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Eclipse Partners with IOTA on Open Source Distributed Ledger Tech

The Eclipse Foundation has made some baller moves in the last few years -- its commitment to an annual simultaneous release of multiple open-source projects and taking on the responsibility for the evolution of enterprise Java, to name two. This week it entered into a partnership to support another foundation's open-source technology.

Working with the IOTA Foundation, Eclipse launched the Tangle EE Working Group to provide a governed environment for contributions to IOTA's open source distributed ledger technology (DLT).

"This initiative with the IOTA Foundation is the deepest relationship we've entered into with another open source organization," the Eclipse Foundation's executive director Mike Milinkovich told me. "In fact, I think our partnership may be unprecedented in the open source community."

Unlike that other DLT, which uses a distributed set of cryptographically linked data "blocks," the Tangle (and yes, it's "the" Tangle) is an aptly named model of a stream of interlinked transactions stored across a decentralized network. The Tangle is a directed acyclic graph (DAG) consisting of vertices and edges. The vertices represent transactions and the edges represent approvals. For a transaction to be valid, each node in a DAG Tangle must approve two previous transactions at other nodes. This model removes "miners" as entities to validate transactions, which eliminates a potential bottleneck. Also, the network's growth and speed become directly proportional to the numbers of its users.

The main motivation behind the development of this blockchain alternative, said Dominik Schiener, co-founder of IOTA, is scalability. Blockchain has an inherent transaction rate limit, he told me, because all participants agree on the longest chain and discard forks and side branches. But the Tangle allows different branches of the DAG to merge eventually, resulting in a much faster overall throughput.

IOTA's founders were involved early with blockchain tech, but recognized this limitation. "We had this big vision for an open-source protocol connecting the human economy with the machine economy, to make it possible for one machine to pay another machine," Schiener said. "We imagined these big use cases, but then realized that, for the Internet of Things to truly function, we needed to introduce a distributed ledger."

IOTA the company was founded in 2015; the IOTA Foundation was established as a non-profit in Germany in 2017. The foundation has two areas of focus today, Schiener explained. The first is research. "We have, like, 20 mathematicians focused on the theory behind our technology," he said. The second is engineering. "As a non-profit foundation, we do not create commercial applications, but our mission is to empower large enterprises, startups, and governments to create commercial applications with the tools that we provide."

The foundation is also committed to establishing IOTA as a trusted standard, which is where Eclipse comes in.

"Governance is crucial to our long-term goal," Schiener said. "Obviously, we've been developing the technology ourselves with our developer community. The next phase is to open up this development to enterprises and other entities, like universities, that want to be part of this work. That's why we are very excited to be joining the Eclipse foundation and opening up the Tangle EE Working Group.

A total of 15 companies have joined the new working group. The list of founding members includes Dell, German electronics provider STMicroelectronics, and the University of Magdeburg.

"This is a big deal for the Eclipse Foundation," Milinkovich said, "and a bit of a different wrinkle for us."

Milinkovich stressed that the relationship is a partnership. Even though the Tangle EE Working Group falls under the Foundation's governance rules, it's not an Eclipse Project, such as the Eclipse IDE or Eclipse MicroProfile. "These are two non-profits working together with a shared goal of fostering an enterprise ecosystem around IOTA's technology," he said, "which is what we do best."

In other words, Eclipse isn't shepherding the Tangle. It's providing the governance model for the projects using it.

Two actual projects were announced at the launch of the new working group. The first, "Unified Identity," involves building an interoperable trust infrastructure that enables identity for people, organizations, and things. "We will develop a high-level protocol and further tooling to encourage adoption of decentralized identity on IOTA," the Web site states. The second, "Decentralized Marketplaces," aims to enable organizations to easily deploy and participate in decentralized marketplaces. "We will develop an extendable toolkit to enable real-time trading of data, products, and services," the Web site states.

 "We're going to be applying our normal open source project governance rules to those projects," Milinkovich said, "making sure that they're brought forth in a  vendor-neutral way. The IOTA Foundation is still the prime mover behind the technology."

Posted by John K. Waters on February 12, 2020