Rob Palatnick, DTCC Chief Technology Architect
Describe your current role, background and why you wanted to be chair of Hyperledger’s Governing Board?
I am a Managing Director and Chief Technology Architect for DTCC, where I am responsible for the global IT strategy, architecture, standards and engineering design of the systems and applications that support the firm’s broad range of products and services. I also sponsor our Office of Fintech Strategy in partnership with DTCC Product Management leadership.
I have been working in Fintech since I started my career in 1980. The first 14 years of my career were spent working for small software companies including those in banking and financial services, and the past 26 years have been spent at DTCC helping drive our technology transformations.
It is an honor to accept the position of chair of Hyperledger’s Governing Board in succession to Blythe Masters. Blythe guided the board during a critical time when Hyperledger began, when enterprise Distributed Ledger technology (DLT) was first being developed, was untested and embryonic. Since that time, with Blythe’s oversight and the contributions of the Governing Board and the community, Hyperledger now counts 12 active projects, over 250 members, 3 DLT stacks, and a partnership with the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance as achievements. This is wonderful growth and a testament to the board’s leadership and oversight.
We have now moved beyond start-up mode, and our focus has increasingly turned to real-world application and operation. The next chapter will center around thoughtful guidance of the Hyperledger project portfolio and driving increased use of Hyperledger’s software, with adoption by global communities and supply chains across industries. Within my role as chair and working closely with other Governing Board members, I hope to leverage my knowledge and experience building critical industry scale platforms to help guide Hyperledger to focus on the best priorities to support enterprise scale production implementations. We will also seek to strengthen confidence that DLT can improve the safety and soundness of any market or industry.
How is DTCC currently using Hyperledger technologies or how do you plan to?
DTCC has been active in the Hyperledger community since its founding in January 2016, hosting the very first Hyperledger meet-up in our New Jersey office. We have also hosted other meetups in our Tampa office and our office in Chennai, India. We have been very active in the code community, actively leading and contributing code to various Hyperledger projects and leading the Hyperledger Explorer project.
Today, DTCC is leveraging open source from multiple Hyperledger projects. We are leveraging Hyperledger Explorer code to build out administrative software for node governance for a project which re-platforms our credit derivatives Trade Information Warehouse (TIW) onto DLT. We are also using a Hyperledger DLT stack for an internal pilot and are exploring other opportunities with the Hyperledger Caliper, Quilt and Burrow projects.
What are the benefits of Hyperledger’s open community and governance model?
Hyperledger has established itself as an umbrella organization for the open source community to develop code for real-world business transactions, and is open to all industries and vendors, and welcomes multiple protocols and innovative models. This contrasts with other organizations that primarily support an open source version of a single commercial product. The open door to new projects and new models is truly critical in supporting the dramatic innovation in DLT today and vital to the future growth of DLT across the financial services industry and beyond. Unlike early public blockchain models which are specifically designed to address a ‘3rd party trust’ problem through consensus protocols that require mining and incentive models, Hyperledger has focused on industry strength and non-functional requirements such as performance, scale, finality, testability and operations. The Linux Foundation brought a tremendous model for successfully engaging the community, organizing projects, maturing releases, testing to ensure quality and pushing out code.
What’s the most important milestone for Hyperledger to reach by the end of 2019?
If you asked that question over the last three years, my answer probably would have been “create the community, establish the brand, and push out code”. For 2019, I think it will be important to ensure we continue to deliver value and satisfy our membership.
We know that Hyperledger projects are achieving code delivery goals, and we know that there has been tremendous response, in the form of Hyperledger code downloads, from the global community. We also hear that Hyperledger code is forming the platform foundation for many important initiatives across industries around the globe. For 2019 the target should start shifting to client satisfaction and value. It is important that we ensure we are addressing community priorities, are meeting expectations and requirements such as scale and performance as Hyperledger project adoption becomes more widespread and moves from pilot into wider scale production.
What’s the one thing you hope to accomplish by being a part of Hyperledger’s Governing Board?
My main goal as a governing board member has been to bring the perspective and voice of a critical financial industry utility to the development of open source DLT that has the promise of replacing and improving significant portions of the technology support that industry. Industry infrastructure must be high quality, resilient, secure, performant and properly governed to deal with inevitable processing exceptions and unexpected conditions. If Hyperledger’s products are built to meet those requirements, then I have accomplished my goal.
What’s the biggest struggle or challenge you see Hyperledger having to overcome?
The near-term challenge is navigating through, as Gartner states, “the trough of disillusionment” that DLT did not meet expectations and change the world overnight. The reality is that, in the enterprise world, things are proceeding exactly as you would expect, if this technology is going to become a critical foundation for the future. The enterprise strength code had to be built and implemented in significant real-world deployments and every day we read about new pilot deployments. Over the next few years we will see which of those models really provide value and grow their communities. We will also see an emerging challenge of DLT proliferation, and a need for interoperability.
Finally, and perhaps most critical for Hyperledger, is to ensure we are established as the open source model and umbrella organization for enterprise blockchain projects. We will see the inevitable consolidation of technology models, which has occurred in previous technology innovation cycles. I believe in the model of open source, and that distributed, decentralized, ledger should be available through open source and not solely depend on technology ‘owned’ by any one vendor. But I also believe that at this early stage we must continue be open to innovative ideas and proposals for additional and alternative foundational components for the emerging ecosystem. This is the biggest source of opportunity for Hyperledger: to provide the open source building blocks for enterprise capable DLT built on community standards and architectures.
What are you most excited about regarding blockchain and distributed ledger technology in 2019? What do you feel is next for the industry?
It is exciting to play a part in this new technology wave. In 20 years, I hope we will be able to look back on this period similarly to the start of the Internet or the early days of database models - when foundational concepts incubated, security, privacy and trust models were considered appropriately, standards for protocols and interoperability were developed and the right governance models were put in place, all of which allowed the technology to proceed and reach the inflection point of adoption in the best possible way.
This interview was originally published in Hyperledger.
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