Today corporate blockchain company SETL announced the open-sourcing of its core blockchain, as well as its PORTL blockchain interoperability solution. SETL sees Citibank as a major investor and has several major clients. These include Marketnode, the fixed income blockchain solution founded by the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX) and Temasek, the French fund distribution platform IZNES, and the central commercial paper depository DLT ID2S. The latter two have been in production for years.
“We have worked with SETL for several years and are in the process of deploying their solutions within our Securities Services business,” said Joerg Guenther, Global Head of Technology for Citi Securities Services. “We believe DLT could be a transformation for our industry and SETL’s strategy to open its open source technology and ensure interoperability is a positive step in enabling the scalability of DLT use cases. “
Having kept the proprietary solution for so long, a key question is why open source now? SETL chief engineer Anthony Culligan has frankly said it is less about building a community than because banks want to verify the source code, and owning it hinders adoption.
“When large organizations, banks, choose to integrate blockchain, they are doing something pretty fundamental. They are actually making a change in their main ledger. And a lot of times (they change) the way they do things, ”Culligan said. “They were nervous about having strategic use of a product they didn’t think they could see the code for.”
The Enterprise version of SETL supports more granular permissions than the open source version. SETL also allows data to be stored in various external key-value databases and the enterprise version offers a particularly fast and bulky proprietary option.
This is one of SETL’s more general claims – that its blockchain is very efficient and scalable. Like Ripple, Stellar, and Bitcoin, SETL natively supports tokens. Most other corporate blockchains are general purpose and use smart contracts to implement tokens with performance overhead.
PORTL for blockchain interoperability
Different types of blockchain interoperability solutions are available today. Most are protocols that focus on how to atomically transfer value between blockchains, while the focus of PORTL is different. An analogy for PORTL is that it is more about providing a single console where a company can orchestrate and monitor its activities on different blockchain networks that use a variety of technologies. Hence the name.
Culligan described PORTL as allowing for a “standardized approach to tokens”. It provides a SDK with six basic token functions, including creating, moving, or destroying tokens to work on a variety of registers.
For tokens, developers can use these functions to move away from specific blockchains. However, in some cases, they may need additional custom code that works on a particular ledger technology. PORTL also allows you to use it. Therefore, it does not restrict the developer in any way.
Supported registries include Hyperledger Fabric, Hyperledger Besu (Ethereum), R3, Corda, DAML, and SETL and the various smart contract languages each uses.
One cool feature of PORTL is the ability to see events from multiple blockchains in a unified event stream (Kafka). For example, in a single stream, one could see tokenized shares transferred on a blockchain and tokenized money transfers on a separate ledger.
Help innovation teams deploy their PoCs
In addition to the open source of its code, SETL has also released a blog post, “Top 10 Reasons Blockchain and DLT Projects Fail to Go into Production.”
Many banking innovation departments develop proof of concept (PoC) that is never deployed. Having worked with various institutions, Culligan said he wanted to describe the “operations that people find it difficult to roll out ideas from their own innovation department.”
For example, most deployments today use open source software. Although an innovation department can happily use the latest hot versions of this software, this carries enormous risks for a bank. Instead, an operations department would have a whitelist of approved modules and versions, and would need to check and verify each against that list. If the versions are different, it creates a lot of work. But that’s just one of ten reasons that are slowing blockchain adoption.
SETL is motivated to list the issues because they believe they have one of the few solutions scalable enough for production.
“What is currently used in the market by innovation specialists is not really adaptable most of the time to the types of transaction speeds needed for production,” Culligan said.
“And that is a barrier to PoC exit and production.”