BSC News

BNB Chain Spotlight: ANKR Protocol

Chosen as a lead functionary to the BNB Chain scaling effort, BSC News spoke with two members of the ANKR team.

Introduction to ANKR

The ANKR protocol plays a key role in the BNB Chain. As blockchains around the world continue to grow, the inevitable scaling issues become increasingly important to solve. BNB Chain is the most active blockchain in the world in regards to several metrics and faces its own scalability problems as it progresses on its goals towards a multichain future.

In steps ANKR. The team at ANKR designed BAS, a framework for developing side-chains on the BNB Chain. The BNB Chain developers have identified BAS and the product line at ANKR as a unique solution to help boost the technical output of the chain and help grow the ecosystem without sacrificing any throughput on the mainnet of the chain. 

“The main BAS task is to allow any developer to raise their blockchain in a matter of hours, with its unique specifications and validator set,” the team writes in its docs regarding BAS. “Such blockchain, out-of-the-box, can be connected to the BSC infrastructure.”

Recognized as an important protocol that will direct the future of BNB Chain, the BSC News sat down with Dmitri Fontaseco, Product Manager, and Stanley Wu, CTO. The duo discussed the team’s scaling solutions, the technical toolbox they employ, as well as other important topics regarding the growth of BNB Chain. 

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Interview with ANKR Team

Q: Can you please introduce yourself and explain an introduction to ANKR.  

Stanley: My name is Stanley Wu. I'm the CTO and co-founder of ANKR. So Ryan [Fang], Chandler [Song], are the three cofounders of ANKR. We established the company in early 2018––so it has been four years. Our service mostly focuses on the blockchain infrastructure level of services. We provide services like API service, RPC service, and liquid staking. These are very fundamental services used in the space. And right now, we are trying to expand our services, because we already have these basic services. We're trying to expand our usage into more verticals, such as the gaming, and DeFi, which is something natural after the liquid staking. That's all we are doing right now.

And also, since we have been the major Binance Smart Chain service provider for a long time, we do witness the growth of the traffic to Binance within 12 months. It's significantly grown with the traffic and the amount of data load on the chain. 

So we see the difficulty it takes to run an infrastructure company. We’ve seen how it's very hard to maintain archive nodes and how the traffic is huge compared to the service capacity. 

So basically, we try to help the Binance Chain or Binance Smart Chain to solve the two problems. The first one is client-side. We help them move the client into a new technology called Aragon. So the result is we help the synchronization speed to reach up to 100x. We also reduce the storage to 25 percent of the original storage capacity. So it goes from like from 20 terabytes down to five terabytes. We also increased the RPC capacity by four to five times. Basically, every single point is significantly increased. But that is the entrance, and that is the client-side. 

Q: It's all done by basically allowing everyone––well not everyone––with the right hardware to become a node or a validator?

Stanley: Yes, it is much easier as an infrastructure company to maintain that service. And it allows ordinary people to run that with a regular computer. 

The next level after that is just like if you finish constructing the entrance of a highway. Now, we are talking about the capacity of our highway itself. Then we move to the most interesting part about Binance and BNB Chain for 2022. 

Right now, we have made several iteration discussions. So the decision has been made that we move to be multi-chain and support the multi-chain structures. This means to move the transaction capacity from the Binance Chain as part of the Smart Chain to its own chain, and so-called Application Side Chains. 

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So that's what we are building. Actually, Dimitri is the major contributor to it. So the idea is that we only define the protocols for how the Smart Chain communicates with the application’s side chains. All the business logic of the application should be defined by the application team themselves. 

We are also working on our team with a gaming company. We will announce a game, probably around April 20. It's a blockchain game that we will very likely use the BAS (Binance-BNB Application Side Chain) to power infrastructure. 

So for them, they can have the full capacity of that chain and also because we can help them to define the specific business logic with the Smart Chain. Let's say they have a competition between different groups of teams, we can say the winner and then they can occupy new validators where they can share or enjoy the whole staking reward from that validator.

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Q: It's like a reward for being the most active, most contributing?

Stanley: Yes, that will bring the doors to enable the development of gaming and this vertical to form more natively under the blockchain players altogether. And also, for gaming resources such as tokens, such as gold, such as wood, or such metals, they can all become ERC-20 tokens or BEP-20 tokens within the blockchain. And then you can have––I don't know––maybe, the farming to help the user to provide extra liquidity within those tokens. Of course, eventually, the gaming token itself, the major gaming token itself will be listed on Binance, right. So that's how it interacts with Binance Smart Chain. 

