Darc: Good evening/morning everyone, we are very happy to have Emma Liao, Cofounder of Ultrain and Yufeng Shen, Chief Architect of Ultrain to be with us now and to answer any questions about Ultrain! first please let Emma and Yufeng give a quick intro of themselves and about the project.
Emma Liao: Thank you Darc, hello everyone, i am very honored to be here and have the opportunity to discuss Ultrain with Binance’s and our community members. My name is Emma Liao, born in Beijing, grew up in the US and had spent 4 years in France and Germany for work. I am passionate about art, fashion and technology innovations from at young age. I have studied science for the whole time and pursued ph.d in Gamification at Columbia University. I also had a MBA degree in technology management and Finance. Born in a highly reputable general family in China, I did have the advantage to be close to many successful leaders and entrepreneurs early on. Later I was an important bridge for the east and west to help large cross-border Mergers and Acquisitions as head of China for US and European firms. in 2015, I started to pursue my dream of being an entrepreneur. I served as head of IOT at QIHU 360 then Managing Director at a 1billion dollar TMT fund. at the end of 2017, I met my talented partners Ray and William from Alibaba being the tech lead in data security and blockchain unit there, and we cofounded Ultrain together. Also I am an animal lover and very passionate about nature and animal conservation.
Ultrain is a world-leading public blockchain with high throughput, fast confirmation time while still being truly decentralized. Ultrain aims to build a general purpose blockchain infrastructure optimized to be the key support for future businesses and human interactions. Ultrain founding team consists of top cybersecurity and blockchain experts from Alibaba, Google, IBM, and an globally well known senior banker/investor with top business/political resources. Ultrain has already launched its main-net with brand-new smart contract layer on Apirl, 15th 2019. It also has ~400 miners and 3 side chains stably running. In a way we are the most decentralized and complete public chain3.0 ecosystem globally. I will explain in more detail later.
Yufeng Shen: Hello everyone, my name is Yufeng Shen. I am the Chief Architect of Ultrain. I graduated from Zhejiang University and University of Alberta. I am the former AliOS senior tech specialist at Alibaba CouldOS unit, was responsible for In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI), and WebApp application. I have many experience in App ecosystem and specialize in improving performance of both software and hardware. Before that, I was the former senior software engineer at Google, responsible for the Linux kenel layer structure and Touch subsystem of OS Framework layer, entire Touch subsystem of Google’s first high performance laptop ChromeOS.
Q1: Who do you view as your peers in the field?
Emma Liao: Worldwide there are only two similar projects to us: DFINITY and Algorand. We have had a faster realization and we have done more than Algorand in terms of realizing the consensus layer, the smart contract layer and privacy layer via our own customizable zero knowledge proof solutions. We have landed many business customers using our chain, and have had 400 fair and equal supplier (miners) to construct an open, decentralized and randomly selected mining network. Our intention is to have 1000 decentralized nodes by the end of 2019 and will be open sources and support PC mining by the end of 2019, which makes us a truly decentralized public chain network from the supply side. People may feel that some private chain and constellation chain solutions are our competitor, such as hyper ledger from IBM and other BAAS providers from internet giants. However we believe in the world of real blockchain as infrastructure for new applications, public chain is still a key to really lower the boundary and cost of trust. Chains with DPOS mechanism has fairness and security issues and people could argue the nodes is in few people’s hands or in other world they are not decentralized. Ultrain provides a truly decentralized infrastructure with 3rd party nodes, Ultrain provide much more performant (faster, quicker confirmation time) to cater broader business demands than traditional public chain such as Ethereum, and Ultrain offers a most economical pricing point with a super user friendly product.
Q2. Can you specify a more detailed comparison between Algorand and ULTRAIN please?
Yufeng Shen: We would like to elaborate mainly in terms of the similarity and differentiation from our consensus mechanism.
I.Algorand adopts the method of private election, indicating that each node can decide whether it will be elected to propose. Such an approach provides better privacy and overall security, since the nodes participating in consensus only reveal their identity at the broadcasting stage, thus eliminates the possibility of attacks. The disadvantage, however, is that the number of nodes selected during the first-round is execution through probability. If the parameter setting is too small, it leads to a higher chance of generating empty blocks. While, setting the parameter to large will leads to higher bandwidth consumption (because larger parameter results in too many proposer nodes, producing a large flow of messages within the network that burdens the system. The TPS performance is directly proportional to the bandwidth executed during the first round of consensus, the system’s TPS should be 1/n while the N representing the number of nodes.
