James Bayly: Head of Business Dev at SubQuery Explains How Platform Serves as Decentralized Data Aggregation Layer Between L1-Chains, Dapps

We recently caught up with James Bayly, the Head Of Business Development at SubQuery & OnFinality. Bayly explained that SubQuery serves as a decentralized data aggregation, indexing, and querying layer between L-1 chains and dApps. He confirmed that his team is focused on Polkadot (DOT) and Substrate initiatives.

He also discussed how their data-as-a-service solution supports computer programmers with better focusing on their main use-cases or MVPs.

Our conversation with James Bayly is shared below. 

Crowdfund Insider: You’ve noted that SubQuery is a decentralized data aggregation, indexing and querying layer between Layer-1 blockchains and decentralized applications (dApps).

You’re presently focused on Polkadot (DOT) and Substrate projects. Tell us about how your data-as-a-service enables software architects to focus on their main use-case?

James Bayly: Essentially SubQuery enables developers and software architects to build more intuitive applications for end users faster. Data is the world’s most precious resource, and the success on future decentralised applications rely on the availability of data. The problem with blockchain data though is that you can’t really query it easily. SubQuery is an indexer, which means that developers use it to continuously extract, organise, clean, and expose data as soon as it is written to the chain.

So to the extent that a software architect or anyone else needs to be able to map vital data, build a better picture of on-chain transactions and make decentralized systems less opaque, we help to facilitate that. And since building a SubQuery project is incredibly easy, we save developers huge amounts of time while still providing flexibility to map data to what they need. We think that’s going to be a central infrastructure requirement in making defi a more utilitarian part of finance (as well as other use cases like NFT marketplaces).

Crowdfund Insider: You’ve pointed out that a key problem you to aim to address is the overall complexity and relatively slow query speeds for chain data.

How is this preventing the development of use-cases that can provide real value?

James Bayly: Take Polkadot, it’s been around for just over a year but already almost 10 million blocks. Searching through each of these blocks, one by one, to look for data that you need takes hours. Imagine waiting for hours for your app to just load – that wouldn’t work. Improving the speed by pre-indexing data will help open up more functionality in the brave new world of functional web and blockchain ecosystems.

There is a specific complexity to this dual combination of a web that’s more code-complex, and blockchain systems that are accessed through exchanges and other venues. How do those things “plug into” each other? What does that look like?

So that sort of value is just at the very beginning of its potential to be unlocked. It’s an ongoing situation where everything is evolving at a rapid pace. Throughput is an important metric on the blockchain, so is speed of retrieval.

Crowdfund Insider: You’ve noted that after a period of research, the SubQuery team formally established their project at the end of last year via a Web3 Grant, and delivered the first open source version in January 2021, while also announcing the platform to the world in February 2021.

Walk us through this journey of yours, your vision as a team, and how you aim to contribute to this nascent space.

James Bayly: SubQuery was built by the team at OnFinality, the leading Polkadot blockchain infrastructure platform. In short, OnFinality is an infrastructure-as-a-service provider, and SubQuery is a data-as-a-service provider. Last year during talks with the number of teams we began to hear requests for this kind of service from other teams we were working with, we heard about the challenges of building applications within Polkadot due to the lack of a good data indexing provider – so we started building SubQuery.

Building the first MVP of SubQuery wasn’t difficult, we have a small team of deeply knowledgeable developers in Substrate, the challenge is scaling it. This means a hosted service to ease the challenges running production projects, and an expansive library of documentation, tutorials, walkthroughs, and other developer support to help them get started.

We’ve always believed that being able to offer an open source alternative like this is vital to additional development in the community. SubQuery is currently open source, and always will be – anyone is free to use the SubQuery SDK themselves, but running infrastructure is hard, and so we provide a managed service for SubQuery. Our customers can rely on us to run their SubQuery projects. Additionally, we have revenue arrangements with large volume enterprise users.

The future SubQuery Network is also designed to incentivize and tokenize our ecosystem using the SubQuery Token (SQT). Getting data out of decentralized nodes is a sort of labor-intensive mandate that we know will open doors. The consumers, indexers and principals work together to build functional models that are useful. That’s part of what enabled us to get funding and move forward. It’s also part of what is going to show in an evident way that this sort of decentralised tooling is really the way of the future.

Crowdfund Insider: You’ve pointed out that the value proposition for your initiative is that SubQuery will save applications developers time (and money) so they don’t have to index the blockchain on their own, and the SubQuery solution will serve data to their consumers considerably faster, leading to an enhanced consumer experience.

Please explain how you plan to implement this type of offering.

James Bayly: In a sense, SubQuery is an off-the-shelf server that provides decentralized applications with the transparent data they need for their own applications. and providing research assistance in a web 3.0 context, like (in a sense) APIs and other tools.

By understanding the current web ecosystem and applying these kinds of indexing, we plan to be able to operate, in a way, as sort of a flexible “web crawler” for the blockchain – not to get too simplistic about it.

It is really a new kind of space, and getting in on the ground floor is exciting. Even as we hopefully start to migrate from web2.0 to web 3.0, users are still going to expect applications that allow users to share and see rich user generated data. So we’re going to continually evolve the system to be competitive and capable to ease this migration and allow more dApps to cross the divide and attract more users into our ecosystem.

Crowdfund Insider: On the B2C side, you will enable the use the pre-created and publicly available SubQuery projects (hosted in the SubQuery Explorer) to explore and retrieve data from all the different indexed data sets.

The main competitive advantage is the focus on the Polkadot ecosystem, according to your development team. Tell us about why this type of solution is beneficial.

James Bayly: In order to understand our involvement with Polkadot, think about what Polkadot brought to the community. As a multi-chain environment where you can easily communicate across different blockchains you have a certain sort of functionality that, again, wasn’t there before. We saw the potential in this, and operated out of that reality.

EVM support is also vital. New users often start understanding smart contracts through an Ethereum lens. But there are all types of different functionality out there that do a lot of different things when it comes to indexing and related tasks. Is it just Ethereum? No, not really. Altcoins of all kinds are getting more functional. Really, it’s “blockchain 2.0” and EVM is a foundational part of that infrastructure.

To an extent, people can understand a querying system (Some of them just think of SQL as a database, for example). What they might not fully understand is the potential for the blockchain to be used in this way. We think that Polkadot represents an illustration of that in a good way, and will remain on the forefront of on-ramps to this particular cryptocurrency segment.

What will regulation look like? What will be the biggest consumer-facing use cases? Those are other questions. What we know is that data on the blockchain is driving a technical area of fintech in a big way. All sorts of operators (think lenders or gaming shops) can pile on and use these tools in a way that is, to put it simply, revolutionary.

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