But generally speaking, all the business logic about this application chain, about this application or how it can have its own chain to dealing with only that. And we can move all the capacity out of Smart Chain. Let Smart Chain focus on the tradings, focus on you know token listings––which is what it should do. 

Q: Thank you so much for the elaborative answer. And I want to shift it over to Dmitri for the technological side. Sidechains are something that we've started to see develop technologically within different networks. Because the more and more applications that are being built and the more users that blockchain is adopting, it's very natural, that Polygon is congested every 30 minutes. Ethereum now with all the gas fees. Avalanche is still young, but they adopted the sub-net concept very early. 

So what do you think of this? What's the difference between the side chains being built on BNB Chain compared to the ones on Polygon and Avalanche that already exists, or are in the works? What are the benefits of it for a game or a DeFi application or decentralized application in general building on its own side chain compared to the mainnet or traditional chain?

Dmitri: Let’s start with this kind of answer. What is the BAS? What is the subchain itself? We believe that a subchain is a model framework architecture that allows anyone to develop their own subchains and allows developers to contribute and increase the set of embedded models to this chain. The key difference between our solution and from like a Polygon Edge is that we introduced the model architecture of the system run time. It means that we define a set of special, logical, smart contracts, that are written in different languages. And we provide adapters that allow us to integrate these models into different templates. 

For example, our first version of BAS is based on the Binance Smart Chain. So it's a fork of the Binance Smart Chain. That is the reason we are comfortable with BAS Smart contracts. And it brings the functionality of the single blockchain. And these are the default templates for very easy stuff on the blockchain that allows us to deploy smart contracts, to manage deployments of smart contracts, it has already embedded a staking system, reward management. It has even run-time upgrades for the [inaudible] smart contracts. It also contains on-chain governance. Using this governance, you can vote for the changes in the protocol, in the configuration of this chain, and etc. 

This is only the beginning. In the future, we're going to create a fully independent set of models. It's very similar to substrate pallets. And we are going to provide a different set of templates based on the different solutions that allow any development team to modify their business logic based on their needs. And the key here is that it will bring a lot of developers into this product. They will contribute to our business models. They will calibrate our models, and we will create a giant set of prepared models and everyone in the future will be able to build their own subchain using our bricks.

Q: Now since I know ANKR uses decentralized nodes––which again, as I said––anyone that has proper hardware can become a validator or a node on ANKR. When you're building a side chain on BNB Chain, does it adopt the same way, or does it take a portion of the validators already on BNB Chain, or does it use the ANKR protocol in terms of its validators for the sidechain? 

Dmitri: No. The sidechain has its own validator set. Here, I think, to answer the question, what is the idea? The idea is that we decided to standardize the solution. This means that if the solution is standardized, we can wrap all these side chains into our ANKR and Binance ecosystem. We can bring all our products bagged together. So ANKR protocol products, like bringing the liquid staking product into this chain automatically. Like additional models. And in the future, we are going to bring layer two functionality to ensure that all the computations that are rerouted via transfers, can be verified in the BSC Chain.

Q: So, the side chains don't have specifically assigned validators for that side-chain specifically–– like it's part of the overall system?

Dmitri: Yes, it's a fully––let's say––trustless solution. And if you're a developer, you can run your own side chain, and use your own validator set.

Stanley: It depends on the game, or it depends on who runs the BAS data of the application’s chain. I think the application team will decide how many validators they will initially start with. And of course, they can change in the future from three to 11, or whatever number it is. But that's something the application team themselves need to think about in their own business logic. 

Q: And the sidechain, they will have the same functionality as ANKR provides from the liquidity staking from the gateway, from everything

Stanley: Yes, exactly. Because now it's the customer's choice. 

Dmitri: We are going to provide the set of models that are comfortable with all ANKR products. And if you run this application subchain, you're automatically compatible with all ANKR products.

Q: Another thing that ANKR protocol does really well as well is you're able to integrate all of the networks even of your competitors. So, you're integrating all of the networks because everything runs through one gateway, right? So what was the difficulty in producing something like this? And will the side chain... Let's say for example if someone starts on the BNB Chain as a side chain, or they are even shifting over from another chain, let's say they're on Solana or another chain, and they want to shift over to the BNB Chain sidechain? How does that process happen in adopting them? Because right now we've only considered new projects that are coming that are natively building on the side chain. But is there the possibility of already existing projects shifting over from another network to adopt a BNB Sidechain?

