January 12, 2023

Exploring Space and Time: Web3-native Data Platform

Exploring Space and Time is a deep-dive video interview series on the various components of the Space and Time platform.

Exploring Space and Time is a deep-dive video interview series on the various components of the Space and Time platform. In this episode, Creative Director Spencer Reeves interviews Head of Ecosystem Ebru Engwall on Space and Time as a Web3-native data platform.

Ebru currently serves as Head of Ecosystem at Space and Time, leading partnerships and integration efforts to advance the growth and development of the company's ecosystem for mutual success. She is an accomplished software engineer with over a decade of experience in big data and business intelligence, including a tenure at Oracle. Her passion for web3 and blockchain led her to join SKALE Labs as Director of Solutions Engineering, where she successfully led the validator program, oversaw the network launch, and managed integration efforts for dapp developers and partners.

Spencer: What's going on, everybody? Welcome back to another episode of Exploring Space and Time. I'm joined by Ebru today, who's our Head of Ecosystem. Really excited to be able to get some time and sit down with you. Ebru, why don't you go ahead and give yourself a short introduction? Why don't you let the audience know how you got into the blockchain space and maybe a little bit about what you've been working on?

Ebru: Yeah, absolutely. And thank you for having me, Spencer. This is very exciting. This is my first interview at Space and Time, so I'm looking forward to what we're going to talk about! But yeah, you said I joined Space and Time recently as a Head of Ecosystem. Basically, I'm leading the partnership effort in integrations, and my background is heavily on the engineering side, software engineering and data, big data and also Web3. So as you can imagine, it's just the perfect combination for Space and Time. And prior to Space and Time, I was working for SKALE Labs team and building SKALE Network. I was Director of Solutions Engineering there. So it's very similar. I basically led the validator program, building the validator community and all these direct network releases, launches, partnership and integrations in the Web3 space. I made sure that everybody, like all the partners, had a successful journey with SKALE. And prior to that I was at Oracle, Web2. Basically, I was a software engineer, a big data engineer there. Prior to that in general, I built customer data platforms for marketing clouds, like startups and Oracle. And now I love technology, I love data, I love Web3. So I'm here at Space and Time. I'm looking forward to what we are going to build together.

Spencer: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the partnerships alone this year with Space and Time have already been so exciting.

Ebru: I know! So much demand.

Spencer: A lot more to go, too. So, a couple things I want to unpack. So when did you first get into Web3? You mentioned that you worked at SKALE. What drew you to decentralized technology? What drew you over?

Ebru: Yeah, absolutely. I started in 2017, I was checking the technologies. I was in Web2 and I started reading books about blockchain. I still didn't understand it at first, like what it is, and it just took me a while to click. I had a friend, Christine Perry, who I worked with, she was the VP of Solutions Engineering. So one day—I think it was my wedding day—I was just like, "You know what? I really want to go into the blockchain space. It's a very cool technology and I love the decentralization idea!" And then she's like, "Wait. I'm working at SKALE Network. What about you join our team?" I'm an extrovert by nature and I was coding every day, writing SQL crazy code and writing Java code and then she was like, "You have a natural thing for solutions engineering and partnership and we have a need for that. Do you want to just change?" And then I took a big risk and said, "Let's do it!" And then I loved it, talking to people. I was still technical, but I really loved that the blockchain space and the node operators and everybody in the space was so welcoming. Going to a hackathon was my first day. So I loved just working with the hackers, side by side, working with the node operators. It was just a blast. So I just made one of the best decisions to join the Web3 space.

Spencer: Yeah, I definitely think that's been one of my favorite aspects of the space too.

Ebru: You too, eh?

Spencer: A collective goal. Everybody just wants mass adoption. We're all working toward the same goal. This is not a winner-take-all market, you know what I mean? We're working with partners. So, you mentioned leading the validator program. How do you view that role, and how are you going to transfer that over to Space and Time?

Ebru: That's a very good question. So, when I was at SKALE Network and SKALE Labs team, I loved working with the validators. They're an inner-collaborative community. So it's basically that if they believe in the projects and because they support the backbone of the network, every decentralized network, after a while they become your coworkers. They just support the network and they provide security. They work together. You work together in every release, and the upgrades, network launches, celebrations, and also go to hackathon events together. After a while, they're part of your life, your everyday life and because they know what they're doing, you don't have to tell them anything. You just say that, "Hey, this is our project, this is what we are doing." They provide the security, they provide the educational and co-marketing, and that's basically the best support for every network.

So I love working with them because they're super hardworking and smart individuals. It doesn't matter if it's a small validator group, which is a couple of people coming together, technology enthusiasts versus big enterprise validators. I can name a couple of them, Blockdaemon, Ankr, Dokia, I work with a lot of them. I can go on and on. So these guys, they know what they're doing. I loved working with them and I'm planning to just hopefully do the same thing as Space and Time, build a validator community with all these top tier validators and publicly just build a validator community at Space and Time. I'm excited for that.

Spencer: Well, I think I speak for everybody in that we're beyond excited that you're spearheading this.

