What is Ardor: Blockchain as a Service, Explained
Ardor: Out of the Box
Ardor is the latest in the growing field of contenders for blockchain as a service (BaaS) providers. Ardor provides the blockchain infrastructure for businesses and institutions to leverage the strengths of blockchain technology without having to invest in developing custom blockchain solutions. Instead, Ardor offers a main chain that handles blockchain security and decentralization plus customizable child chains that come ready to use, right out of the box, for various business applications.
The developers of Ardor are the same company behind the open source Nxt project that also aimed to democratize access to blockchain technology. Ardor goes beyond Nxt to solve critical issues of blockchain bloat, scalability, and customization. Since launching its testnet, Ardor has risen to the top 30 cryptocurrencies worldwide.
This article will take a detailed look at Ardor, its foundations in Nxt, and its first child chain project Ignis. While the project holds a lot of potential for driving blockchain as a service to new levels of usability and accessibility, its success will likely depend on the amount of traction the development team can generate for early applications. Nxt has struggled to gain the widespread usership the developers had hoped for, outside of some significant examples like BNP Paribas and Accenture, and Ardor presents a turning point for the development team to generate excitement.
To Understand Ardor, You Need to Know About Nxt
Before we dive into what makes Ardor unique, it’s worth looking at the Nxt platform and its origins. Ardor has gained the nickname of “Nxt 2.0” since it relies so heavily on the Nxt core programming. In fact, Ardor will contain nearly all the features of Nxt plus additional advanced capabilities.
Nxt started in 2013 and was one of the very first ICOs ever to launch a cryptocurrency. Although the initial ICO only raised $6,000 in donations, the Nxt founders have stuck with the project over the past 4 years. Nxt was among the first projects to code a new blockchain from scratch, not borrowing any code from Bitcoin. Its open source code is written in Java, and it was also the first blockchain to fully implement proof of stake.
Nxt was designed for experimentation, and the goal was to allow companies and other entities to implement their own blockchain solutions using the API, creating new coins on top of the Nxt blockchain, and even copying/editing the Nxt source code. The development team has created various functionalities that can be activated when a new token is created. These include asset creation, trading, blockchain voting, and creation of marketplaces. Nxt strives to make it easy for companies and entities to create new tokens and begin using them out of the box.
The Problems with Nxt
Nxt is a well respected, verified, and established blockchain technology with a comparatively long history and an experienced development team. However, as blockchain usage increases over the coming years Nxt, and other blockchain technologies, will face some fundamental problems with payments, scalability, and customization.
The first and most straightforward problem is the use of native tokens for transaction fees. Nxt uses a forging proof of stake system, meaning that the total token supply has already been created and new tokens aren’t created with each block. Instead, the forgers that verify the blocks receive a portion of the transaction fees paid on the network. As such, the transaction fees need to be paid in NXT, even if you’ve created a new currency that’s independent of Nxt, you’ll still need to own NXT in order to pay miners, diluting the value of your own currency. This is also true for currencies that use Ethereum’s ERC20 protocol to build on top of the Ethereum blockchain. They pay fees in Ether.
Most blockchain technologies, including Nxt, are also encountering some form of blockchain bloat. The root of this bloat is the need to download the entire history of the blockchain in order to operate a full node on the network. As more transactions get added, the storage requirements for operating a full node increase.
Soon, operating a node on a blockchain could mean downloading hundreds of gigabytes of transaction data in order to get your node up and running, creating a severe bottleneck for adding new nodes. While Nxt has implemented some pruning of information that isn’t relevant to verifying the transactions, the current system of downloading a complete copy of the transaction history is not sustainable long-term.
Blockchain as a service solutions that encourage customization, new asset creation, and trading platforms face a challenge when it comes to helping clients maintain their systems. While it’s relatively straightforward to create a clone of the Nxt blockchain, doing so would also require separate servers and ongoing maintenance to keep the customized system running smoothly.
Clones will lag behind on software updates and security protocols, and Nxt would have to invest too much effort in ongoing support for customized solutions based on Nxt.
How Ardor Works and Solves Those Problems
Ardor includes every feature supported by the Nxt blockchain, but it changes the architecture of how new blockchains get implemented. It separates security from functionality by creating multiple chains. The Ardor main chain is a slimmed down bare bones blockchain built for speed and security.
When you want to implement a new project on Ardor, you create something called a child chain. The child chain holds all the functionality and customizability supported on Nxt. However, it is still linked to the main chain and derives its security and decentralization from using the main chain for verification.
This new structure means child chains can be implemented and features activated in a matter of minutes or hours. Since the blockchain infrastructure is already in place with the Ardor main chain, child chains can quickly adopt custom use cases. These child chains still receive all the speed, security, and usability upgrades of the main chain, since they’re all integrated on one platform.
Ardor solves the blockchain bloat problem using a new transaction pruning system. In the future, it won’t be necessary for every node to hold a complete copy of the transaction history, just the relevant recent transactions that have gotten the blockchain to this point. Ardor will also support archival nodes that will operate to keep full transaction histories should they be needed.
To solve the native token problem, Ardor will implement a system of bundlers, nodes on the network that will accept fees paid in the child chain token. These bundlers will then pay the Ardor main chain forgers in ARDR, essentially acting as conversion clearing houses for transaction fees. This means that the end user can initiate a transaction in a child token and pay the transaction fees in the child token.
In theory, users could be unaware of the existence of Ardor at all. This commitment to the unsexy work of infrastructure development is what makes it so difficult for Ardor to generate buzz and press attention. However, if it gains traction, Ardor could be the foundation for endless new blockchain applications.
Ignis: The First Child Chain Built on Ardor
To test Ardor’s capabilities and serve as an example of an operating child chain, the Ardor developers have created Ignis. Ignis will implement all of the customizable features that come from the Nxt code base. Essentially, Ignis will be a proof of concept and could be the first of many more child chains on the Ardor platform. The Ignis ICO recently raised $15 million in funding for development.
In the future, Ardor child chains could be used to create equity trading platforms, digital file transfer services, private enterprise blockchain applications, and many more use cases. Ardor’s strengths are quick time to setup and wide customizability, making it a great option for companies looking to leverage blockchain without the resources to dedicate to custom development.
Who is Jelurida? The Team Behind Nxt, Ardor, and Ignis
Nxt, Ardor, and Ignis are all projects from a private company called Jelurida. The Jelurida team is one of the most experienced blockchain development teams, dating back to Nxt’s launch in 2013. The team is composed of respected, experienced developers with now over four years of experience creating and maintaining blockchain code. In addition, one of the co-founders has a legal background, and she manages the legal implications of open source architecture and blockchain applications.
Expect to see Jelurida’s team grow in the wake of the $15 million Ignis ICO. However, the long-term commitment from the current team to Nxt and now Ardor is a good sign for the future.
Ardor is doing some pretty important work thinking about new ways to structure blockchain infrastructure and security. If done correctly, the end result could be a solution that any business could implement without needing extensive technical expertise or ongoing maintenance.
The decision to accept transaction fees in the child tokens means that the ARDR tokens on the main chain will be largely operational. The ICO is over, but it’s still possible to receive IGNIS tokens in an airdrop coming up on December 28 for people who hold NXT at a rate of 2 NXT to 1 IGNIS.
The Ardor main chain and Ignis child chain have their genesis block on New Year’s Day. Ultimately, time will tell if Ardor is as easy to use as it claims. If Jelurida can generate buzz and adoption behind Ardor, it could be a massive shift in the way companies implement blockchain solutions.
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