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Fatum, a Proof-of-Concept Framework built on Ethereum

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Abstract: Fatum provides inexpensive, multiple experimentations, allowing projects to roll out new services at a quicker pace, thereby easing the process of digital transformation. The framework, in particular, aimed to boost work on Casper, a proof-of-stake protocol upgrade, the scaling solutions such as sharding, as well as light clients, developer tools and infrastructure improvements.

Note: this section is currently a work-in-progress and still being drafted. Active research is underway. Have a question/general feedback? You can chat with us on our Telegram Group if you'd like.

Contents

Introduction and problem statement

For years, the PoC process—situated at the center of technological evolution, innovation and adoption—hadn’t changed at all. People reluctantly accepted the slow, complicated and expensive process as part of the price of progress. Despite the deficiencies and inconveniences to everyone involved, the PoC process didn’t get any easier or more effective. When dev teams estimate the time and costs for making a blockchain PoC, they often find that it can take 8-12 weeks and cost as much as $300,000. Besides being time-consuming and expensive, this is a huge missed opportunity. Quickly understanding the viability of a PoC can accelerate mass adoption of blockchain technology and save the time and cost associated with a less impactful project.

We identified that most of the time in these PoC projects was spent developing code and building capabilities that surrounded the blockchain, often referred to as “scaffolding.” That scaffolding typically required building a responsive web client, writing and deploying a gateway API, implementing support for off-chain storage in technologies such as SQL DB, building out reporting and analytics, and integrating identity and key vault services into the solution. Our mission is to revolutionize the PoC process and empower developers with best-in-class R&D, developer experience and education.

Fatum

The simple idea behind Fatum is to provide open and inexpensive experimentation space for new or current projects, so they can rapidly develop, grow and cooperate to become indispensable parts of the broader blockchain ecosystem.

By breaking down barriers in the proof-of-concept process and providing on-chain data for comparing and evaluating solutions, we propose a method for projects to engage, offer, test, analyze and evaluate new applications and other end-user solutions as one connected experience. We realized there were a common set of challenges related to PoC development that we could address by creating a type of “Proof-of-Concept Framework” that would dramatically reduce the amount of time and resources needed to build a blockchain PoC. This framework is a decentralized, open source and integration-friendly software solution built on top of the Ethereum blockchain. The pure goal of the framework is to determine the blockchain solution to some technical problems (such as how two systems might integrate, how a given solution can be bolted on top of the current main chain, etc.) or to demonstrate that a given configuration can achieve a certain throughput.

With Fatum, creating a PoC is as simple as just transforming any idea into smart contract logic. By moving the entire proof-of-concept process to a secure chain environment, innovative technologies become more accessible, and testing them is faster, safer and more efficient. As it cuts time and resources to build a PoC, it also begs to healthy competition by several teams fight for one given idea.

The framework

We seek to design a system whereby dev teams can leverage the framework to run multiple PoCs in parallel to each other to meet a variety of needs from existing functionality development to new product viability testing and even in-house efficiency capabilities. With the framework, projects can focus on creating truly innovative applications that demonstrate the potential of the blockchain and spend less time and resources on integration tasks that required to get even a basic PoC up and running.

The framework provides tailored KPIs and code assets for all the scaffolding needed for blockchain PoCs, including the blockchain network, a gateway API, a responsive web application, SQL DB that is configured and collecting on-chain data, and a set of supporting code and services such as a Hashing Service and a Signing Service. In addition, the framework uses metadata provided for smart contracts to deliver a contextual user experience for participants dynamically. Since the framework populates SQL DB as an off-chain store, it enables projects to leverage existing skills and tools to light up additional capabilities such as smart APIs, benchmark data and predictive analytics.

The framework deploys a set of tools (collectively known as “platform”) that facilitate the entire proof-of-concept process for both projects and validators. On the platform, anyone can publish, apply to, run and analyze the results of proofs-of-concept—all in one place. The flexibility of the framework allows anyone to make custom-made testing environments that are built on top of the platform, aptly named “modules.”