Ebru: Oh, I appreciate that!

Spencer: Let's back up here a bit and kind of talk more about Space and Time, especially given that you have maybe a little bit fresher eyes on Space and Time right now. We've been coined as this unique data solution in the space right now, especially when it comes to joining on-chain and off-chain data. So walk me through what you think is so novel about this and what kind of use cases is it going to enable moving forward.

Ebru: That's good. Let me just think about it. I'm just so excited about the on-chain and off-chain combination, right? So we are currently working with the major blockchains like Polygon, Avalanche, Ethereum data, all these and maybe hopefully Sui network and Solana and more, right? And then other than the blockchain data, being able to bring the off-chain data into a data warehouse provides us an amazing decentralized data warehouse so that anybody just can run a smart contract query on top of terabytes of data. So what I'm just very excited about, one of them is the Chainlink partnership, right? The Chainlink partnership is going to open up a lot of opportunities for a lot of gaming and DeFi use cases and different business logic. So normally I would just spend a lot of time building a smart contract to basically write a query that brings on-chain off-chain.

For instance, gaming. I have a wallet, I want to just ask, like, "Hey, what are all these wallet addresses for this specific NFT? Who are the owners that are actually in a leaderboard in off-chain gaming data?" Bring this data into a data warehouse, combine it, and then just read that in a tamperproof way, which is the Proof of SQL. Proof of SQL is just mind-blowing. I don't want to just go into a lot of just sidetrack things, but that is so cool that after the data is ingested, the blockchain data or off-chain data is ingested, having the ability to make sure that it is tamperproof has never been seen. I haven't seen that anywhere.

Normally you incentivize node operators, staking, to secure the network, to make sure that the data that is provided is correct. But Proof of SQL ensures that in the entire network, data is exactly identical and tamperproof and not modified. This is just actually one of the mind-blowing things for me. And also after the block finality, in any blockchain, three seconds after, you can query it through an API, a JDBC connection, you can do it anywhere, and also provide this information to a smart contract and feed with the Chainlink partnership. It's very unique. Chainlink has the highest transaction volume in every network. Everybody uses it, and they're the best oracle. So I'm very excited about this partnership. But giving them this platform, Space and Time, as a decentralized data warehouse that people can run SQL queries on instead of thinking about crazy smart contracts, how to store the data, what if gas price goes up to $300, giving this to the developers so that they can build it on top of Space and Time is something that is needed as an infrastructure level for the decentralized communities.

Spencer: 100%. And you quickly mentioned that normally this is a node-operator job. We've got people doing this and providing tamperproof queries to our network right now. So what do you see as the role of a node in Space and Time and what do they provide?

Ebru: Absolutely. Node operators, as I mentioned, they're the backbone. Can I share just the architecture a little bit?

Spencer: Yeah, absolutely. Go for it.

Ebru: Awesome. So the architecture is very cool. There's a validator tier and there's a data warehouse cluster tier. The validator tier is very straightforward. It's a bunch of microservices coming together, doing different things. It's docker containers, microservices, it's kind of like Kafka streaming, data rooting, so gateway, API, consensus and also we talked about Proof of SQL. The verification goes into this validator tier. So that's the first tier. And the second tier is the data warehouse cluster where you run the SQL. The engine where you can just run the SQL queries. And also, because of Proof of SQL, we have the partnership with NVIDIA.

So as you can imagine, we need high-performance GPU-accelerated, powerful machines. And node operators, of course, their role is to provide the security, provide high availability and also performance validator and data warehouse clusters. So in return, they will be incentivized for their effort and what they're going to provide. And there will be monitoring and telemetry, of course, a bunch of other stuff. But in general they're going to provide the powerful machines and also the high availability, 99.9% of the time. And so they basically, that's their role in the network. And provide the decentralization, 100%.

Spencer: 100%. And I think that's going to be one of the most critical parts of our infrastructure, that absolutely we're actually providing decentralized analytics and data warehousing, which isn't really available right now. You mentioned our partnership with Chainlink a couple times. Let's unpack that. Let's go into what the function of an oracle is and how Space and Time is leveraging Chainlink oracles, or their DONs, to connect external adapters, run APIs. How are we leveraging their services? 

Ebru: Spencer, you already know, the APIs and oracles, which is awesome. 

Spencer: I'll let you take the floor.

Ebru: So Chainlink, I'm very, very excited about that, I mentioned earlier. So basically, Chainlink oracles are mainly used for data feeds. The price feeds, like ETH, USDC, in multiple networks. That's what the oracles are mostly known for. And also their external adapters, where you can just plug it in and then any API, their oracles just can query off-chain data, right? They just bring off-chain data into smart contracts. And also I didn't mention that most of the time it's a centralized data warehouse that the query is bringing in. What Space and Time brings into this space is the tamperproof queries, query results, which is Proof of SQL. We are bringing the full decentralization. 

