Guest post by Luís Marado, Software Engineer, IntellectEU
How do seasoned veterans at one of the world’s top providers of financial integration solutions rate Daml — Digital Asset’s smart contract modeling language for solutions based on distributed ledger technology (DLT) — for rapid prototyping of complex financial agreements? In this second of a series of guest blog posts by our partners, customers, and others working with the Daml SDK, IntellectEU’s Luís Marado discusses how Daml enabled IntellectEU to rapidly prototype several financial use cases, and their plans to incorporate DA technology into their blockchain integration platform.
Before delving into the main topic of this guest blog post, let me first say how pleased we are at IntellectEU to be chosen as a trusted early partner of Digital Asset participating in their initiative to quick-start adoption of the Digital Asset modeling language, Daml.
This step builds on our past experience with DA, which culminated in the official announcement of our partnership. Then, our partnership was further cemented this past 21st of June at the Digital Asset European Client Forum, where we delivered our demo presentation on Corporate Actions as part of the topic Building Daml Driven Applications.
Now, to focus on Daml and on our experience in becoming Daml-Driven, I’d like to start by referencing the words of Hanna Zubko, Co-Founder and CEO of IntellectEU:
“Working with Daml has allowed our developers to build applications quickly and easily without having to worry about the underlying complexity of the distributed system, manually manage data segmentation, or rely on cryptography for privacy. By partnering with Digital Asset, we at IntellectEU can serve our clients faster utilizing secure smart contracts.”
During the initial sessions in which IntellectEU participated as part of the private beta of DA’s developer program, there was a mixture of mystery and excitement to be getting a glimpse of the DLT platform which at that moment was already raising some eyebrows among the financial markets with its announced selection by the Australian Securities Exchange as the replacement for CHESS — the ASX’s system for recording shareholdings and managing the settlement of share transactions for the Australian equity market. We were not disappointed!
The Digital Asset Platform: key takeaways
As a company already gaining experience in the DLT space for the past 4 years, the experience of grasping the DA technology over the past few months can best be summed up with a saying from a renowned Portuguese writer: “First you struggle with it. Then, it pierces into you.” This relates to most of our developers having a background with object-oriented languages — giving rise to that first strange feeling when approaching a language whose paradigm differed from what felt natural based on our past development experiences. But that feeling passed quickly and, soon enough, the utter simplicity with which we were able to use Daml to translate common business requirements into code started to “pierce into our minds”.
Of course, it wasn’t just about the Daml syntax and structure. Along with the language, we had great tooling delivered through the Daml SDK that enabled us to test use case scenarios in a very efficient manner. That, in particular, was one of the features that our developers found most valuable during both the training sessions and the demo development.
Among our non-technical staff from IntellectEU who also participated in this effort (project managers and business analysts), the message we received was that they could indeed clearly understand what was being written in the code, which enabled them to take requirements analysis closer to the developer’s view — overcoming an issue which is felt as common in their usual relation to developers.
Last but certainly not least, another key feature of Daml and the Daml SDK that our experience has taught us is related to the timeframe for building applications — we enjoyed a significantly shortened development phase in comparison to other private/permissioned DLT platforms with which we have been engaging.
Participating in the program
Our participation in the private beta of the developer program was organized into two stages. First we got to know the basics of Daml and the DA Platform, while also exploring Daml development best practices. In the second stage, we applied this knowledge to an existing business use case, which we derived from Euroclear’s Market Practice Book for Corporate Actions. Our technical development team decided to dive into the corporate actions use case, which involved the simplified issuance and underwriting of a bond followed by the full-blown redemption of that bond in cash or shares, according to investor instructions.
An important point to take away from this work is that the DA Platform can model existing market practices without the disintermediation of current participants. Despite disintermediation being a common theme for some in the DLT community — and while being possible to achieve it with this solution — using Daml allowed us to maintain the existing structure of rights and obligations of the markets while providing the benefits of data sharing, privacy, and immutability among participants.
This first demonstration was the result of little more than a week’s coding effort for a couple of developers, which really demonstrates how powerful Daml is and how it enables the rapid creation of proofs of concept in such a tight timeframe.
