The turn of the century saw few innovative technologies and solutions coming to the fore. Some of these were Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and Blockchain to name a few. All of the mentioned technologies are quite nascent as we speak in 2018 and there is a lot that can happen in each as we progress. However, blockchain is quite distinct from the others by the fact that it can provide a new platform for other forms of technologies to evolve, and in fact, work in a better manner than a non-blockchain platform. What I mean is that the blockchain is so potent that it can, in fact, support AI and IoT to progress way faster than in a world devoid of the blockchain. Just look around for solutions which are already attempting to enhance not only the evolution but also the development and testing of AI and IoT on the blockchain. I bet the readers will find many. So, do you see my point? One innovation of the twenty-first century is forming a base for other innovations of the same era! *But in doing so, blockchain no longer remains an innovation but becomes a revolution!*
So, let’s admit that blockchain is indeed a revolution and will cater to the global progress in a way, hitherto, unseen. And it promises to be an efficient and innovative world! So, all seems to be fine then?
Yes, it does appear to be fine but with few kinks in the armor. If these can be fixed then blockchain becomes further potent. What I mean is while blockchain as a solution is revolutionary, blockchain itself can be further enhanced. Not very difficult to understand if we see examples around us. A lot has happened since Bitcoin was introduced in 2008. The beginning of 2018 saw more than 1500 crypto-coins being traded over nearly 200 crypto-exchanges. It also means that nearly 1500 crypto-solutions exist in the world today and this number is only going to increase. A careful analysis of the solutions also reveals what is not enough. Most of the solutions appear to serve a small niche or is too broad based for easy adoption. This results in the enterprises not easily adopting blockchain today. The real test of any innovation is its adoption by the enterprise. If that has not happened yet then some amount of introspection is needed!
Enabling enterprise level blockchain solution would be simple if the blockchain solution creation process itself is modular, easy to adopt with fewer challenges, and easy to deploy. The question, though is, do we have such a blockchain structure?
Turns out we do.
We are talking about *NULS* Blockchain!
In the previous section we saw the reasons inhibiting enterprise adoption of the blockchain. One other aspect is the dearth of skillsets to program a blockchain solution. This results in the cost of the available resources to go up and even then some amount of learning curve before the skilled personnel can deliver. So, the need of the hour is for the blockchain to be easy to develop using the available skilled personnel.
Appears that NULS seems to tick all the boxes. In their whitepaper NULS is described as follows:
NULS is a global blockchain open-source project which is a highly customizable modular blockchain infrastructure; it consists of a microkernel and functional modules. NULS provides smart contracts, multi-chain mechanism, and cross-chain consensus. It aims to break the technical barriers of the blockchain, to reduce the cost of development, and to promote the usage of blockchain technology in the commercial field.
The microkernel forms the underlying structure for the network while the functional modules are the ones which can be customized as per the needs of an enterprise. The whole structure is thought-through and follows the well-known programming practices like high cohesion and low coupling, as also the hot-pluggable principle allowing the addition or removal of modules during operation.
The best part is that while the current blockchain world is attempting to solve the cross-chain communication issue, NULS comes equipped with a solution. Users can decide not only about the chain but also how the sub-chain will work. Sub-chains can remain public, private or in a consortium form. So, that provides some degree of freedom to the users.
All-in-all NULS appears to be a well-packaged solution. But let’s see it a bit more in detail.
NULS Technical Architecture
We will look at each of the mentioned components forming the overall Architecture, closely.
1. Consensus Mechanism - Proof of Credit (PoC)
The main chain of the NULS blockchain will use the Proof of Credit protocol for consensus and is first of its kind designed by the NULS team. It is much like the Proof of Stake concept where some tokens of users intending to run a node are locked. These can be unlocked if the user wants to stop running the node. The protocol will enable the NULS modular structure to run smoothly for the users for both, creating a new module or replacing an existing one during operation.
The blockchain is resilient enough to handle both the Yellow Card Alert and the Red Card Alert. The Red Card Alert is easy to understand where the user has malicious intent and involves in nefarious activities to harm the blockchain. Such activities are detected by the NULS network and such users’ tokens are frozen for a month. Also, their credit ratio will be downgraded leading to them not being able to participate in the network. Yellow Card alerts are for inadvertent violations and may lead to users’ coins being frozen for 72 hours and the credit ratio downgraded for a certain period.
2. Modular Architecture
Modular architecture forms the main theme of the NULS network and stems from the fact that a dynamic network is capable of adapting to future changes as compared to static ones. Hence the NULS network incorporates the modularity of the Linux kernel to give the flexibility of a dynamic blockchain. Such an architecture is represented below:
The structure can be broken up into NULS kernel and Modular Components. The NULS kernel consists of Module Manager, Service Bus and Event Bus. The Modular Components are the Smart Contracts, Account, Storage, Consensus, and Processor. These components are managed by the kernel.
3. Multi-Chain System
The verification of blocks will happen through cross-chain consensus and NULS can monitor the main-chain and sub-chains. The main chain audits and verifies the block headers reported by the sub-chains.
