Today Digital Asset and Red Date Technology, one of China’s Blockchain-based Service Network (BSN) founders, announced plans to integrate the DAML smart contract language with BSN. Additionally, DAML will become the “exclusive standard” for developing decentralized applications (dApps). The key feature of DAML is that it can work on most enterprise blockchains and Ethereum. But this announcement takes it a step further using DAML for dApps that can interoperate between networks using different blockchain protocols.
Backed by the State Information Center of China (SIC), the BSN is a low-cost, accessible onramp originally targeted to aid individuals and small businesses to adopt blockchain. There is a Chinese version and a global one. The former only supports enterprise blockchains, initially Hyperledger Fabric and China’s FISCO BCOS. And the global one is additionally integrated with numerous public blockchains, including Ethereum, EOS, Tezos, Nervos, NEO and IRISnet.
“Today, each blockchain protocol has its own built in smart contract language; but that makes it difficult for developers, who need to learn many different technologies to get started, and must rewrite their application entirely if they want to deploy to a different blockchain,” said Yifan He, CEO of Red Date. “By selecting DAML as the exclusive smart contract language of the BSN itself, our developers will gain the choice of using one unifying smart contract language seamlessly and interoperably across every blockchain.”
BSN’s founding members are SIC, China Mobile, China UnionPay and Red Date Technology. The network already has 130 nodes across China.
“BSN is the largest blockchain infrastructure initiative in China,” said Zhiguang Shan, of State Information Center and Chairman of the BSN Development Association on the DAML announcement. “Since its inception, our goal has been to break down blockchain silos and create an ecosystem that is open, interoperable and accessible to all.”
A few months ago, it was announced that Tencent associate WeBank would integrate DAML with FISCO BCOS, China’s answer to Hyperledger Fabric. WeBank plans to contribute that work to BSN. By November this year, there will be a pilot for a DAML application interoperating across networks between Hyperleger Fabric and FISCO BCOS. The solution is expected to be generally available in 2021.
That last point is an important distinction. Right now, DAML runs on many blockchains, but in each case, the smart contracts function on a single network. Two months ago, Digital Asset laid out its vision of using DAML for blockchain interoperability, particularly for capital markets, one of its core strengths. This is the first commercial announcement about implementing blockchain interoperability with DAML.
So far, DAML has been integrated with VMware Blockchain, Corda, Hyperledger Fabric, Sawtooth and Besu (for Ethereum) as well as multiple databases.
In terms of interoperability on the BSN side, there are also plans to create an Interchain Communications Hub using IRISNet’s IRITA based interchain service, which uses the Cosmos/IRIS SDK, one of the better know interoperability solutions for public networks.
Meanwhile, this announcement follows President Trump’s recent ban on Tencent’s WeChat in the United States. The Chinese side of BSN uses WeChat for support, but the global version uses Telegram. And FISCO BCOS was co-founded by Tencent and its associate WeBank as well as others.
Analyzing the move from Digital Asset’s perspective, the BSN fits very neatly with DAML’s cross ledger and interoperability vision. From a pragmatic point of view, this is a big win. It’s also not as if Digital Asset is the only U.S. company involved in the BSN. Google Cloud and Amazon’s AWS also host nodes alongside China Mobile, China Telecom and Baidu AI Cloud.
The WeChat ban was around the same time as the U.K. ban on using Huawei for 5G. At the time, we raised the question about whether the BSN might not get on the radar at some point.
From a Chinese angle, there are also issues. Many Chinese talks and papers about blockchain repeatedly raise the need to develop technology within China. That was one of the reasons for developing FISCO BCOS. The desire for homegrown technology is partly in response to Trump’s moves over the last few years and a desire to be a technology powerhouse.
But for now, thankfully, blockchain is not part of the U.S. China tug-of-war, and this looks like a promising collaboration.