Pushing-technology-the-hard-way


Pushing technology the hard way (Part1)

This blog is for employees who want to help their organizations moving forward with the latest and greatest technology. Follow us on a bold journey close to the action with real-world examples. In this blog, we will explain how to innovate in big companies and provide a step by step guidance. The real-world examples are from an undisclosed IT service provider hosting over 2000 servers and 16000 virtual machines and the innovative project is about introducing immudb, the world’s fastest immutable database.

Why is it important but so difficult?

The C-Suite loves innovation, they want new ideas and the fruits of the latest and greatest technologies. They are openly communicating that. Innovation is vital to keep an organization relevant. Unfortunately adopting new technologies is very hard, especially for big enterprises. The reasons are plentiful. The communication overhead can be massive. Headcount is always slowing down organizations. Inflexible processes are a challenge for every new approach. Legacy-IT and day-to-day business are holding back employees from innovative projects. Those projects are so fragile that some companies even put them in technology incubators. It is a challenge but a rewarding one as innovation can increase competitiveness, productivity and lead to new collaborations. The executives obviously want to encourage employees to innovate, asking for creativity and openness. Attributes that are not positively correlated to most of the actual work that has to be done in businesses. That’s why only a few people are taking up on that call and do it.

How can it be done?

There is always a silver lining: huge organizations also have some advantages on their side. They have a lot of resources and many employees. Use these resources whenever possible. Adapt to the speed of the company. If things are going slow, turn it in your favor instead of fighting it. Do many small steps instead of chasing major progress. That way your colleagues will keep up with you. Don’t be scared by negative feedback. Every executive loves innovative employees so there is nothing wrong with you. Last but not least: big businesses can provide many potential use-cases. Go for the niche use cases that really work well for your project. Thinking too big is adding additional risks.

A lab environment, source from unplash

What needs to be done?

Find the lab! Set up your technology in a lab environment to easily share and to learn about it. This will make it visible and is already a small success. Create an info page about your project. Explain why, how, and what you want to achieve to make it well comprehensible. Identify use-cases for the technology inside your organization and find companions for your project.

Real-world example

How do the actions described above apply in reality? The following examples are from a project that introduces immudb to a huge IT company.

  1. setting up immudb in a lab environment
  2. creating an info/home page for the project
  3. identifying use cases

1. Setting up the lab environment

There were two lab environments found in the company of this example. One was outside the internal network and manually managed. The other one was the lab of a cloud platform Cloud Foundry with a self-service. The lab of the cloud platform was better suited because every employee can reach it from the internal network and it was provided quickly via self-service.

Setting up immudb in cloud foundry:


#create an org and a Space for immudb

cf create-org YOURLAB

cf create-space IMMUDB -o YOURLAB -q SPACE_QUOTA

Open the Ports. Immudbs standard ports are 8080 for the web interface and 3322 for gRPC. Add persistent storage to your ORG using volume services. Without persistent storage, your immudb app will always be wiped if the org is reinitialized. In that case, it is also a good idea to change the initial password.

Prepare your immudb installation:


#immudb/configs/immudb.toml

dir = "./<path to volume>"

network = "tcp"

address = "0.0.0.0"

port = 3322

dbname = "immudb"

admin-password = "XXXXXXX"

immudb can be compiled on the personal computer or with a golang buildpack of cloud foundry. In this case, it was built with immudb’s web interface and customized config. The executable was pushed using a binary build pack and executed by the command: ./immudb

$ cf push IMMUDB -c './immudb' -b binary_buildpack


#minimal manifest for testing

applications:

- name: immudb

instances: 1

memory: 1024M

disk_quota: 400M

path: ./target/immudb

You app can now be seen in the Apps Manager
A screenshot of the CF Apps Manager
Anyone in the company can now try out immudb via the webinterface. Simply create a user and a database for them. This can also be done in the webinterface using the initial user & password combination.
A screenshot of the immudb loginpage

2. Setting up an info page

Info pages were found on Confluence and SharePoint. The info page about immudb was created on Confluence because it is more future proof. It is structured by the why, how, and what method summing up the key information from the official immudb documentation. It was also translated into the official language of the company. Potential use cases will be added to the page.

