How the Oasis Network’s versatile, decentralized design, with support for confidentiality, is critical to a responsible data economy.
Data is critical to our modern way of life. Whether it’s utilizing data to create new business models, better predict future habits, unlock entirely new technological experiences through AI and ML, or even to stop a pandemic, it’s clear that data is necessary for users and businesses alike. Yet as data becomes more valuable, it also raises a number of questions around data ownership, value extraction, and the risks and usability issues inherent with data use at scale.
Currently, both businesses and individuals are finding it challenging to properly control, own, and ultimately monetize their data. It’s becoming increasingly hard for them to participate in a fair, balanced data economy. We’ve spoken about these challenges in a few news articles, but to summarize:
- Users have lost control of their data and note a growing distrust of businesses (for example, over 80% of respondents in a recent Pew survey indicated distrust in businesses’ use of their data)
- Businesses hold the liability of large scale data breaches, are growing frustrated by the rising cost of consumer-oriented privacy regulation (the California Consumer Protection Act has cost businesses an estimated $55B to update their practices)
- All the while the true potential of data at scale — smart cities at scale, autonomous fleets of cars, and predictive analytics to better identify population health trends — falls short as data remains siloed, questions of ownership remain, and much of data remains underutilized and undervalued.
We believe in a new paradigm for data use. A new economy, where individuals can own their data, and control how it’s used. A paradigm where companies are able to unleash the power of their siloed data, while protecting the privacy of their users. We believe this responsible data economy will be enabled by the Oasis Network.
What is the Oasis Network
The Oasis Network is a privacy-first, proof-of-stake, decentralized network. A network designed to give users back control and ownership of their data, while supporting new privacy-first applications and use-cases. In order to do this, the Oasis Network is designed to provide four critical properties:
- Confidentiality & integrity guarantees for data in storage, transit and usage
- Auditability of state through a decentralized network
- Versatility of system architecture to adapt and support a broad range of use-cases
- Utility and performance required to support real-world work loads
The Oasis Network achieves these four properties through a unique design that separates consensus from computation, while providing a built-in interface for privacy-preserving computation — we call these two components the Consensus Layer and the ParaTime Layer. Unlike other blockchains, the Oasis Network is able to support multiple, parallel runtimes (ParaTimes) — with the Consensus Layer acting as a hub and decentralized ledger for all runtimes. This structure allows the network to remain incredibly nimble and support specialized computation needs, while still providing strong integrity of actions and a distributed, immutable ledger.
A Platform for Tokenizing Data
With the Oasis Network we hope to return the internet to the core principles and values it was founded on like openness and inclusiveness, while empowering individuals to retain ownership and extract value from their personal data.
Through its unique distributed properties and support for end-to-end confidentiality, the Oasis Network can help users tokenize their data, protecting it from unfettered use by the few institutions that control much of the modern Web. This tokenized data can then be used in a vast array of new privacy-preserving applications and services built on top of the Oasis Network’s adaptable and resilient architecture — powering a new, responsible data economy.
Here are just a few examples of how the Oasis Network is being used today:
- Genomics Company: A direct-to-consumer genome sequencing company is leveraging the Oasis Network to give their customers complete control over how their genome data is used. They plan to launch publicly later this year.
- Pharmaceutical Analytics: A healthcare software company is leveraging the Oasis Network’s privacy-preserving technology to run predictive analytics on pharmaceutical data.
- Mortgage Providers: A mortgage broker uses the Oasis Network to help homeowners automatically reduce monthly mortgage payments when neighborhood home values fall, while protecting their privacy.
The Technology behind the Network
A Versatile Consensus
The Consensus layer was designed to be lightweight and flexible — allowing it to support a broad-range of use cases, and quickly adapt to changes in technology and network needs. Simply stated, the Consensus Layer is a decentralized set of validator nodes that operates a proof-of-stake blockchain. Using discrepancy detection, the consensus layer ensures the integrity and accuracy of transactions coming from a ParaTime by selecting a committee of compute nodes and comparing their transaction results. If a discrepancy is detected, a new, larger committee is selected and the transaction is processed again. Once completed and verified the consensus layer maintains an immutable record of actions submitted from each ParaTime.
You can learn more about all of the consensus layer’s services in our documentation here.
Combined, discrepancy detection, decentralized validation, staking operations, and the remainder of the layer’s services, help ensure strong integrity of actions taken in a runtime and maintain an immutable record of said actions. Plus it’s lightweight flexible structure allows it to easily adapt and grow with changes in technology and demand on the network. The Consensus Layer is not designed in a way that’s specific to a consensus protocol — allowing the network to grow and adapt to changes in distributed technology.
At Mainnet, the Consensus Layer will consist of top node operator entities (total number to be determined) on the network based on stake including those nodes listed below.
Confidentiality Made Easy
Today, data on blockchain is accessible and open to all, but to effectively support individual ownership of their information, a platform needs to provide end-to-end confidentiality of data. User data must remain protected and private at rest, in transit, and most critically, in use. To achieve this, the Consensus Layer includes special features for runtimes that leverage confidential computing. These confidential runtimes can use a broad range of techniques to keep transactions private such as HME, ZKP and more. At launch we’ve open sourced the Oasis Eth/WASI Runtime which uses TEEs like Intel SGX secure enclaves to keep transactions confidential. This runtime is entirely open-source, allowing anyone to set up an instance and connect it to the Consensus Layer.
To make setting up and running a runtime with secure enclaves as simple as possible, the Consensus Layer includes features designed specifically to support secure enclaves. The consensus layer validates that the correct runtime environment and hardware were used to execute a specific transaction. This provides strong integrity guarantees for all runtimes and confidentiality guarantees for runtimes using SGX. These services, and the runtime’s key managers, help ensure that data is only decrypted inside an enclave and that runtime code or hardware wasn’t tampered with to maliciously change results.
The result is a network that can easily support confidential runtimes and privacy-preserving use-cases — no matter the compute technology or runtime design.
ParaTimes For All
Having flexible support for parallel runtimes is not only critical to supporting the diverse landscape of blockchain use-cases, but also for creating a lasting network that can grow and evolve over time. The Oasis Runtime Layer is incredibly versatile and dovetails with the Consensus Layer’s flexible design.
By definition a runtime is a replicated compute environment with shared state. The environment can receive transactions from clients and based on those it can perform state changes. Anyone can set up and operate a runtime as part of the Oasis Network. At minimum, a runtime must have a pool of nodes available for compute, storage and other functions necessary to operate and integrate with the consensus layer.
At Mainnet, we expect there to be a number of runtimes connected to the Oasis Network including an instance of the Oasis Eth/WASI Runtime. Runtime operators are free to replicate an existing runtime, or build their own runtime to support their specific needs. This flexibility allows the Oasis Network to address specialized and unique use-cases for distributed technology. For example, as Homomorphic Encryption becomes more performant, a runtime could be built to leverage this alternate confidential computing technique. Similarly, consortiums or industry partners looking to leverage a public, decentralized ledger, can build their own runtime where each partner contributes compute nodes — ensuring data access is agreed upon and easily tracked.
Separating the Consensus Layer and the Runtime layer allows improvements to computation performance and integration of new technology to happen in isolation from the core set of validator nodes — helping avoid forks and critical updates to the entire network
The launch of the Oasis Network is just around the corner. We invite you to join our community and help us build the future of individual data privacy.