A. Cross-Chain Consensus Domain (C3D)
Partial nodes of the main chain and the sub-chain make up the cross-chain consensus domain (C3D). The nodes agree on cross-chain transactions and shares such data with other nodes in their respective chain.
B. Cross-Chain Consensus Node (C3N)
Nodes that join cross-chain consensus need to load modules that are operable across both chains. These would be much like cross-chain network module and cross-chain protocol processor module.
4. NULS Smart Contracts
NULS has an in-built smart contract virtual machine (NULSVM). These smart contracts are much like the contracts on a blockchain that are used to define the working relationship between nodes. They are used by the higher level applications, interpreted by the interpreter, stored by the storage module and computed by NULSVM.
**These are the components which essentially make up the NULS architecture.**
Features of the NULS Blockchain
We saw the reason for NULS blockchain’s introduction and how it will help in massive adoption across the board. The benefits and features of the NULS blockchain are many and each one is enumerated below:
1. Ease of Use
We saw that developers’ ease of use is critical for enterprises to warm up to the idea of a blockchain and its eventual adoption. The NULS chain reduces the learning curve of the users by presenting the easy to use development platform. The complex pieces which go to make the chain itself are managed by the NULS team. As such developers with existing IT skill sets can easily learn and start using the NULS blockchain.
2. Adaptable to Numerous Solutions
The industry wide scenarios can be enabled by the NULS blockchain. Its modular structure allows developers to work on the application layer and build the solution as per their need.
3. High Performance
Most of us are quite conversant with the issue of transactions per second that a blockchain can manage. This is what NULS blockchain addresses effectively. Using parallel expansion technology through the multi-chain system, the NULS blockchain can handle millions of transactions per second as compared to few dozens by the Ethereum platform.
4. Right Balance between Transparency and Confidentiality of Data
Data Integrity and Security is one of the main concerns of Enterprises and in a sense may make them a bit hesitant to use the open-source NULS blockchain. However, the NULS blockchain ensures data security through data isolation and cross-chain audits. Transparency is bought through by posting information that should be visible as per the set rules of the enterprise. This balance between security and transparency should instill confidence among enterprise users to adopt NULS blockchain.
5. NULS Economy
The NULS ecosystem will be enabled by the NULS token. The token will form the basis for supporting NULS applications, pay for the application cost, enable transactions of sub-chain digital assets, support NULS development, reward miners and pay for transactions.
6. Credit Rating
Much like rating in the real world, NULS uses credit rating to rate a user’s integrity and trustworthiness in the network. The rating can range between -1 to 1 with negative rating meaning issues with user integrity and +1 being the highest level of integrity and trustworthiness. The credit rating is calculated automatically based on the behavior of the node (user) using the credit rating algorithm.
7. Consensus Reward
To ensure balance and fairness of the NULS chain, each user (node) is liable to rewards as applicable. The rewards are based on the amount of staked coins and the node credit as submitted by all consensus nodes.
This aspect is the most important one for enterprises planning to adopt NULS blockchain. However, it is indeed a herculean task to manage the safety of the blockchain. NULS, nonetheless, does this through two policies ensuring the safety of the network. These are:
a. Minimum node requirements for cross-chain consensus to prevent centralization of the domain
b. Dynamic adjustment (rotation) to prevent a single cross-chain node from broadcasting information continuously to the network
9. Open Source Community
Last but not least, the management of the Open Source Community. At the beginning, we understood that NULS is an open-source project and hence it is pertinent that a strong community development is incentivized. NULS has set-up a community foundation by pledging 20 million NULS which will be used to support an excellent project and reward contributors. It is expected that the community will provide comprehensive development documentation and fully developed tools to assist and support current users as much as future users. Beyond a certain point, the support structure will act as a source to attract more interested users in the future.
**So, these in a nutshell is the benefits and features of the NULS platform.**
A Comparative of NULS and Similar Solutions
Having understood the NULS token, now let’s look at how it is compared to similar solutions:
Compared to the other well-known tokens and solutions NULS is the latest of them all and is yet reached the 115th position from 150th position. NULS also offers really good transactions per second which is scalable using the side-chains and is one of the best among the competitors.
Also, it is quite visible that NULS is the only one among the competitors to have side-chains and cross-chain consensus mechanism. In fact, these are the precise aspects which allow NULS to scale to more than million transactions per second if need be.
This summarizes the facts about the NULS token.
Now, a look at the NULS Team
And NULS’ Advisors
NULS Roadmap has been summarized in three distinct phases attempting to plan different attributes of the chain. It is explained below.
NULS comes as a solution at a time when the existing blockchain world is not directly addressing the requirements of the enterprise community. In doing so, it allows the enterprises to consider blockchain as a solution which would work well for them. Moreover, the modular structure, the ease of learning and the fact that NULS addresses both the users and developers talks volumes about the solution.
Therefore, it can be said that NULS as an alternate yet effective blockchain solution is here to stay!
It is also recommended that readers understand more about NULS through any of the following informative resources.
This article is written in response to NULS bounty post which can be found *here*.
Image Courtesy: NULS’ Resources