decisions around which platforms are appropriate for different use cases and how this advises the way that these connections should be built.

Our approach to implementing this vision has been from a community-first perspective. That community consists of the open-source blockchain space, and also stakeholders and partners from the enterprise world.

Clearmatics areas of future development

As mentioned before, we have two dimensions of future development: the Ion framework, and the applications built using it. We encourage the community to get involved and implement their own interfaces to bridge the systems that currently lie separate and innovate the possible use-cases of an interconnected world.

Feedback is always welcome.

https://github.com/clearmatics/ion

What can the public can buidl?

The possibilities are endless but here are some that we’ve got in mind:

  • PoW validation contracts
  • EOS validation contracts
  • Side chain Oracle
  • A Decentralised exchange (DEX)
  • Legacy system integrations?

Have any questions about Ion? Join our Gitter Community.

Want to #BUIDL-Ion? Find us on GitHub

We hope you enjoyed this post.

Chris Chung, Blockchain Engineer, Clearmatics

Sara Feenan, Product Strategist, Clearmatics

Christophe MacIntosh, Communications & Community Lead, Clearmatics

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Clearmatics builds member-owned and governed distributed…

clearmatics

Clearmatics builds member-owned and governed distributed systems that automate contracts and the transfer of economic value. We call our technology approach “decentralized automation”​, which combines cryptography, consensus protocols and economic mechanism design.

Chris Chung

Written by

Blockchain Engineer @Clearmatics

clearmatics

Clearmatics builds member-owned and governed distributed systems that automate contracts and the transfer of economic value. We call our technology approach “decentralized automation”​, which combines cryptography, consensus protocols and economic mechanism design.