Full-Stack Blockchain Consultancy Casper Labs Helps Enterprises With Distributed Ledger Deployments
Blockchain Journal's editor-in-chief David Berlind meets up with Casper Labs CTO Medha Parlikar at the World Economic Forum in Davos to find out more about how enterprises can outsource their distributed ledger deployments to the full-stack blockchain consultancy of which she is a co-founder. As Parlikar explains, full-stack blockchain consultancies like Casper Labs are good for enterprises that know they have a use case for public distributed ledger technology (DLT), but that do not have enough in-house expertise to deploy a solution themselves. In the interview, Parlikar also talks about why fine-grained tracking of permissions and smart contract versioning are two of several features that make Casper public DLT a good choice for enterprise deployments (full-text transcript appears below).
By David BerlindPublished:January 17, 2023
How does Casper Labs work with enterprises according to CTO Medha Parlikar?
David Berlind: I'm David Berlind with Blockchain Journal coming to you from Davos, Switzerland, where World Economic Forum is in full swing right now. We're in one of the buildings that's along the main promenade that leads to the Congress Centre. A lot of traffic, a lot of people walking up and down. But standing with me in this particular building is Medha Parlikar. She's the CTO of Casper Labs. Medha, thanks for joining me on the show.
Medha Parlikar: Thank you so much for having me on.
Berlind: Yeah, it's great to have you. What is Casper Labs?
Parlikar: Casper Labs is a professional software company. We provide engineering and professional services support for enterprises looking to adopt blockchain.
Berlind: Wow. So if an enterprise that's out there that's not terribly familiar with blockchain or how to implement it for some particular use case, they can turn to you and you will take care of all of it for them?
Parlikar: That's exactly right. We go further than most of the other professional services companies out there, because we actually build blockchains, and the first blockchain we built is the Casper network.
Berlind: As I was roaming around your venue here, I keep hearing people say that Casper is a enterprise-grade blockchain. What does that mean?
Parlikar: Well, it means that it has all the features that enterprises need provided for directly on the hosts, so you don't have to engineer around the blockchain. The blockchain actually supports those needs of enterprise, which is compliance, better traceability, seperation of concerns, more fine-grained security and permissioning. That's all possible on the protocol.
Berlind: Okay. So when I hear the phrase enterprise blockchain, there is an implication that other chains may not be enterprise-grade. You just mentioned a few criteria that enterprises are sensitive to. Maybe we can dig into a few of those. What, for example, do you mean by a chain being enterprise-grade in terms of compliance, where another chain might not be that way?
Parlikar: So for example, in enterprise, they want to have fine-grain tracking of permissions, right? So you need a very robust account model that can say person A can do these things and they can't do other things, and person B can do these other things that person A can't do. And on all the other blockchains, you have to put that in your smart contracts, but Casper, on the host, you can actually control accounts.
Berlind: When you say host, you mean the layer-one chain?
Parlikar: That's right.
Berlind: That that capability is built into the layer one chain. Somebody's building a smart contract, they only have to access the API to unlock that capability, whereas on another chain, they would have to actually build the entire capability from scratch.
Parlikar: That's exactly right. Yeah. The host provides that capability. Casper provides that capability natively for you.
Berlind: What are some other examples of the capabilities that Casper provides that are enterprise-grade?
Parlikar: Well, the other one is upgradeable smart contracts, where the versioning of the smart contract is enforced by the protocol itself, and in other blockchains, they use proxy contracts or they don't even tell you when a contract's been upgraded, which is very, very risky. So when you have a new version of software, you expect it to have a different version. We're all used to that, right? Latest version of iOS, the latest version of Microsoft Work. The blockchain should behave exactly the same way, and that's what enterprise expects and that's what they need.
Berlind: Okay. Let's back up. Smart contracts. What are smart contracts?
Parlikar: Smart contracts are little programs that run on a blockchain and whatever the outcome is of that program running, that outcome is actually logged to the blockchain. It's actually registered on the blockchain.
Berlind: My understanding is that for enterprises that want to build something, and what enterprise wouldn't want the ability to program or customize something to their liking, this is the way to do it. In terms of programability, there's only one avenue, and that is to use smart contracts as the basis of blockchain being an application platform. Is that right?
Parlikar: There's a lot of automation that you can get out of it with guarantees around trustlessness and transparency using the blockchain for multi-party systems. You also get fantastic copyright protection. So when you get copy protection, there's a lot of things that you can streamline in your business, and smart contracts are the avenue to do that.
Berlind: Right. Okay. So what else makes this chain enterprise-grade? Is there anything about its scalability or its reliability?
Parlikar: It's very reliable, it's robust, and it drops directly into an existing IT stack, so you don't have to re-engineer or re-architect your current infrastructure in order to add blockchain to it.
Berlind: I see. So now coming back to what Casper Labs does, if you have an enterprise that wants to take advantage of all these capabilities but they're not really comfortable doing it themselves, Casper Labs becomes the single throat to choke in order to get some use case built on top of a smart contract on top of the Casper Blockchain.
Parlikar: That's exactly right. So our engineering team isn't just experts in blockchain. They're actually coming from enterprise software systems themselves. So what you'll find in a lot of arenas, you'll either find enterprise software experience or you will find blockchain experience. We are a unique intersection of the two.
Berlind: And you obviously would provide support as well, because one of the things you don't really get with public blockchains out there is support. It's not like you have a software contract with Oracle or Salesforce or one of these big software companies. There is no software contract. So do you take care of the support as well?
Parlikar: We already have a support team in-house and an account management team as well, so yes, absolutely. We provide that service that enterprises need.
Berlind: Finally, what is it you hope to accomplish here at World Economic Forum? Because it's very busy here. I see your venue's full. What exactly are you hoping to get in the way of new business or just awareness for blockchain?
Parlikar: Well, really, we want to bring the community together to talk about how the technology can solve problems, right? We want to rise above the fray of crypto, and really start talking about the underlying technology, and that blockchain isn't about crypto. Blockchain is about really uplifting existing technologies to provide greater trust and transparency and compliance, and we want to support that transition, and work with world leaders and governments and enterprises alike to make it happen.
Berlind: And how's the reception been? Are you getting those world leaders and business leaders coming in and asking questions and are they above the fray? Do they see the difference between what's going on with crypto and how blockchain can be an application platform for enterprises?
Parlikar: There's a lot of education that needs to happen, because a lot of people are conflating crypto and blockchain. So we have our work cut out there, but we're ready for it. We're up for the challenge. And yeah, I think reception's been overall really, really good. So we're excited to be here.
Berlind: Terrific. Well, Medha Parlikar, CTO of Casper Labs, thanks very much for joining me on the show.
Parlikar: Thank you so much for being here.