3. Identifying use cases

Looking up the known use cases of immudb is a great inspiration for finding one yourself. The use case chosen in this example is about receipt attestation. Tax consultants are transfering receipts for financial accounting. Financial accounting has to be transparant and verifiable. The accounting service provider has to store the data over years and provide it schedule to meet the strict requirements of the tax office. With immudb, receipts can be attested and information are stored veriviable and tamperproof. Immudb is highly scalabale and can easily attest huge numbers of receipts. Using immudb the accounting service provider can proof that the receipts were processed at a certain time and weren’t tampered during their long retention time.

Next steps

Now the software for the project is visible and can be demonstrated in the lab. Convincing colleagues is key to get a foot in the door. The next step is to work out the use-case to create value no matter how niche it is. For that, we have to outgrow the lab environment and set a proper foundation.

immudb

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Use Case - Tamper-resistant Clinical Trials

Goal:

Blockchain PoCs were unsuccessful due to complexity and lack of developers.

Still the goal of data immutability as well as client verification is a crucial. Furthermore, the system needs to be easy to use and operate (allowing backup, maintenance windows aso.).

Implementation:

immudb is running in different datacenters across the globe. All clinical trial information is stored in immudb either as transactions or the pdf documents as a whole.

Having that single source of truth with versioned, timestamped, and cryptographically verifiable records, enables a whole new way of transparency and trust.

Use Case - Finance

Goal:

Store the source data, the decision and the rule base for financial support from governments timestamped, verifiable.

A very important functionality is the ability to compare the historic decision (based on the past rulebase) with the rulebase at a different date. Fully cryptographic verifiable Time Travel queries are required to be able to achieve that comparison.

Implementation:

While the source data, rulebase and the documented decision are stored in verifiable Blobs in immudb, the transaction is stored using the relational layer of immudb.

That allows the use of immudb’s time travel capabilities to retrieve verified historic data and recalculate with the most recent rulebase.

Use Case - eCommerce and NFT marketplace

Goal:

No matter if it’s an eCommerce platform or NFT marketplace, the goals are similar:

  • High amount of transactions (potentially millions a second)
  • Ability to read and write multiple records within one transaction
  • prevent overwrite or updates on transactions
  • comply with regulations (PCI, GDPR, …)


Implementation:

immudb is typically scaled out using Hyperscaler (i. e. AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure) distributed across the Globe. Auditors are also distributed to track the verification proof over time. Additionally, the shop or marketplace applications store immudb cryptographic state information. That high level of integrity and tamper-evidence while maintaining a very high transaction speed is key for companies to chose immudb.

Use Case - IoT Sensor Data

Goal:

IoT sensor data received by devices collecting environment data needs to be stored locally in a cryptographically verifiable manner until the data is transferred to a central datacenter. The data integrity needs to be verifiable at any given point in time and while in transit.

Implementation:

immudb runs embedded on the IoT device itself and is consistently audited by external probes. The data transfer to audit is minimal and works even with minimum bandwidth and unreliable connections.

Whenever the IoT devices are connected to a high bandwidth, the data transfer happens to a data center (large immudb deployment) and the source and destination date integrity is fully verified.

Use Case - DevOps Evidence

Goal:

CI/CD and application build logs need to be stored auditable and tamper-evident.
A very high Performance is required as the system should not slow down any build process.
Scalability is key as billions of artifacts are expected within the next years.
Next to a possibility of integrity validation, data needs to be retrievable by pipeline job id or digital asset checksum.

Implementation:

As part of the CI/CD audit functionality, data is stored within immudb using the Key/Value functionality. Key is either the CI/CD job id (i. e. Jenkins or GitLab) or the checksum of the resulting build or container image.

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