Stanley: I think it's more a question about the applications themselves if they want to have that shift. So for a project, like the UniSwap, basically, they are a DEX. So if they don't experience the difficulty or the capacity of the chain itself, then they don't have an incentive for that. 

Q: But the process of shifting itself and building their own side chain, is it the same process of starting from scratch for a new project?

Stanley: To launch the new protocols: Yes, it's pretty similar. But the difficult thing is how you transfer the assets to the subchain where you just launched. For example, you can say, based on the block type, and with this is the snapshot of what we will generate. And based on that snapshot, we will start to transfer all the tokens or transport assets. 

I think that sounds like the proper way to do that. If you have an open protocol or Dapp, and you would like to be able to gradually migrate themselves. That's also another choice they can take. For that, we can suggest that the developer do certain things. So just like building a bridge, we would build a conversion or migration process and let the user choose or decide like a cutting of the tape. Maybe after three months or after six months? Basically, give it time for users to adopt and don’t give a hard cut-off. Let the user prepare for it. I think it's more about the experience and as a team, they can plan that.

Q: So it's all about basically adapting whatever that is there, and it's more of shifting over the assets than shifting over a project itself?

Stanley: On the ANKR side we can help them. But they will be the major power that decides how to scale themselves.

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Q: You mentioned that gaming is something that's going to be probably the first adopter of sidechains. Because even on Polygon and Avalanche, the side chains are honestly like 90% games.

One way you can think about that. For DeFi––What is DeFi? DeFi is like a toothbrush. A good user will use it two times a day. That's it. They checkout and if they want to do some operation, that's it. They will leave. 

But for gaming, it's easy for you to spend hours using it every day and night. Think about how much traffic that is? How many actions you will have using the games? They are totally two different levels in terms of the traffic, in terms of the transactions. 

Now, think about Binance Smart Chain. You are talking about 200 transactions per second, a few 100 transactions per second––which are shared by everyone, every project on this planet. That could be used by probably World of Warcraft alone. They can use all easily. So, if we think about that, we can easily predict games must be on subchains. They have no way to initiate a shared space if they want to grow up and scale up very easily.

Q: So gaming is probably going to be the first adopters of side chains because they have strong needs. Because they need what's in real-time. Some of them even need real-time transactions as well.

Stanley: So for the games, ANKR can become a very nice one-stop-shop experience for them. We can provide side chains with the RPC service and API service. We can provide the game SDK to help them easily integrate with wallets and use our underlying RPC service. And we can even help them to build the liquid stakings and all these kinds of DeFi activities from the ways of their game. We can help them to connect to the large exchange such as OpenSea to have NFT trading, listing, and selling out to the minting. 

So basically, ANKR is a one-stop shop for almost everything big companies need. We don't want to be, you know, tell the game companies how to design a very awesome game. That's what they are good at. But for ANKR, if they want to connect to the blockchain and want to integrate and interact with the blockchain, we are experts to help them to say, "Okay, this is the way you should go and this is the service you should take.”

Q: Let's say to close it out, I want to hear from you and Dimitri as well. For the BNB Chain, what's the timeline of how you see it developing out the kinks? Because nothing that launches is perfect. As you said, it's still a testnet. So there are a lot of improvements and scaling to be made. What are the plans for ANKR as a project? And what are the plans for ANKR handling BNB Chain throughout 2022?

Stanley: First of all, I think Dimitri can speak more than I do. But generally speaking, this will be based on what is the difficulty? How many bugs will we see along the course? We, definitely––from every day–– will see some feature requests and bug reports. That's okay. That's normal for a new chain to be launched. But I will say as well: we do not want to launch a mainnet with a premature state. So this process will really depend on the number of bugs and how stable the chain is itself, and maybe Dmitri can add more himself.

Dmitri: I can say that our current release is more like a devnet because it's fully working and operating on the front end. But our general idea is not implemented at least fully yet. In the future in the next several months, we are going to create the unified models for this content, because right now they are fully embedded in our templates. And we are going to provide different execution environments for this. Because we all know that for the gaming industry the EVM machine might be very slow. And we're going to bring scaling technologies. And also I am going to bring better runtimes that will execute very fast smart contracts. And this is our plan for the next months. And we're going to go to the Public Test net with fully operating templates with fully operating models and with fast execution environment.

Q: Thank you so much. I'm really excited to hear that BNB Chain is going to have a side chain and the second thing of course, that you guys are handling it as well. It's a very intriguing and innovative way to do things. I'm really looking forward to how the test net turns out and the bug in everything. So thank you guys so much for the interview.

Where to find Ankr:

Website | Twitter | Telegram | Discord | Medium |

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