Dr. Ben Zhang: Co-founder at NodeReal Comments on How Rollups-as-a-Service May Enhance Development of Enterprise-Grade dApps

We recently connected with Dr. Ben Zhang, COO & Co-founder of NodeReal, which claims to be a one-stop blockchain infrastructure and service provider that embraces the high-speed blockchain era and empowers developers by “Make your Web3 Real”.

They aim to provide scalable, reliable, and efficient blockchain solutions for everyone, aiming to support the adoption, growth, and long-term success of the Web3 ecosystem. NodeReal’s Semita empowers enterprises to build their custom Application Chain or scale their blockchains with Layer 2 solutions, like ZK Rollups and Optimistic Rollups.

Dr. Zhang is considered to be a renowned pioneer in the blockchain infrastructure space and was a founding member of Binance’s BNB Chain. At BNB Chain, Dr. Zhang was responsible for and facilitated the growth of the BNB Chain ecosystem, enabling it to become one of the world’s largest layer-1 blockchains in the world within two years of its launch.

Dr. Zhang’s experience spans the worlds of blockchain and traditional finance, having previously held senior leadership roles at Morgan Stanley for almost a decade before transitioning into Web3.

Throughout his career, Dr. Zhang has managed teams across the United States, Europe, and Asia, across a myriad of industries spanning consulting, financial services, blockchain, and enterprise technology. Dr. Zhang holds a PhD in Computer Science from Shanghai Jiao Tong University which is among Asia’s top-ranking higher-education institutions.

Our discussion with Dr. Zhang is shared below.

Crowdfund Insider: Can you tell me more about yourself and how you ended up at NodeReal?

Dr. Ben Zhang: Prior to embarking into the Web3 space, I spent almost a decade in Morgan Stanley where I was an Executive Director that was mainly responsible for leading and managing teams under the tech and risk division. I’ve always been interested in emerging technologies — my academic background, after all, is in computer sciences. It was around this time that we were beginning to see the earliest stirrings of enterprise blockchain, mostly applications in trade finance and supply chain exploring what the technology could offer.

When an opportunity to get into Web3 presented itself, I took a leap of faith — and that’s the story of how I was part of the founding members and architects of BNB Chain. During my time at BNB Chain, I was in charge of building and facilitating the growth of its ecosystem – eventually it grew to become one of the world’s largest layer-1 blockchains within a year of its launch and it continues to be one of the industry’s most popular networks.

It was also during this period where I recognised a two-fold gap in the market. Firstly, Web2 enterprises were not making the move toward Web3 not because they don’t want to, but because they don’t know how to. Secondly, even if traditional companies, such as FSIs, were beginning to incorporate blockchain at that time, existing networks simply couldn’t accommodate high user activity and demand.

This formed the genesis of NodeReal and the Web3 solutions we offer businesses today. In many ways, this is parallel to the dawn of third-party managed IT services that helped businesses accelerate their time-to-market whilst giving them greater speed and flexibility.

Crowdfund Insider: How far has the industry come in addressing some of its perennial problems, specifically when it comes to scalability?

Dr. Ben Zhang: It’s no secret that the blockchain trilemma continues to plague the industry, especially when it comes to scalability within layer-1 (L1) networks. Over the past decade, we’ve seen projects experiment in how to best address them — from new consensus mechanisms, innovations such as sharding, to the growing acceptance of layer-2 (L2) networks.

Most notably, we saw this with Ethereum’s long-awaited transition from Proof-of-Work to Proof-of-Stake in order to enable lower transaction fees, greater speed, and ultimately, greater scalability. On Ethereum, still arguably the world’s most heavily used smart contract platform, especially, there are now a growing number of L2 networks. L2s operate on top of an underlying L1 to offload transaction processing, while still benefiting from underlying decentralisation and security of the L1 network.