Later, as part of our participation in Digital Asset’s European Client Forum, we enhanced the visualization aspects of our use case by providing a view into the redemption process with a geographical representation. This required a bit less than a week to build by a frontend developer leveraging some already-developed custom REST API’s to enable the interaction between the UI and the DA Platform.
By making these enhancements, we were able to further the understanding of how data is both shared and kept segregated by the DA Platform with a clear and focused presentation on the issuance and underwriting of the bond and its impacts on the ledger. We ended the demonstration by showing a different perspective showcasing the different existing interactions between the parties in a more viewer-friendly — but also more automated — format.
We were very pleased with our results as participants in the private beta of the developer program, and — based on the feedback from DA — believe the feeling was mutual:
“IntellectEU has developed a complex use case on corporate actions involving multiple parties with different levels of data transparency and segregation, under an impressive timeline, using the Daml SDK.”
Viv Diwakar, Technical Sales Engineer, Digital Asset
“IntellectEU is one of our most advanced and successful SDK users having already shown both the capacity and expertise to developing use cases on the DA Platform.“
Gavin Wells, Head of Europe, Digital Asset
Following our presentation at the Digital Asset European Client Forum, Digital Asset CEO Blythe Masters offered her own perspective of our partnership:
“As leading industry experts and one of our core partners, we immensely appreciate the support that you have provided us in spreading the benefits of Daml to our mutual target market.”
Regarding our next steps, we’re looking to take our experiences in this program to the next level. Our work within the DA program is considered the first step in the development of what IntellectEU is calling a Corporation Action Application Library (CAAL). Within the framework of the current roadmap for corporate actions we are considering a use case for the issuance of shares, and the lien on those shares, according to a multitude of circumstances where action might be required to fulfill legal mandates.
Catalyst, our integration framework
Building on this experience with the DA technology stack — which has prepared us to comprehend how to develop smart contracts — IntellectEU has been exploring the use of this technology to leverage and add value to our core expertise as system integrators. IntellectEU understands, as part and parcel of its identity, that integration is key to the successful deployment and implementation of DLT in the production environment of any kind of corporate customer.
That is why we have built our product, Catalyst, as an integration framework designed to facilitate integration between back-office systems and communication networks, starting with traditional ones like SWIFTNet and finishing up with modern DLTs. As an integration product, it provides core transformation and connectivity services in which custom logic is developed to address customer integration requirements. Its integration engine is also heavily dependent on the specific connectors, which can be chosen from a wide range of options based on the demands and legacy systems supported by our customers.
Catalyst reinforces the applicational production environment of our customers by enabling the development of integrations following Enterprise Architecture Integration (EAI) design patterns put together with error handling, logging, and monitoring capabilities — therefore certifying a continuous, smooth and reliable operation of the infrastructure and application stack of our corporate customers.
Focusing on the prospect of the integration capabilities to be provided by Catalyst towards the DA Platform, IntellectEU is extending its Catalyst connector implementation to include the connection to Digital Asset’s distributed ledger — either through the gRPC protocol or through a custom REST API implementation leveraging DA’s application framework (and already built as part of our demonstrations).
The journey between IntellectEU and Digital Asset has only just started, but what this short interaction has already proven is that DA’s technology is built not only for what are usually called techies, but also to make the approach accessible to a further set of individuals and business groups. This, in addition to the provisioning of the necessary tools, provides important selling points for corporations considering adding DLT to their stack — while also complying with regulatory demands — and therefore enabling further adoption of DA’s Platform. Based on this and our successful joint journey, we can only expect a long and lengthy partnership between our enterprises!
Join the community and download the Daml SDK at daml.com
This story was originally published 18 September 2018 on Medium
About the author
Luís Marado, Software Engineer, IntellectEU
Luís Marado is a Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT) Software Engineer at IntellectEU, combining this role with technical pre-sales activities and leading the company’s partnership with Oracle for Blockchain. Previously, he has gained experience as a consultant and integration specialist for Telco and Retail companies, which provided the necessary cross-functional knowledge to enable the design of DLT-based solutions which can leverage legacy systems in enterprise environments. Luís has a masters degree in Software Engineering from Coimbra University and currently lives in Lisbon.