We are excited to share a new strategic chapter in VMware Blockchain’s journey to delivering a robust, enterprise-grade decentralized trust platform for multi-party applications. One of our guiding principles has been to provide customers with choice and flexibility in the blockchain ecosystems they can leverage to build their applications. Delivering on this principle, we are enhancing our enterprise-grade VMware Blockchain to support the Ethereum / EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine) ecosystem. In this post, we will share our vision of how an enterprise-focused blockchain platform can augment the Ethereum ecosystem and make it more accessible for enterprise innovation.
Bringing Ethereum to the Enterprise
Since its inception, the Ethereum ecosystem has advanced rapidly in terms of technical innovations, developer count, and application development tooling. This, in turn, enabled existing use cases such as DEXes, lending, and other DeFi primitives to mature and allowed new use cases in gaming, collectibles, NFTs, and Web3 to emerge. Increasingly, we are seeing enterprise customers wanting to leverage this rich ecosystem to build next-generation enterprise networks, yet unable to do so because there are still enterprise-centric gaps in the current ecosystem. Listening to our customers, we identified four core gaps: privacy, scalability, governance, and supportability. These four gaps are precisely the areas in which VMware is innovating. The intent is to create symbiotic benefits: allowing enterprises to leverage the richest blockchain ecosystem while augmenting this ecosystem with enterprise needs. Let us examine each gap and understand why it is essential for enterprise use cases and VMware’s approach to solve it.
In many enterprise multi-party workflows, it is common to have competing parties transact on a given platform. However, different parties may need varying levels of access based on the transaction type (for example, in a privacy-preserving token transfer, the blockchain network should only learn that the token transfer value is preserved but nothing beyond that). In a blockchain network without these constraints, proprietary information that forms the basis of a party’s business model would be in the open, and no party would use such a network. This is one of the gaps most frequently raised to us by enterprise customers. Unfortunately, many privacy solutions are either too naïve (providing privacy via channels without providing trust) or not scalable (zk-EVM privacy, while promising, is still in its early stages).
VMware’s vision is to seamlessly integrate privacy preserving-functionality with the EVM without trading off trust. Our approach leverages zero-knowledge proofs and lightweight multi-party computation via a novel virtual contract abstraction. This abstraction leverages precompiled contracts to handle cryptographic complexity while providing developers a clean interface to build their own Solidity contracts. With this approach, transactions are secured by the blockchain network without compromising data privacy of the transactions.
Scalability & Performance
It’s common knowledge that scalability is one of the core blockchain challenges. This is even more pronounced for enterprise use cases where transactions are more complex than simple token transfers, often requiring lower latency and occurring at a higher throughput. As a result, this has direct implications on transaction cost predictability, which is a key enterprise consideration. Broadly speaking, there are three approaches the industry is taking to achieve scalability: Layer 2 solutions, sharding, and new parallelized languages and VMs. There are complexity, fragmentation, and ecosystem cold start drawbacks (tooling, development expertise, and lack of composability) respectively with these three approaches.
Given the rich ecosystem benefits the EVM provides, our approach is to use this VM and scale our platform using a novel approach to efficiently annotate transactions that commit to limited resources and allow for optimistic parallel execution. Similar to software transactional memory approaches, this approach provides vertical scalability. For horizontal scalability, we are exploring Byzantine Consistent Broadcast techniques. Additionally, our scalability and privacy solutions were designed together to bring both these vital properties with the EVM to enterprise customers.
While many use cases can run on open blockchain networks, there are a set of enterprise use cases where the infrastructure must enable a set of known entities that have the authority (sometimes legal obligation) to control network membership, finalize transactions and resolve disputes within the network. While current enterprise blockchains focus on onboarding onto the blockchain network as a form of governance, feedback from our customers has been that governance between multiple business entities spans much more than this basic notion of access control.
VMware’s approach is to leverage both smart contract-based governance actions for controlling network membership as well as a powerful BFT reconfiguration framework. That allows for upgrades, key management, adding/removing consensus members, and other operational tasks to be performed in a trusted and authenticated manner (i.e., operations performed with byzantine trust guarantees by a set of untrusting operators). Together, these approaches provide enterprise customers with rich, yet easy-to-use governance capabilities that address a majority of enterprise requirements.
Software failures are bound to happen, no matter the robustness engineered into blockchain systems. In settings where business-critical applications are running on blockchains, enterprises need SLO-driven global support services to mitigate the risk and impact of such failures. Given the current landscape of nascent blockchain software, along with scant global support options, this is another common gap enterprise customers have raised as a hindrance to blockchain adoption.
VMware’s approach is to provide the aforementioned technical innovations around privacy, scalability, and governance to the EVM ecosystem and leverage VMware’s world-class global support infrastructure. This will enable enterprise customers to adopt these new innovations and put applications in production with the confidence that a global brand is standing behind their software platform.
Realizing our Vision
We intend to realize the above vision (initially) by delivering a platform that enterprises can use to build and run their own EVM-compatible chains. Accompanying the platform will be a Developer Kit, a set of SDKs that developers can use to build dApps that leverage the privacy, scalability, and governance capabilities highlighted above and run these dApps on the VMware Blockchain platform. We aim to deliver the platform and developer kit in an incremental fashion, with the first beta announced. As we progress with the delivery of the platform, we will integrate with best-in-class partner technology providers specializing in wallets, developer tools, oracles, and other components to simplify development and operation lifecycles.
VMware is hard at work innovating and building the world’s most robust enterprise blockchain platform. We are very excited about the next chapter on extending this platform into the Ethereum ecosystem. Like some of the major brands who are already working with us, enterprise customers can now build their next-generation, EVM-based applications on this novel and innovative platform. Stay tuned for additional announcements on products, partnerships, and case studies which we will publish soon.