Modules are the tools validators use to perform PoCs. The aim is to make the result even more authentic. We believe having open source and reusable components in the Fatum environment will help promote better network effects within the platform, allowing for projects to build a more specialized environment for every PoC they run. Also, the framework enables building various data population and API generation options, enabling dev teams to replicate their solution’s production environment and setting the stage for relevant results and informed decisions.

In total, Fatum tackles the difficulties and frustrations head-on with secure, integration-friendly PoC testing environment; an intuitive platform; a streamlined process and actionable data.

The platform

On the platform, anyone can open a PoC opportunity1. The steps to run an opportunity are as follows:

  1. A single person or a team defines a corresponding proof-of-concept testing environment (by using preset data structures and receiving a simulated testing environment with mock-up data)
  2. uploads all relevant documentation
  3. walks through the process of articulating the project’s goals, needs, evaluation criteria and instructions in an accessible, step-by-step format
  4. decides upon parameters like budget, requirement, deadline, authorities involved, etc.

Created opportunities are moving to the marketplace, which is the network that can be used as a dating service for dev teams and validators (a startup or an ISV who may hold the right solution and/or want to participate) to find each other. Validators operate in the marketplace to discover what proof-of-concept testing opportunities are currently open and can look for projects they want to work with. PoC-ready validators can create a request for joining.

As soon as a dev team reviews and approves relevant join requests, approved validators are immediately granted access to the testing environment and are given the components needed to run a successful PoC including remote server connection, HSMs, data connection, etc. After that, validators connect to the secure testing environment and run the PoC.

During the PoC, the analytics dashboard lets projects to track, analyze and compare the progress of all of the solutions that are testing. By creating a comprehensive, dynamic view of a network, dev teams can implement and strengthen basic concept hygiene practices—and from there, monitor activity for more complex solutions, to capture the intelligence of Fatum’s trusted community in a time-bound program that consistently outperforms traditional penetration testing.

As a result, the dev team receives the final results and decides how to proceed. Early-stage projects can showcase their results to the public in order to not only increase their value but also convince on-the-fence investors (if any) that a solution has a clear product-market fit. The time is taken to run the full tests in the network scales with the complexity of the PoC work process. Therefore, validation rewards are proportional to computation time.

As the product team approves the request, they can pay with a single click, then the request is completed, and the network is updated. When necessary, advanced payment terms may be selected, such as deposit and/or escrow (money blocked until delivery). The platform guarantees that validators are rewarded by the projects when providing the service.

1Fatum has additionally set up a type of “App Store” for projects, allowing anyone to discover hundreds of technologies solutions and identify PoC opportunities that are already existing by a simple one-time setup.

Securing the platform

As stated above, project reviews join requests and approves only relevant solutions. Such an approach will enhance the efficiency of the platform as a whole. Besides, this approach eliminates the risks associated with the possibility of cooperation between validators and dev teams for manipulative or fraudulent actions, prevents manipulation of report results and increases the level of trust among participants.

Modules

The framework allows anyone to configure more complex, richer testing environments with parameters that are not available on the standard platform. In a testing environment that more closely resembles the solution’s production environment, PoC results are as authentic as possible. These custom-made testing environments that are built on top of the platform are “modules,” that can be used for particular PoC tasks. The first module the Fatum team will build focuses on labeling data for AI. Furthermore, the Fatum team will build open source reusable components of modules that will allow the ease of use for anyone to build another module. Validators are executed by modules that are publicly accessible, free to use and that any dApp or other end-user solution can hook into.

For example, with as little as a given solution’s sample set of metadata, Fatum will be able to easily generate mimicked network traffic and noise from any private/public chain by deploying deep learning (or “deep mirroring”) in order to populate its PoC testing environment. Deep mirroring is a type of artificial intelligence that helps projects run PoCs securely and virtually on the platform and ensures that applications have an accurate picture of how the technology will perform before it is implemented in the blockchain solution. Therefore, anyone will be able to test technologies using data that behaves exactly like their solution’s production data but without exposing it.

Conclusion

Over time, we expect every project to use our evidence-based framework to perform a technology check because proof-of-concept is essential.

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