Open source technology. Collaboration and cooperation to improve the products and technologies necessary to move innovation forward. Building a platform where new applications are welcomed to extend the tool’s use cases. These fundamental practices led to the creation of the Internet…and are being seen again as distributed ledger technology takes center stage.
AAIS’s SVP of Operations Joan Zerkovich shared insights gained from her role in establishing the early stages of the Internet, and drew parallels between to the current-day growth of connected network. Ms. Zerkovich was named the first network administrator at the University of California-Davis where the National Science Foundation (NSF) was using new technology from IBM and HP to develop an electronic connection amongst researchers, professors and universities across the United States. The NSF turned to TCP/IP, an open-standard network developed within the Stanford research community with ARPANET. The NSF looked at TCP/IP, an open-standard network developed within the Stanford research community within ARPANET, and determined that this interconnected technology was scalable enough to build a robust, extensible electronic sharing community. They named TCP/IP as their national network standard, and began to build on its capabilities.
Ms. Zerkovich believes this system was successful because of its open-source nature – built on Unix software from UC-Berkley that allowed users to develop new applications, while sharing with the broader user community. This sharing of applications enabled rapid development of the network as users brought real, practical experience to the system and built applications to solve their problems. The new tool was also successful because of its integration with commercial entities, helping to sustain the network financially and bringing corporate technologists together with academics for further development. Ultimately, using this commitment to an open-standard approach to development, the network grew beyond the NSF and became the Internet we use today.
As the Internet flourished, more proprietary solutions were deployed, hampering the open-source community and opportunities for collaboration. In 1991, a computer science student developed a new technology, grounded in open-source methodology. This technology was Linux, and today, it runs on 90% of the servers on the Internet. The Linux Foundation was formed to serve as a steward of the Linux operating system, advocating for Linux and shepherding other open-source Internet technologies.
Ms. Zerkovich sees undeniable parallels between the growth of today’s distributed-ledger networks and the early development of the Internet. She says that once again, small industry communities are coming together to develop interconnected data networks on top of proprietary solutions to meet the evolving needs of their customers. Without an open-source community, however, these networks are not positioned to scale to meet the changing needs of the future. She said an open community with a focus on collaboration is critical, citing the Hyperledger fabric from the Linux Foundation as a platform being used to create broader network solutions like openIDL, the data management system for the insurance industry.
Like the Internet, openIDL is based on open standards. Ms. Zerkovich said the success of any broad-scale network must have an open platform that meets the needs of the wider community. She said openIDL was designed deliberately to be open source, knowing that as more Members join the network, they will bring different technologies to the system that require a smooth integration. Open source technology helps to guarantee cooperation for scalability…important as openIDL Members build new applications and develop new use cases beyond regulatory reporting. She said that it’s unknown how openIDL will be used in the future, but the platform, extensibility and opportunities for sharing are all there…poised to revolutionize the insurance industry.