Ultrain uses a public random number approach, which is also used in Cardano, Dfinity, and Ethereum’s next-generation networks. The difference is that Ultrain uses random number voting based on VRF (Verifiable Random Function), and the voting members are selected from the candidates participating in the consensus committee. The random number submitted by all members of the voting process is constrained by the VRF function and the blocks generated in the previous round, so it is impossible to manipulate or control the random number in the end. In the meantime, the system rewards the voters and punish the non-voters to ensure the security and fairness of the random number mechanism. By adopting an encrypted decentralized algorithm in the second layer (off-chain), each node can join as a group to prevent malicious behavior and further ensure overall network security. Moreover, each round of consensus will limit the number of proposing nodes and voting nodes, ensuring that network bandwidth consumption can be predicted, and the overall performance of the blockchain is stable. The existing Randao approach requires two rounds of consensus, submission first and reveals algorithm second. There is a possibility that the user can submit any random number and manipulate the final result. Dfinity or Cardano, which uses the encrypted decentralized sharing algorithm, their network performance depends on the underlying group size. If the group size is too small, the user will collude/manipulate the random number or even conduct malicious attach. If the group is too large, the internal communication consumption of the group is O(n²), and the calculation amount would be O(n), making an enormous consumption on network bandwidth.
II. Secondly, Algorand needs a large number of nodes to hold tokens online in real time, users who are not online will affect the overall security of consensus, and even preventing the network from reaching a consensus. This is a natural problem brought about by the combination of decentralized PoS and BFT, because BFT requires that nodes to hold a stake in PoS in order to participate in the consensus, and any nodes that are not online is considered as“malicious node”. On the other hand, EOS relies on a small number of nodes that hold a large number of tokens to execute its consensus mechanism, but raise a new issue of being semi-centralized. The network is actually manipulated in the hands of several privileged users or limited nodes permitted to participate in the consensus.
Ultrain requires uses to collateral their token to participate in consensus, and each token holder can participate in the consensus by collateralizing a fixed number of tokens (stake), thus enabling everyone to participate in a fair network. And the collaborated token holder is incentivized for their online participants to keep the network running smooth and well maintained, thus ensuring the final consensus of a network to be secure and effective.
III. Thirdly, Algorand is unable to motivate voters and cannot guarantee consensus participation.
The voters are important members of the BFT consensus, as they guaranteed the consensus consistency of the entire network. However, since they are not qualified as a node, those participants cannot receive appropriate incentives. Due to a large number of voters, misappropriation of incentives will seriously affect the performance of the system. Each of the block nodes will face different sets of voters, making it impossible to incentive through the traditional approach.
Ultrain uses delayed rewards approach for voters and lottery rewards as incentive plans so that voting nodes have sufficient incentives to participate in consensus, thus ensuring the security of the consensus mechanism. At the same time, Ultrain uses BLS for aggregate signatures, which greatly improves the verification efficiency of voters and conduct consensus at the lowest cost.
IV: Last but not least, security concerns. Ultrain also solved the issue of Long Range Attack (The attacker creates a fork from an earlier block, causing the existing node to hardly distinguish between the forks.) for the PoS network by introducing VDF (Verifiable Delay Function) and rejecting the “old blocks”. On top of that, Ultrain has far more advanced smart contract layer and business friendly solutions that enables enterprises and individual developers for easy plug and play adoption. Algorand so far has limited smart contract capability and applications. We believe the two projects are at very different goals therefore we may grow a different kind of ecosystem on top of our chains.
Q3: what is the current status of Ultrain tech/mainnet ?
