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July 27, 2022

Bridging Web2 to Web3 with Space and Time

As with Web2, and Cloud, and AI/ML, there will be increasing pressure to begin exploring /understanding Web3 technology in the enterprise.

Bridging Web2 to Web3 with Space and Time

Web3 is an easy catch-all for many different uses of blockchain technology, including crypto-currencies, smart contracts, DeFi, Play-to-Earn games, etc., with new use-cases almost daily.  But more than just a shared technology, Web3 is a philosophy that everyone should benefit from a shift in ownership and operations of the web back to a decentralized community, including more transparent, cryptographically verifiable (trustless) management of data - culminating in users reclaiming direct control of their data.

For those outside the Web3 world, this creates a double-hurdle; new initiates must first absorb the substantial technical differences, then reconcile what an entirely new mind-set means for their business, all within an industry that is maturing so fast that new solutions hit the market almost daily.

While Space and Time (SxT) cannot entirely solve these immersion challenges, it can help traditional (Web2) enterprises understand this new operational reality more quickly by presenting a novel paradigm in a very familiar (and useful) package: data warehousing.

Mandates and Industry Pressure

As with Web2, then Cloud, then AI/ML, there will be increasing pressure to begin exploring /understanding Web3 technology in traditional enterprises. This can be daunting, as it represents yet another paradigm shift in computing - and not a trivial change like cloud, where the same components simply shifted data center owners and pricing models - Web3 is a completely novel way of envisioning compute, from infrastructure to software to ownership to value creation. Time and time again, the market rewards companies that are ahead of the adoption curve and punishes those that are laggards. So it made sense when looking at the go-to-market strategy for SxT that we target both Web3 native companies looking to ease the burden of merging blockchain data with traditional datasets with cryptographic guarantees, as well Web2 enterprises looking to begin a Web3 journey, using the well-understood analytics / data warehouse technology as a spring-board to simplify and provide context for better, faster understanding. 

What’s the Same?

SxT is both a transactional data store and a data warehouse, made possible by Web3 distributed computing techniques and new advances in open source data technologies. This means at its core, it’s an ANSI-Compliant SQL database - very familiar to anyone in the enterprise IT space.  You can submit SQL queries using familiar SQL editor tools using ODBC/JDBC.  You can submit API requests using REST and GraphQL.  How you use SxT will feel very familiar, because SxT implements a SQL database that every enterprise on the planet has used somewhere in their analytic ecosystem over the last 40 years. 

What’s Different?

The SQL interface for Space and Time may be familiar to everyone, but the underpinnings are very different. Rather than a single logical IT asset hosted locally or in the cloud, SxT is a decentralized application.  This is different from a distributed (sharded or clustered) application, like Spark, Snowflake, or Hadoop, which work as one logical entity composed of many units of compute.  SxT is a network of these distributed applications, essentially a cluster-of-clusters. 

But that’s NOT what makes Web3 different - rather, the fact individual clusters are decentralized, meaning that anyone can become a cluster operator and expand the SxT network.  Rather than requiring trust in a centralized, monolithic provider, Web3 aims to build a decentralized network of community providers for whom trust is not required.  By leveraging blockchain, cryptography, and encryption, data can be distributed, stored, and queried securely with immutable audit trails.  SxT can return cryptographic guarantees that the SQL submitted was the SQL run using SxT’s novel “Proof of SQLtm” cryptography. Alongside a chain-anchored merkle tree to provide proof of storage, this provides validation (rather than trust) and opens the way for anyone with the aptitude and desire to start a SxT cluster and join the network (and be paid for their services).  Like anyone, an enterprise can also become a node operator, such that revenue from the compute contributions back to the network offset the cost of their own usage - making SxT essentially free (or even profitable).

Securing Data on an Open Network

The first objection is usually around data access and security, and the idea of handing data to 3rd party node operators can be unnerving.  Space and Time has two solutions, depending on the data sensitivity and Web3 adoption curve:

End-to-End encryption

The easiest way to protect data on SxT is built-in encryption.  This doesn’t disallow 3rd party access to the data, but rather encrypts the data such that it becomes unreadable to anyone outside of the organization.  

Private Node Cluster

Recall SxT is a cluster-of-clusters. This allows enterprises with highly sensitive data or internal resistance to Web3 paradigms to build their own SxT cluster, inside their intranet and servicing only internal requests.  This doesn’t preclude that private cluster from participating in multi-cluster joins if needed, so joining to external datasets is still viable, with proper networking.

Web3 Data Transparency

Similar to a shift to decentralized infrastructure and cryptographic guarantees, another shift in Web3 is from data protectionism to data transparency.  This is helped by the immutability of blockchain - the ledger cannot be updated by anyone (even the author).  Most players in the Web3 space are comfortable sharing many operational datasets, where privacy allows.  Look at the first use of blockchain: crypto-currency.  Every transaction of any crypto-currency is publicly available. In fact, the system wouldn’t work if the community couldn’t check for accuracy.  Users are identified only by their Wallet ID (hash code), so user data is owned by the users - but the transactions are public record. 

Of course there is enterprise data inappropriate to publish, which is why SxT merges traditional DWH data with Web3 / blockchain data, on one system. SxT also incents data providers to transparently share data sets, where appropriate.  All this to say: Web3 companies think through what can be shared with the community and what must be secured, rather than always defaulting to the latter. 

Summary

I think back to statements made in the early days of cloud computing: “Enterprises will NEVER host their sensitive data on someone else’s hardware.”  Today, all growth of data warehousing is in-cloud and on-premise solutions are considered “legacy”. Reticence about cloud is a sign of old thinking.  Web3 is today where cloud computing was 10 years ago… new, not always well understood, but maturing rapidly and full of potential value to early adopters - and likely to be a component of most future ecosystem architectures. Forward-looking traditional organizations are looking to put a toe in that water today, exploring and understanding new technologies and operating expectations - a situation SxT is uniquely capable of assisting with, by providing tangible value for both Web3 (plan for the future) and Web2 (generate value today) use cases.

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