A group of blockchain startups, financial institutions and other blockchain innovators is launching the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA) to build, promote and broadly support Ethereum-based technology. The collective, which includes Intel, Microsoft, J.P. Morgan, Banco Santander and ConsenSys, will also launch a reference architecture, named EntEth 1.0.
“This body is going to work on standardizing the technology for enterprise settings, and that will only help the public Ethereum main net,” Andrew Keys, head of global business development at ConsenSys, one of the founding members, told Bitcoin Magazine.
Ethereum is a public and permissionless blockchain, which means that anyone can use it for whatever they see fit. While this is useful — even needed — for certain types of applications, it is not always suited for others. In particular, financial institutions and enterprise-level organizations tend to fork Ethereum’s codebase, launching their own pilot projects rather than using the Ethereum blockchain itself.
Keys revealed the launch of the EEA at the Distributed: Markets conference in Atlanta, Georgia.
“Enterprises are already deploying Ethereum networks. They’re taking the open-source version of the protocol that’s used for the permissionless next-generation of the internet,” Keys told Bitcoin Magazine. “But there’s a difference between the permissionless next-generation of the internet, and permissioned private networks. Our position is that these enterprises shouldn’t be playing at the protocol level. They should be building applications on top. And all of this needs to be standardized.”
This standardization process will now be led by the EEA, which consists of 30 members at launch. It has a rotating board that includes Accenture, Banco Santander, BlockApps, BNY Mellon, CME Group, ConsenSys, IC3, Intel, J.P. Morgan, Microsoft and Nuco. The additional founding members are AMIS, Andui, BBVA, brainbot technologies, BP, Chronicled, Credit Suisse, Cryptape, Fubon Financial, ING, The Institutes, Monax, String Labs, Telindus, Tendermint, Thomson Reuters, UBS, VidRoll and Wipro.
“Like many financial institutions, Santander has been actively exploring the use of distributed ledger technology and Ethereum has been one of the platforms-of-choice on which to build proof-of-concepts and prototypes.” said Julio Faura, Head of Research & Development for Innovation at Banco Santander. “With its large developer community, 1.5 years of testing in a public environment, and multiple implementations, Santander is enthusiastic in its support of the goals of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance and its goal of developing a single set of standards for using Ethereum in an enterprise setting.”
At the heart of the EEA is a reference architecture, EntEth 1.0.
EntEth 1.0 is a standard, not a product, and is designed specifically for the needs of enterprise. Compared to Ethereum itself, EntEth 1.0 will include a stronger focus on privacy, similar to J.P. Morgan’s private Ethereum implementation, Quorum. It will also include more extensive permissioning, allowing a customizable way by which information can be shared, with whom, and to what extent.
And, perhaps most important, EntEth 1.0 will include “pluggable consensus.”
“If you have a very strong consensus algorithm, you’re going to have very few transactions per second,” Keys said. “So if you’re in a permissionless network like Bitcoin or public Ethereum, you need that hard consensus. While if you’re in a private one, you don’t need it. So, depending on the type of transaction you’re in, you’ll be able to change the types of consensus algorithms.”
As a unique option, EntEth 1.0 can also be plugged into the main Ethereum network. This lets users of enterprise versions of Ethereum utilize Ethereum’s consensus model: proof of work currently, perhaps proof of stake in the future. As such, the EEA believes it can complement and improve the existing Ethereum project to collectively develop industry standards and facilitate open-source collaboration with its member base.
“This [consortium] is built because we believe in Vitalik [Buterin]’s vision, and we want to complement it at the enterprise level,” Keys concluded.
Vitalik Buterin, the inventor of Ethereum, looks forward to working with everyone involved in the alliance: “The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance project can play an important role in standardizing approaches for privacy, permissioning and providing alternative consensus algorithms to improve its usability in enterprise settings, and the resources the project and its members are contributing should accelerate the advancement of the Ethereum ecosystem generally.”
Christie Harkin is the contributions editor at Bitcoin Magazine.