Yufeng Shen: We have launched our mainnet back on April 15th, 2019; It was world’s first permissionless public blockchain network with fully sharding capability; it now has one main chain + 4 shard chains with total about 400 nodes, of which 90% are voluntarily joined, forming a truly decentralized network. Every one is welcome to stake and join our network freely. We expect by the end of 2019 the network will reach around 1000 nodes located worldwide. The network status can be checked out at https://explorer.ultrain.io/ultrainio. In terms of realized technology features, we have finished R-POS consensus with about up to ~1000TPS and ~10s confirmation time in single chain; Ultrain dev suite (web/mobile wallet, JS dev tool, WASM VM runtime) are all ready for use; Sharding was done along all computation/storage/network dimensions making unlimited horizontal scalability possible and now the total network throughput can reach about ~4000TPS. In terms of security, we have done reshuffle of node-to-shard assignment, merkle proof and BLS aggregating signature based lightclient for main/shard chain communication; Also world-state snapshot based chain state sync makes it almost instant for node to migrate from shard-chain to shard-chain. More details about the technology can be found at https://ultrain.io/paper. Next the tech team will keep investigation on network security (e.g. VDF augmented consensus mechanism against long range attack; general purpose fraud proof for compromised shard-chain mitigation); data privacy (e.g. general purpose zero-knowledge proof); and embracing cross-chain ecology (e.g. participating in Binance Dex 2-way token bridge; Polkdot parachain bridge)
Q4: What is the business model of Ultrain?
Emma Liao: Ultrain has a mature business model designed with sustainability in mind. We have computational power Suppliers (miners) and demand Customers (Dapps developer or Enterprise customer) in our ecosystem, our business model is: the Customers has to buy UGAS to build and use our public chain service, for every 100 dollar the customer’s purchasing on chain, 80 dollar will be distributed to our Suppliers, 15 dollar will benefit back to the Customer ecosystem and the community, and 5 dollar will be given to Ultrain tech team for tech support. You can imagine we are the decentralized android + amazon cloud service. To use our much more friendly and enhanced operating system its free, and to run your business logic, aka applications or enterprise usage, we charge ugas for the computing fee. So the more customer we have, the bigger our ecosystem is, the higher conniption of UGAS will be, and higher demand we have for the Suppliers(miners) Our miner has to deposit 42000 ugas to participate the mining network, currently our ROI is extremely high. And since our product is Iive and ready for use, and we share a great customer pool and a promising pipeline, and more individual developers will join us for a better product and much cheaper gas fee (1/30 of what EOS and ethereum is charing) we have a very positive outlook of creating our sustainable business ecosystem.
Q5: What is the potential user base and market opportunity?
Emma：Ultrain is a public blockchain 3.0 project. Ultrain’s vision is in the future to combine blockchain, AI and IOT technologies to be the infrastructure of programmable business society for everyone’s daily business use support. Ultrain wants to help apply blockchain into traditional businesses and create values for their business scenarios, whatever is supply chain, finance, e-commerce or entertainment. We also believe public blockchain can create new way of transactions and business scenarios, so we can support and incubate many new applications in commerce and entertainment and other fields.
Ultrain from a business model perspective is B to B to C and B to D to C models at the same time. We have enterprise solution unit and developers development and service unit to cater the two different type of customers. We also have our own app — UltrianOne to directly engage our miners and community members and more.
Via our strong business ecosystem pipeline, our incubated applications with top traffic internet companies, and growing developers community, we believe our adoption users base will be a very large group of people. Our goal is to have 100k users of UGAS by the end of 2019, and by 2020 we will reach to 1 million users, by 2021 we wish to reach 10 million users.
After launching our mainnet on April 15th 2019, there are already 5 businesses customers on our chain, include Yoho! (The Chinese version of StockX, the largest trend fashion e-commerce in China), Unitopia (a leading video game company listed in China A-Share), Great Resources (a new energy company listed in A-Share), UC Express (A leading logistic company in China), and 8win.com (the leading live betting company in China and UK). Meanwhile, we have a strong pipeline of leading enterprises customers with more than twenty companies from various industries, including healthcare, ad tech, retail, manufacturing, supply chain, energy, media&entertainment, and fin tech industry. The pipeline customers are all global fortune 500 companies, No1 or No2 players in their vertical, customers who owns deep understanding and resources in their own industry.
Ultrain intends to leverage its business and tech resources to nurture landmark and lighthouse applications on public blockchain for good example and mass adoption to the blockchain industry.