Curtains came down on this year's CordaCon 2022 after the closing session of our CTO, Richard G Brown. It was an overwhelming and enriching experience — such a privilege for me to be able to attend.
CordaCon has always been about Corda and people from varied backgrounds coming together to discuss how some of today's common problems can be solved using Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT). This year was a different story. CordaCon 2022 was not only about Corda and DLT but also about Conclave — R3's confidential computing platform.
David Rutter, CEO of R3, kicked off CordaCon by extending a warm welcome to everyone. He spoke about the company's vision, strategy, and the plan for building the next generation of Corda (Corda 5). He also talked about R3's commitment to building the open-source Confidential Computing platform — Conclave.
After the opening remarks, concurrent Corda and Conclave sessions were organised in different rooms. I went straight into the Conclave "Who's Driving Data Privacy?" session, where Ivar (Head of Conclave) had a panel discussion with Rezso Szabo (Illuminate Financial) and Mike Ward (Obscuro). Mike spoke about how Layer 2 blockchain solutions like Obscuro can help attain confidentiality and address MEV. Ivar questioned the hurdles to the further adoption of Confidential Computing in the industry. Rezso highlighted that ease-of-use is essential when it comes to the adoption of Confidential Computing.
Along with ease of use, Rezso spoke about education, awareness, and regulatory awareness, focusing on specific industry verticals that also play an essential role. Mike had a different opinion, where he mentioned that ease of use is nice to have, but the problem must be big enough, requiring innovative technology. They spoke about the importance of open source which promotes adoption and builds trust in the product. I liked how Mike and Rezso talked about privacy in the startup space — "Why privacy is so controversial in the public blockchain space. Everyone says it is important, but they do not do anything about it". Rezso spoke about the wide adoption of HTTPS and how it costs us nothing and takes us no effort to use it, and something like this could lead to widespread adoption of Confidential Computing technology.
I jumped to the next session, "Technology for Good: A Partnership to End Human Trafficking", where Matthew Codd (Head of Business Dev Conclave), spoke to Callumn Harvie and Enrique Restoy (Hope For Justice) on the fight against modern slavery. Many parties can help detect the victims of modern slavery — the immigration department, law enforcement, and government agencies. Enrique explained the problem by saying that each such party can be thought of as a part of a puzzle. Each party has a unique dataset containing private data. Today’s organisations fear sharing data considering the current GDPR law. He explained how Confidential Computing could protect data matching algorithms and promote data collaboration by running in a trusted execution environment.
The next session on my radar was "The Future is Confidential", which was the most attended session of the conference. Our CTO, Richard G Brown, had a great conversation with Farhaan Mohideen (Intel) and Antoine Delignat-Lavaud (Microsoft). Richard spoke about how the world is changing with most applications move to the cloud, and decisions are based on data. A few years back, once you sent your data to a server, you had no idea what would happen to your data. He spoke about how you own and control your data with Confidential Computing. Richard spoke excitedly about the concept of Confidential Computing, which lets you run your code in an untrusted environment. Richard, Farhan and Antoine spoke about how this tech is disruptive and will lead to more collaboration. They also discussed the challenges and the current lack of awareness in the market. They also talked about how current collaboration amongst the ecosystem partners is essential as companies like Intel build the tech stack and companies like R3's Conclave and Microsoft's Azure cloud platform enable it.
After lunch, in an interesting "The State of Conclave" session, we had the Conclave team discuss the significant developments from an engineering, product, and business perspective. Conclave 1.2 release marked an important milestone in Conclave's roadmap. And this was just the beginning, followed by the Conclave 1.3 release, Conclave cloud beta, Conclave Cloud GA release, and finally, the news of Conclave SDK being open-sourced was the cherry on the cake.
We wrapped up the business day with many discussions, questions, and opportunities deliberating with the attendees. The next day was the dev day which had four Conclave sessions.
We collaborated with Intel for this session, where Dr. Benny Fuhry, (Confidential Computing solutions architect – Intel), presented the architecture and internals of Intel SGX. I spoke about Conclave and how It leverages Intel SGX and makes it easy for developers to write a privacy-preserving application.
Davi displayed Conclave Cloud's use for hosting privacy-preserving applications using Intel SGX. He demonstrated the use of Conclave Functions, the first service delivered by the Conclave cloud platform. He spoke about how stateless functions can be hosted, executed, and scaled on demand while ensuring your data is always encrypted — even during processing. Conclave Cloud is now General Available and Davi presented a demo highlighting how companies can use the platform to process data confidentially.
After lunch, in the "Flash Polls: A Privacy-Based Consumer Application on Conclave" session, Bogdan-Catalin Paunescu presented an Android application built using Conclave. This application lets you get answers you can trust to questions that matter to you from the people you want to hear from instantly. For instance, "If you were to vote in a general election right now, which party would you vote for?" or "What was your immediate reaction to the CEO's town hall presentation just now?" Psychology tells us that respondents to polls often give misleading answers without even realizing they are doing it. Flash Polls uses Confidential Computing technology to prove to respondents that their responses will be 100% private.
Finally, the most exciting "Privacy-Preserving Machine Learning with Conclave Cloud" was the last session, where Roy Hopkins (Conclave Cloud Development Lead) demonstrated how an AI/ML python model can be deployed in Conclave Cloud. This demo illustrates the efforts put in by the team with the vision of revolutionizing the AI/ML industry. Running an AI/ML model inside a trusted execution environment and in the cloud will be a game changer. Organizations will now be able to collaborate, share data, and train an AI model inside a trusted execution environment without compromising data privacy and security.
There was so much useful content that I wished I could have been in more than one place at once, which brings me to my last point. This year CordaCon was filled with business opportunities as dignitaries from various companies discussed relevant upcoming tech in the industry. CordaCon reflects the positive and hopeful future for the company as well as the confidential computing industry with updated tech and versatile ideas. It was dynamic, knowledge-rich, and focused on growth. Every participant had something to take home.
— Sneha Damle is a Senior Developer Evangelist at R3, an enterprise blockchain software firm working with a global ecosystem of more than 350 participants across multiple industries from both the private and public sectors to develop on Corda, its open source blockchain platform, Corda Enterprise, a commercial version of Corda for enterprise usage, and Conclave, a confidential computing platform.
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