Join the Blockchain summer school in Rotterdam in September

On the 5th and 12th of September, IBM will host a hackathon in Rotterdam, Netherlands entitled “Unfolding Blockchain with Hyperledger Fabric.” In this blog, the author interviews IBM developer advocate and event host Edward Ciggaar, who explains what you can expect from this two-day workshop.

Let’s start with an introduction. Edward is an IBM developer advocate based in Amsterdam. His passion is to personally interact with developers and to show them the possibilities of our latest technologies. He likes to build fun demos and sample code that support developer productivity. His focus areas are blockchain, IBM Cloud, and the Watson APIs. In his spare time, Edward loves to play soccer, both in real-life as well as online.

What is Blockchain summer school about?

Edward Ciggaar: The Blockchain summer school is a two-day event, a kind of mini-hackathon in which we work together with the Rotterdam Blockchain Community and a group of enthusiastic developers on solving their own use cases and building blockchain applications using Hyperledger Fabric. The idea is that everyone will get the same concept about permissioned blockchains, how Fabric works and what the role of a developer is. We will do this through a brief explanation with interactive game elements and with the help of live coding demos.

The first day is mainly hands-on to build the necessary experience. Then the idea is that groups will be formed to brainstorm about which use cases you would like to solve with blockchain. The second day, the groups will work on their use cases and prepare a demo that will be presented at the end of the day.

What is the role of the developer in a blockchain project?

EC: In a typical blockchain project, you see various roles such as the architect, the network operator, end user, regulator, and of course the developer. He / she has an important role and is responsible for writing both the application and the smart contract. A smart contract contains the business logic that must be met before the transaction can be added to the blockchain. It is important that this contract remain deterministic at all times. This means if multiple nodes in the blockchain network execute the contract with the same input for validation, the result must always be the same.

Furthermore, the developer is responsible for building the business application that communicates with the smart contract via the Fabric SDK. This business application also includes integration with pre-existing systems and defines a set of business APIs that can be invoked by client applications. This client application is also a deliverable from the developer and can be built by a separate front-end developer. These are all parts that we will be working on during summer school. We will have less focus on the consensus algorithm used, the number of peers, and the security aspects of the blockchain network, because this is typically the responsibility of the network operator in a blockchain project.

Why do you focus on Hyperledger Fabric?

EC: Hyperledger Fabric is one of the many open source projects that fall under the Hyperledger umbrella. Hyperledger itself is a Linux Foundation project and consists of several so-called blockchain frameworks and tools. Fabric is one of the available frameworks, and is particularly interesting because IBM has made a significant contribution to this. It is ideally suited for building enterprise blockchains solutions because of the modular structure of Fabric and the fact that it provides for key requirements such as having a shared ledger, identity, endorsement, and confidentiality. Take, for example, a business network with 10 companies that are in a supply chain. If you set up this network with the help of Fabric, then all nodes in the network have a replica of the ledger (shared ledger), the participants in the network know which other parties they are doing business with (identity), and the participants are able to communicate confidentially with each other via specially designed channels (confidentiality). The latter then forms a kind of sub-network within the larger blockchain network.

Because of the modular and generic structure, Fabric is therefore ideally suited for application to many different business scenarios, from supply chains to supporting financial processes. This feature, and the fact that IBM has been involved with this project from the outset, is the reason that this event focuses on Fabric.

Who is the target audience for this workshop?

EC: Everyone is welcome. Although it is preferred to have technical affinity, such as a developer. The languages you can work with to build smart contracts are JavaScript/TypeScript, Java, and Go. It is useful if you are already a bit familiar with these. Regarding permissioned blockchains, we start from the beginning. So as a beginner but also as an experienced developer, there is plenty to get out of it. If you are fully experienced in Fabric, then you are also very welcome to support other participants and share your knowledge.

Looking forward meeting you on the 5th and 12th of September. Let’s have some fun coding together!

Hackathon banner image

Brenda van den Hoven

KubeCoin: Turning steps into swag at events worldwide

Last year, the IBM Developer Cloud and Blockchain content teams created KubeCoin, an experimental blockchain app that can be used at developer events to anonymously track an attendees’ footsteps and convert them into virtual “KubeCoins” which they can redeem for prizes.

Since then, the app has been used at 18 events in North America and Europe. I’m envious in that it was used quite a bit in Scandanavia last year. Participants who used it walked over 7 million steps and 5,000 km over 25 days of conferences. We had well over a thousand participants, and our idea was shared with tens of thousands of others.

The app will be used again this weekend at Developer Summit 2019 in Istanbul. Lucky app, to travel so far.

Each time KubeCoin is used at an event, there is a new set of merchandise that a participant can exchange their footsteps for. Rather than display mismatching photos of the objects, I started drawing the items to a similar palette and style for each event’s swag store. You can see them below — most were drawn quickly between meetings or at the end of a day. Always a fun little project to return to. It was neat to see how the objects accrued on my Adobe Illustrator art boards.

