Helping Blockchain Communities Fix Bugs | MIT News


If crypto enthusiasts are right, the next decade will see billions of people start using applications built from user-owned distributed blockchains. The new paradigm has been dubbed Web 3. But Web 3 still has significant challenges to overcome if it is to replace the digital world as we know it.

Blockchain networks, for example, are going to need an effective way to detect and resolve performance issues. Today’s analytics tools are designed to allow businesses to monitor their websites and applications. Such services should only be designed for a single user. In the decentralized world of blockchains, however, the users are the owners, disrupting the traditional model of maintenance and bug fixes.

Metrika, founded by an MIT alumnus, has developed a suite of tools to help distributed communities in the blockchain world monitor and improve their networks. The company allows users to create alerts, access reports, and view real-time community dashboards that visualize network performance, issues, and trends over time.

“Metrika is a community-based monitoring and collaboration platform,” says Founder and CEO Nikos Andrikogiannopoulos SM ’06, MBA ’11. “Were doing [blockchain network] telemetry a public good for all. These applications hold billions of dollars in assets, so it’s unimaginable that we don’t have service assurance and deep visibility into what’s happening in real time.

Metrika currently provides services for popular blockchain protocols including Ethereum, Algorand, Flow, and Solana. The company plans to expand this list as other networks gain popularity in hopes of enabling the much-hyped move to Web 3.

“Our vision at Metrika is to become a critical layer of the Web 3 world,” says Andrikogiannopoulos. “Ten years from now, children will be interacting with assets on their mobile phones. The idea of ​​a bank account will be foreign to them. There will be no corner banks. The whole idea of ​​finance won’t go through physical stores and bank accounts – you’ll have assets on every app you use. In this world, where everything happens on a blockchain, how can Metrika help provide observability, reliability and visibility of the blockchain network? »

Bouncing ideas about MIT

Andrikogiannopoulos came to MIT as a graduate student in 2004, and he likes to say he never really left. To this day, he lives in Cambridge with his wife, who works at MIT, and often returns to campus.

After earning his second degree from MIT, an MBA from the Sloan School of Management, Andrikogiannopoulos began work as a telecommunications consultant. During lunch breaks, he would return to MIT to work with Venture Mentoring Services (VMS), where entrepreneurs in the MIT community can connect with mentors and receive advice. While giving telecom startup ideas, a VMS mentor put him in touch with internet entrepreneur Rubin Gruber, who suggested he explore the blockchain space instead.

It was the middle of 2018 – what many remember as the “crypto winter” for the lull in blockchain hype and the corresponding crash in crypto prices. But Andrikogiannopoulos started researching the industry and networking with people in the blockchain space, including an MIT alumnus working at blockchain company Algorand, which was founded by engineering professor Silvio Micali. from the Ford Foundation at MIT.

A few months after their first interview, Andrikogiannopoulos returned to Gruber’s office and told him that blockchains lacked oversight and operational intelligence.

The problem comes from the decentralized structure of blockchains. Each user functions as a node in the system by creating, receiving and moving data through their server. When users encounter a problem, they need to determine whether the problem is within their node or involves the network as a whole.

“They can go to Twitter and Discord and ask other users what they’re going through,” says Andrikogiannopoulos. “They’re trying to triangulate the problem, and it takes them several hours to figure out the problem, coordinate a response, and fix it.”

To build Metrika, Andrikogiannopoulos set up open-source nodes around the world that pull data from nodes and networks, then aggregate that data into easy-to-understand reports and other tools.

“We act like public infrastructure, so users get visibility through dashboards, alerts, and reports, and then we add collaboration tools on top of that,” says Andrikogiannopoulos.

In 2019, Metrika had started detecting issues with node performance, staking, network latency, and errors such as blocks not being produced at the correct rate. Andrikogiannopoulos showed his progress to Algorand employees, who showed interest, so he continued to develop Metrika’s suite of tools.

“You can see that the idea of ​​Metrika has bounced around the whole MIT ecosystem,” says Andrikogiannopoulos. “It’s crucial when you’re starting businesses that you have this kind of information and resource-rich environments like MIT where you can iterate on your ideas and find team members to join you.

Enable Web 3

Blockchains are no longer a niche technology. Around the world, companies in finance and logistics, along with gamers and other creatives, are embracing technology.

“The blockchain world up to now has been a great experience,” says Andrikogiannopoulos. “Much of this infrastructure has simply not been built. But Bitcoin has proven it can work outside of the traditional financial world, and Ethereum is taking it to another level with apps, smart contracts, and by essentially creating a decentralized intelligent computer. We think about allowing this world that we see coming.

As Metrika continues to develop solutions to monitor blockchains, it also wants to offer services for the many applications built on top of this infrastructure.

“In the future, if a blockchain transaction fails and you are Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan, you need to know why that transaction failed and what happened,” Andrikogiannopoulos says. “Or if you’re an app playing a game or buying assets and transactions are lagging, you need to understand why the user experience is affected. In Web 3, these things are very important because of the scale and value stream we’re talking about.

For Nikos, improving blockchain performance is not just about optimizing networks. It’s also about helping usher in the world of open finance and open apps that Web 3 promises.

“We’ve reached 17 hours of outages on blockchain networks in some cases, but what’s even more important to me are not the outages themselves, but the infrastructure needed to avoid them as the industry continues to mature,” says Nikos. “These issues can compromise trust as we onboard users into the Web 3 world. Metrika’s mission is to enable a compelling Web 3 ecosystem.

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