We’re pleased to share this post from guest blogger Chris Ensey, COO of Riot Blockchain.
Last year I appeared on The Protego Serverless Show, where Hillel asked me, “Are the people talking about serverless and blockchain just doing buzzword math?”
And I don’t think they’re mere buzzwords. There is something to it. There are projects emerging now that are trying to integrate serverless capability into blockchain. And I think there’s potential there. We see serverless as part of the architecture that enables the blockchain. For example, you can use it as an onramp to enable an enterprise entrant to write in their language of choice in a serverless manner to integrate their platform with the external, public blockchain. That’s exciting because it’s creating an easier method for getting people into the system. And that’s important because in an emerging space, you need adoption.
In blockchain, there’s a concept of smart contracts, which are event-driven things which say, ‘If X occurs, create this transaction.’ Smart contracts are perceived as magical, but in reality, they’re dumb. In order to make them execute their code, you have to tell them to do it. This trigger to execute is provided by something called an Oracle. An oracle is a data feed designed for use in smart contracts on the blockchain. Oracles provide external data and trigger smart contract executions when pre-defined conditions are met. Such condition could be any data like weather temperature, successful payment, price fluctuations, etc. We could see serverless creation happening to service these oracles that actually inform the blockchain to execute smart contracts.
For example, if you want to bet on the score of a game, the blockchain is not going to ask for when that event happened. It’s waiting for something to tell it the score. Prediction markets like Augur offer users the ability to bet on future outcomes to questions posted within their platform. The outcome of these bets are provided by responders which are users within the system. Alternatively, automated functions could be created to gather the answer from reputable sources. Serverless could have a major play in providing the data feeds that trigger smart contracts in a blockchain.
Another use case might be creating a blockchain for insurance. An oracle could monitor houses that burn down, and inform the blockchain to execute a smart contract to put a policy in place when the catastrophic event occurred.
These use cases are emerging in reality, although it’s still early days. Projects like Iagon which intends to build a global decentralized cloud service just announced that they were experimenting with DragonChain’s private AWS based serverless framework. As these projects launch, I believe there will be more investment into building serverless components which can be incorporated into the blockchain to support processing of transactions. Traditional compute doesn’t scale properly and can’t eb and flow as transactional demand shifts in a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin or Ethereum. When there’s a high rate of transactions, you need serverless. You need something that can spin up really fast and shut back down, because the cost would be too high otherwise.