Apr 1 / 2019
Latest News / Blockchain news/ Features
katy micallef
Posted by: Katy Micallef

The hybrid blockchain

Orbs, has announced the launch of its production-ready environment. Tal Kol and Daniel Peled, Orbs co-founders were positive about the journey so far – he explains further in an exclusive interview with Gerald Fenech.

This is the first blockchain to confront issues of performance and operations keeping the needs of true decentralisation in mind.  The result is the aim of building an entirely new blockchain on a new code.

“I began my blockchain journey looking for a network that would actually allow real businesses to create solutions on decentralised networks, but the product simply didn’t exist. With the launch of Orbs, developers and businesses finally have a system that will enable them to build game changing solutions on the blockchain. It allows a fundamental shift from building for the sake of the movement alone, to building products that can drive immediate impact,” explains Tal Kol, co-founder and technical lead.

ai blockchain The hybrid blockchain
Tal Kol, co-founder and technical lead.

Speaking exclusively, Daniel Peled, Orbs co-founder, said that their ecosystem was built from the bottom up and offers considerable opportunities in several fields.

“At Orbs, we started from scratch with new code to build our blockchain from the ground up, specifically to fix critical roadblocks we saw holding developers and organisations back from moving forward on adoption. We’re creating an ecosystem that can support apps with heavy user demands while delivering greater security, and reliable performance and pricing on top of infrastructure that scales to meet demand at any level”, Peled explained.

These are some of the full stack of tools which are necessary to create real solutions on the blockchain:

Full Ethereum Interoperability – this serves as a performance layer together with Ethereum’s trust layer, Orbs is currently designing the winning blockchain stack.

Full Developer Stack – Contract SDK with full documentation, testing framework, backend experimentation, an SDK for developing clients in Go, JavaScript and Python and virtual chain production tools.

Lean Helix Consensus –This is an algorithm that allows high performance together with alarge scale decentralization.

Polyglot Smart Contract Environments – The ability to code smart contracts in both Go and Javascript.

ai blockchain The hybrid blockchain
Daniel Peled, Orbs co-founder.

Peled also explained that from the day they began, the goal was to create a blockchain that would actually enable real solutions without sacrificing from decentralisation.

“The launch is a major step in this process and we look forward to bringing developers and businesses the support and product to maximise the potential of the technology.”

Gartner has recognised Orbs as an emerging blockchain technology vendor. The company is currently working with design partners on initial implementations and recruiting members of their ecosystem.

As stated in the original position paper, Orbs was always intended to be an open source project. As we approach the launch of our V1 release, we could find no better time than to make our work open to the community and achieve this important milestone. And it is a big moment for us. We are no longer developing in the shadows of private repos and are very proud to show everything we’ve been working on until now.

During their V1 release, the entire Orbs codebase — over 60 repositories — will be made public on GitHub. Orbs believe that open source code should not restrict usage so they are using the most permissive licenses they can, mostly MIT. They also claim to be making the shift towards full transparency and development from this point on will continue alongside the community on the public repos.

This has some very important implications that speak to the core of being an open source company:

Anyone can start reviewing the system and audit what was built so far. We believe that external review is critical for meeting our targets of a stable and secure system. In fact, we believe it to be a prerequisite as trust that a system is indeed secure can only be gained after external parties have been reviewing it, reporting issues and proposing solutions.

Anyone can fork and make their own versions of what we’ve built. The IP is being made available to the community. A project aspiring to become decentralised is not really owned by anyone therefore all knowledge must be accessible to everyone. All of the assets we’ve created in code form or article form are becoming public.

External contributors can start joining and taking part in the ecosystem we are building. In a sense, this ecosystem itself is now being launched because up until now significant parts of it were closed. We aim for external developers to start using what we’ve built and with this use they will report issues, propose solutions and even implement some of these solutions by themselves.

What features are part of V1?

Although V1 is by no means the end of development, it was important for us that this version be complete enough to stand on its own two feet. The ecosystem we are envisioning is made from many moving parts. This is the first version where all moving parts finally exist meaning the entire system is working end to end.

Naturally, not all of these parts are finalised and many have to be improved significantly over the versions to come, but the core competency of everything our vision encompasses is included. Developers can start working to make apps, these apps can be launched and the decentralised ecosystem that executes them can assemble and start governing itself.

We’ve been working on V1 for over 8 months. Our previous version, Orbs Alpha, provided the foundation for our work with design partners. That version was not yet suitable for production and was missing critical pieces. Many of the existing components have also been revamped from the ground up taking into account everything that we’ve learned during that time.

V1 has a very rich feature spec. It touches everything we’ve been talking about during the last year and a half, including:

All aspects of a working blockchain stack (from transaction pool to gossip to block sync). Unlike many blockchain stacks today, Orbs is not a fork of another mature stack. The Orbs blockchain stack was developed 100% from scratch according to the specific requirements of our use case.

Two consensus algorithms are supported in V1. The more important one is Lean Helix, which is covered in the academic paper our team published alongside the position paper in the early days. Lean Helix is a Byzantine fault tolerant algorithm that enables us to balance high levels of performance with security. The second one is not Byzantine fault tolerant and is suitable for scenarios where we need higher performance and lower decentralisation.

Smart contracts in V1 include two smart contract environments. The more mature one is in Go language and can be used to write fully working apps. In fact, there are system smart contracts that are part of the core that are implemented on top of it. The second one is in JavaScript and is still a proof of concept (you can’t really write anything real with it today) but it demonstrates our commitment to the overall developer experience and being truly polyglot — we believe smart contracts should be able to be written in any language.

Virtual chains, a core element in the Orbs architecture, are implemented in V1. The network can run multiple virtual chains in parallel on the same physical nodes. Virtual chains provide isolation between apps and allow every app to make its own governance decisions. Our V1 implementation supports a theoretically infinite number of virtual chains (true horizontal scaling) with automatic provisioning of more compute resources on a node as more virtual chains are spawned.

The PoS incentive model in V1 is focused on taking responsible steps towards permissionless governance. The first app running on top of Orbs is a virtual chain we are launching for PoS voting. It will allow token holders to elect validators for the permissionless validator pool.

Interoperability with Ethereum. Orbs regard Ethereum as an ideal complement for most of its apps. In fact, several core parts of Orbs itself are running on Ethereum like the ERC20 token, as well as the contracts for Validator registration, Subscription and Voting. The system reads data from Ethereum using Orbs smart contract API designed for cross-chain operations. This interoperability is working, in production, in V1.

Full stack for developers. Aiming for an end-to-end app developer experience. Contract SDK with documentation and examples. Experimentation with a local instance on Gamma. Testing framework (both unit and end-to-end). Test net. Tools for deploying a virtual chain in production (Nebula). SDK for developing clients in Go and JavaScript (also Python). Block explorer for production monitoring (Prism).

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