Ultimately, what we’ve seen is an ideological shift — projects today understand that in order to support commercial-grade applications in road to mainstream adoption, performance needs to be prioritised. As blockchain continues to gain mainstream acceptance, scalability will remain a moving target for devs as they continue to find ways to better accommodate and optimise for an ever-growing base of users.

Crowdfund Insider: What is the state of rollups as a technology today? What are the pros and cons?

Dr. Ben Zhang: Of the existing L2 solutions that have been introduced, rollups have increasingly become a popular scaling solution as they effectively bundle transactions off-chain and submit it on-chain. Broadly, there are two categories of rollups in the market: Optimistic rollups and Zero-Knowledge (ZK) rollups.

Optimistic rollups run parallel to the existing L1 mainnet such as Ethereum or BNB Chain, and uses single-round fraud proofs which means that they rely on the L1 blockchain to execute L2 transactions. The fraud-proof verification is instant because Optimistic rollups optimistically assume that all transactions within the rollup are valid. This reduces gas fees and increases throughput, the downside to optimistic rollups can lead to long withdrawal times if a transaction is challenged.

On the other hand, ZK-rollups compress data in a more efficient manner by bundling thousands of transactions of the main Ethereum chain and create cryptographic proof, otherwise known as validity proof, and send this back to the main chain. What this means is that ZK-rollups only need a validity proof as opposed to all the transaction data, enabling lower fees as the amount of data involved flowing through the network is significantly reduced.

While both solutions function differently in execution, they are ultimately designed to remove the bulk of the main blockchain’s traffic for increased speed and efficiency — all without compromising on the security and decentralisation offered by the main blockchain.

Crowdfund Insider: How would Rollups-as-a-Service (RaaS) supercharge the development of enterprise-ready dApps?

Dr. Ben Zhang: Modelled after the success of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), this managed services approach to rollups allow devs and projects to access a modular, customisable solution that they can commission or decommission the use at any point in time. Rollups-as-a-Service is especially beneficial for projects that are more short-term in nature and for which it simply isn’t cost-efficient to build or deploy your own rollup from scratch. For non-Web3 native teams, RaaS is an especially powerful alternative as it cuts down the time to deployment and the specialised knowledge required for implementation, supercharging the development of enterprise-ready dApps.

Crowdfund Insider: What are some industries that you think would benefit from RaaS?

Dr. Ben Zhang: From an infrastructural perspective, industries such as blockchain gaming, DeFi, and data analytics, all stand to benefit from RaaS. Take blockchain gaming for instance — the consequence of not having reliable infrastructure that can scale in line with a growing player base and growing player activity is poor gameplay.

In the grand scheme of things, the technology itself is still quite young and the building never stops — improvement is an iterative process. CryptoKitties, one of the first blockchain games that really took off, only entered the market in 2017. At the height of its popularity, the game was plagued with user complaints of a congested network with laggard network speeds and high transaction fees, with users saying that it was more expensive to execute the transaction required to purchase a virtual cat.

With a single click, game developers can quickly and securely deploy RaaS that is scalable and secured by a L1 network, for as long as it’s needed.

Crowdfund Insider: How can white-label and managed service solutions drive the next wave of blockchain adoption?

Dr. Ben Zhang: We believe that Web3 is becoming an inextricable part of the digital transformation journey for businesses and yet, enterprises are hesitant to delve deeper. For blockchain technology to truly take off in enterprises means that they need a clear tried-and-tested model or a use case to justify the need and benefits the tech could bring.

RaaS and other managed service solutions in the Web3 space e.g. Blockchain-as-a-Service, is not dissimilar to the tried-and-tested managed services model in the existing IT world — which makes our offering at NodeReal much more palatable as well as a familiar business model that traditional businesses are already comfortable with.

Whether in terms of technical capability and expertise, accessibility and ease, enterprises can look to blockchain infrastructure solutions providers who are able to provide them with the tools to be in Web3 or incorporate blockchain technology in their businesses for a fraction of the cost.

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