In 2013, Jelurida, the team behind open source blockchain platform NXT, ran the second ever ICO. Although not a very successful token sale, raising a mere $6,000, the small team managed to build and launch NXT, which has since become a stable blockchain with a large variety of features. However, aside from a couple of noteworthy names using NXT — European bank BNP Paribas and Accenture Spain — the platform hasn’t seen the adoption Jelurida had hoped for.
Still, the technology behind NXT is solid and Jelurida has gained valuable experience from running the platform in production for four years — that’s a long time in blockchain years. And while the team will continue to support the NXT blockchain and software for years to come, it is about to launch its new platform, Ardor, and most of its development resources are now going into this.
Ardor, the successor to NXT will go live later this year and will introduce some promising new ideas that deserve the attention of both investors and other blockchain companies looking for the right platform for their project. In fact, if Jelurida had some of Ethereum’s marketing capabilities, or a strong personality as their voice, Ardor’s child chain capabilities (which I’ll get to in a moment) would be all over the news. (Disclosure: I have no vested interests in Jelurida, NXT, or Ardor).
Ardor uses a Proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus mechanism (NXT was the first blockchain to fully implement this), which Ethereum is also planning a switch to in a future update, moving away from its current Proof-of-work (PoW) system. With PoS there is no resource-heavy mining involved. Instead coins are forged, or minted, making it much more cost effective than PoW. In light of China’s recent ban on crypto exchanges, and maybe also on mining operations in the near future, Ardor’s PoS approach could make it a more censorship-resistant platform as it doesn’t rely on mining factories, which could prove to be a lucrative centralized target to censor.
Ardor operates on a Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) model, supporting many use cases out of the box and makes it easy for anyone to get into the blockchain space, while also allowing developers to build their own solutions on top of it.
Ardor is also a platform well suited for running ICOs — anyone is able to create a new currency and issue an ICO in a few minutes, making it a more accessible alternative to Ethereum. Ardor’s main innovation however, and the reason I wanted to take a closer look at the technology, is its new approach to fixing the problem of blockchain scalability and bloat.
Introducing child chains
The issue with scaling blockchains today is that they are a “continously growing list of records.” As file size grows, this becomes a problem for anyone who wants to download and use any of the major blockchains. To solve this, Jelurida is introducing a new architecture, consisting of one main chain with several child chains (not to be confused with side chains) built on top.
Ardor is the main chain, or parent chain. It’s a small, lightweight chain whose main job is to ensure the security of the whole network. All the features, both the existing ones from NXT, which will all be retained, and new ones, will run on the child chains, along with data and transactions that don’t affect security.
The first child chain on Ardor is Ignis. It’s being built by Jelurida itself and is in the middle of an ICO. While Ignis is an open, permissionless blockchain that anyone can use freely, Jelurida’s business model is selling software licenses and consulting services to corporations who want to build their own permissioned child chains.
To get network effects, the company will also need to attract other projects that want to build their own child chains for specific use cases. An Ardor child chain is the equivalent of an ERC20 token, which blockchain startups use to launch a new project on Ethereum. But Ardor’s child chains providing richer functionality out of the box.
Pruning is another scaling measure being introduced with Ardor. It will be possible to completely prune any or all child chain transactions without affecting the security of the Ardor parent chain, allowing the blockchain size to be kept small. Together, the child chain and pruning concepts should ensure sustainable growth for the Ardor network for years to come.
It’s worth noting that Vitalik Buterin, cofounder of Ethereum, and Joseph Poon, founder of Bitcoin Lightning Network, recently announced Plasma, a framework for scaling blockchains using child chains that run on top of a root blockchain, e.g. Ethereum. Jelurida suggests that this could be in response to Ardor. The two have given no roadmap or timelines for Plasma, and Poon has admitted there’s a long way to go. Still, given Buterin and Poon’s star staus, Plasma has already gotten substantial attention across the crypto community.
An advantage Ardor has over other Blockchain-as-a-Service platforms is that it lets users pay transaction fees in any child chain token, not just Ardor’s native token (ARDR, which is tradable on the markets today). Take Ethereum for example. Ether is the native token there, and you need to pay for the computation that’s required for your transaction to run, in Ether. However, if you have built a child chain on Ardor, your users will be able to both transact in your token and pay the transaction fees in it.
Aside from Ethereum, competitors in the Blockchain-as-a-Service arena include the likes of Stratis, Lisk and Ark, to name a few. Although technically quite different from Ardor, they solve some of the same problems. Jelurida does, however, believe that its parent/child chain architecture is currently unique in the blockchain space and that the high level of interoperability it allows for between child chains will be a door-opener for even more use cases than its competition can offer.
Jelurida consists of three full-time and two part-time developers as well as a managing director with background as a legal advisor. It has corporate entities registered in the Netherlands and Switzerland. These are some of the most experienced people in the crypto scene, and with Ardor being based on the solid, long-running NXT platform, it could be a dark horse in this space. If Jelurida can work on its marketing and start generating some buzz, maybe Ardor will get the chance to show the world its real potential.
Trond Vidar Bjorøy is head of product development and implementation – Nordics at travel management company ATPI. He became interested in blockchain due to its applications in the travel industry but now tracks ICOs and emerging blockchain projects across a variety of industries.