KubeCoin prizes

Even this swag is inventory controlled on a blockchain. Retail stores likely don’t have this level of inventory control! In our case, we set it up to demonstrate the technology and to show that it can be done quickly. Of course, this sophistication is unnecessary for our needs, but the Hyperledger architecture allowed us to segment independent events quickly and easily on a Hyperledger Fabric. Many people (most of whom have probably never actually implemented blockchain before) argue that the technology is theoretically overkill, but in my opinioin the concepts are important to understand right now. We made our system open source to show how we did it.

Each time the app has been used at an event, we’ve learned something new about it: We’ve fixed bugs, improved the user experience, learned about conference habits, or thought more deeply about the use of blockchain. Even though we aren’t working on the app very much at the moment, it still makes conference appearances. The Hyperledger Fabric has been running for over a year now. A little engineering goes a long way!

Anton McConville

Interview: Chris Ferris on how IBM has led the way in open technologies and Hyperledger

Few people have been more involved in the evolution of open source and open standards technologies than Chris Ferris. The IBM Distinguished Engineer and CTO of Open Technology has been an enthusiastic proponent of open governance for two decades, and was instrumental in IBM’s efforts to take a leading role in developing and promoting open technologies. Chris recently sat down with IBM Developer’s Kevin Allen to discuss IBM’s role in the evolution of open technologies, including Hyperledger. What follows are some key portions of that conversation. (Watch the entire interview here.)

Chris Ferris

Kevin Allen: What are some of the things that you learned early on that have bridged your career — the keys to creating, maintaining, and having successful open source communities?

Chris Ferris: I recognized early on that doing anything in a sort of a closed, proprietary manner in terms of developing software was a losing proposition. It’s a slower process, you are limiting your innovation to the people that you have, and so forth. And what I was perceiving was that when things are developed out in the open, they just exploded. They would develop an order of magnitude more quickly, and then you’d have this blossoming ecosystem of sub-projects, related projects, tooling, and so forth that would develop around them … that’s what really what brought me to IBM — I was invited to bring some of that appreciation to IBM, to help IBM sort of get it, to be more involved and to take this beyond just the things that we were doing around Java and XML, and apply that pretty much across the board.

[Around 2010], inside IBM we had six independent, non-interoperable, prototypical virtualization platforms, and we were thinking this could become cloud. The problem is we had six of them, they were all different business units, they were competing against one another. So that was when I started looking at open source as being an answer to what we were doing, and we started looking around at some of the various projects, and that led me to OpenStack. At the time, OpenStack was still very young, it was fairly immature from a software development perspective — but you could tell that there was something special about it, and it was the community that really was what attracted us to the technology platform.

KA: OK, so you were able to start to use OpenStack as a way to articulate our cloud story, and to make a cohesive offering?

CF: So we thought about this. We could take these six non-interoperable, non-workload-portable implementations and try to consolidate them, unify them into a single, coherent offering of an IBM data center virtualization/private cloud kind of a solution. Or we could adopt for this emerging technology in OpenStack that seemed to be garnering both a community of dedicated developers and interest from a large number of vendors — and make a go of that. And so we managed to convince the business that the right thing to do was to start new. And that helped significantly to transform IBM from a closed, proprietary software development shop to one that was really fully embracing open source, and I think that was a nice turning point for IBM.

KA: How did you get from OpenStack to starting to work on Blockchain?

CF: So OpenStack then led to CloudFoundry. We [saw that] this Platform as a Service was going to be an important aspect of what we deliver … We had the beginnings of a cloud, but where developers were moving was beyond just provisioning VMs and deploying things into a virtual machine context, to wanting to just focus on the application development, not so much on the infrastructure details. So we started looking around and we saw CloudFoundry, and we said again, another really good opportunity. And so I worked … to help establish the CloudFoundry Foundation. So now I’ve got a reputation inside of IBM: I know how to sort of get these communities up off the ground and engage IBM in them and ramp up our contributions and so forth into those, build a community, build an ecosystem, and so forth.

So fast forward to 2015 … we’d been exploring Ethereum and bitcoin and a lot of the lightning and sidechains and various other things, but none of them seemed suitable for the enterprise. And so we started to build our own proprietary blockchain technology. [IBM Vice President of Blockchain Technology Jerry Cuomo], in his infinite wisdom, felt that if this is going to be successful, it can’t just be IBM. It has to be open source. And so I said we should definitely open source it. Again, a technology that’s intended to be essentially ubiquitous has to be open source. If it’s going to be successful, it can’t just be IBM. So I worked with the Linux Foundation because we had worked very closely with them most recently on CloudFoundry and Node.js and a few other projects — and that’s how Hyperledger began. I approached them with a proposal and we built a set of initial sponsors and formed the governance model, and the rest is history. We’ve grown nearly tenfold since the launch in February of 2016. So I think an impressive start. It’s actually the fastest-growing community at the Linux Foundation of all time.

KA: So how does someone get involved in Hyperledger, specifically?

CF: Basically if you go to Hyperledger.org, there’s a number of different pages and then a number of different tabs. One of them is “Projects.” We now have 12 top-level projects, five of which are blockchain frameworks, and then we have some tooling and so forth to go with those. So I would start there.

IBM Developer staff