So think about it, again, I just mentioned NFT tokens and that you want to bring off-chain data. There's so many assets around blockchains, and so basically Space and Time provides full, unified data that anybody can query, realtime data or complex analytical queries, and then they can feed into smart contracts with Chainlink integration. And then what happens is that it's a decentralized infrastructure, so we are providing the fully-secure data for the entire community. So that first of all, again, I mentioned that developers don't have to write crazy smart contracts and they can just write a SQL query, and it will just go back with the external adapter, it's going to query on Space and Time and then this query result is going to feed the smart contract, instead of developers just thinking about, "Oh my gosh, where am I going to store this data? What about the gas price?" So Space and Time is going to provide, "Hey, this is the gas price that you are going to see if you execute the SQL query," or "This is the single query that you're going to execute." They can just write it on Space and Time and then change it any time and just publish it in the production and use it anytime instead of writing crazy logic.

Spencer: Absolutely. Yeah. Okay. So as we unpack this kind of network that is Space and Time and node operations, how does Space and Time differ from that of a blockchain?

Ebru: Yeah, good question. Blockchain in general, I've worked at SKALE Network, which is an EVM chain, like Polygon; there are a bunch of EVM chains. And then there's new DM projects; Sui network is one of them, is coming out. So basically, to make it very simple, Ethereum and all these blockchains are kind of like a database as well. But you basically broadcast a transaction and the block just forms and they provide the secure decentralized blockchain. So what happens is that if I just send you—think of a smart contract, Spencer, I'm sending you a hundred dollars and basically in the blockchain it just checks if I have the funds in the smart contract and is this the right address? It's from address to address and the transaction is broadcasted. Miners or validators just work in—I mean now it's all validators, everything is staking—but validators just basically form the blockchain, and mostly this data is stored in, I think, LevelDB in the EVM.

But what Space and Time can provide is that you can query the wallet balances of both of us across all the networks because Space and Time indexes all the blockchain data. Basically, I can just query "What is my wallet balance?" across Polygon, Avalanche, and Ethereum and SKALE Network all together. So basically you can just query all the assets and how many assets do you have everywhere? How many NFTs do you have everywhere? How many 1155 NFTs do you have everywhere? So basically you can query this data and then combine it with the off-chain data. So it's a data warehouse. But I want to just mention very quickly that when you were asking me how I joined the space three and a half years ago, basically I joined because I love data as well, and Ethereum reminded me of these early databases that take forever to execute.

So, as I mentioned, I love playing around with it, it's familiar, but I can just say that there are so many new languages now—the language changes for coding—but SQL just is going to live forever, I feel. And then, of course, Space and Time is not only going to just support SQL but also Graph Query Language as well. So instead of writing for-loops in the smart contract, you can just plug it into any other big data and Web2 approach—you have the API, you'll have a code, and now you execute a select statement, if it's analytical or transactional queries. Basically, Space and Time provides both of them. Hybrid transactional/analytical processing. So you write SQL queries and execute anywhere.

Blockchain needs this kind of background infrastructure for a decentralized future, and anybody can just use the JDBC query, plug it to Tableau, or just use the JDBC connection to just use the Tableau Builds Dashboards. Or you can use the API query for your dapp and then just use it for your marketplaces. It can be used for lending derivatives. There's so many use cases that you can use Space and Time for, and it's so important. Specifically Proof of SQL, especially for DeFi. I cannot tell you enough how important it is.

Spencer: 100%. I couldn't agree more. Sweet. Well, Ebru, it's been so amazing getting to sit down with you. We're running out of time here, but I want to leave you off with one more question. It's been a trial by fire for you. I mean, you've jumped right into the flames as soon as you've been at Space and Time. Any parting thoughts to the community about what you're excited about, maybe some of the exciting things you've already been a part of at Space and Time and how we can capitalize on that and move forward?

Ebru: Absolutely. Do you know Hot Ones, or whatever that YouTube thing is? We should do that. Hot wings and Space and Time.

Spencer: We could buy some of those <laugh>.

Ebru: What I'm excited most about as Head of Ecosystem is the community, and building the community. In every decentralized network, the core team just works on it, but building the community, developer community and validator community and analyst community, I think these are all the things that I'm very, very excited about. Not only the technology. The technology is unique. We have partnerships, but before I joined. It's easy. My work is easy. Before I joined, we already had an amazing partnership with Chainlink, an amazing partnership with Azure. We are doing all that development there. A partnership with AWS. We are going to have one-click deployments for node operators across all the major clouds. I'm going to mention it later, we have, hopefully, new cloud partnerships as well. There are so many partnership opportunities that I've been involved with, like 50 of them, and it's my first month. And it's amazing, the community and ecosystem that we are building together. Not only the people who are working as the core team, who are bright individuals, but it's like the partnership that I'm seeing, the people that I'm working with, I think that's what I'm most excited about, because everybody is excited about the technology, and together we are just going to bring it to life for everyone.

Spencer: I couldn't be more grateful for the amazing partners we have, especially our internal team and the community. Speaking of which, again, thank you all so much for tuning in. This has been a blast, Ebru. I cannot wait to get to sit down with you again.

Ebru: Let's do it!

Spencer: Yeah! Right. Until next time, guys. Thank you. Cheers.