This Web3 Data Warehouse Wants to Bring Big Data Analytics to the Blockchain
The co-founder and CEO of Space and Time talks about his company and why blockchains matter.
Jessica Abo: Nate, tell us a little bit about Space and Time.
Space and Time is a decentralized data warehouse. If you think about data warehouses, it's where businesses are processing data in order to better interact with their consumers on a regular basis. Companies all over the world run their data analytics in data warehouses. That ability to power applications and power businesses is something that's been around for a long time. We're now decentralizing that process, and that data, to interact and run with blockchain data in decentralized applications.
And why is that important?
There are a lot of different types of blockchains all over the world, and more and more people are starting to interact with various blockchains. And so it's really important for businesses that are building on the blockchain, or businesses that are what we call 'off-chain' or Web2, to start interacting with that data because that's where their customers are.
If you want to understand your customers better, to be able to interact with that data and to understand what they're doing with the different types of applications and services that are provided through blockchain, it's really important to have tools and analytics and capabilities that can combine both on-chain data from a blockchain with off-chain data from enterprise systems.
Your company is aiming to move enterprise companies' data analytics to the blockchain. Why would someone do that?
That's a fair question. Look, I don't think that enterprises are moving to the blockchain wholeheartedly. They have years and years of data infrastructure and analytic architectures that have been built. They spent billions of dollars building this data architecture and infrastructure. And so taking all of that capability that they have built and just moving it all and repurposing that for the blockchain is something that I don't believe is going to happen. But what is going to happen is that they need blockchain data to be able to interact and integrate into their large investments that they've made over multiple years and billions of dollars.
So we provide this bridge. We allow them to take all the blockchain data, have it cleared and indexed in relational data stores, and bring familiar tools that they can integrate into their overall system. So now they can combine all the years of architecture and data and analytics that they've built up over that period of time with new data that's coming from analytics, and from blockchains, and combine this into a single cluster and provide analytics at scale.
Taking a step back from this for a second, what do you think is wrong with how big data analytics is carried out today?
Well, the first thing I would point out is that it's all centralized. So if you think over the last couple of years, everyone's been migrating all of their data analytics and infrastructure to the cloud and the cloud service providers are all centralized. There are a lot of points where data can be manipulated in that architecture.
First, cloud service providers can determine what applications and what software run within their cloud, and you see it all over the world where they decide on certain types of software to run; while certain types of companies can participate in their cloud, others can't. Since companies are building this software in the cloud the service providers now have access to all this data. They're able to manipulate and control the data if they so choose.
Now, if you're building a company that has customer data in the software that's on that cloud provider, and companies have access to a tremendous amount of data that is also centralized. So if you think along this data lineage of cloud service providers, software creators, companies that capture and use data of their customers, then obviously these companies have employees that have access to all this data. And when you think about do no harm, always do good in a centralized data architecture, you have all these points of failure where it's centralized and it can be manipulated and tampered with.
And what would be the benefits of decentralized data analytics?
Space and Time offer an alternative to the centralized data architectures that the world has built. And that is, first of all, the servers that we run the analytics on. We don't own all the servers. They're decentralized. Nobody can own all the servers in a decentralized network, which would defeat the purpose. So, therefore, anyone can participate in the node operations and the servers that run the actual software. The software that we're building is geared toward open-source software. And so as the software runs on all these nodes, we don't actually have access or capability to manipulate or tamper with the actual software.
In addition to that, we have built cryptographic guarantees. As data is being processed in Space and Time, if anyone changes or manipulates or inserts, or deletes data during a query process, then the cryptographic proofs would fail. This means you wouldn't actually be able to deliver data back to, for example, a smart contract on the blockchain, which requires tamper-proof delivery of data; this is why we're building this cryptographic proof, which we call Proof of SQL. People can't interact with the data as bad actors to change, manipulate or transform data favorable to them and not toward the customer.
Nate, can you tell us about some of your partners?
We have really strong partnerships within the Web3 / blockchain space. Chainlink is helping us bring data to and from the blockchain. So as you want to interact with smart contracts, you need decentralized oracles. Data coming to and from smart contracts requires those oracles – that is really important. And Chainlink is a leader in the space around data and decentralization of oracles.
We're also working with Polygon, Mystenlabs and Avalanche on bringing Web2customers to the blockchain. You see more and more news articles about Web2 companies that are starting to utilize blockchain data.
One of the most exciting partnerships that we just announced was with Microsoft, and M12 Ventures investing in Space and Time. I think why it's so important is that you're starting to see the leaders of the data industry - like Microsoft from a Web2 perspective, and Chainlink from the Web3 industry - that are starting to look at how we bridge all of this data together. How do we bring best-in-class capabilities from off-chain data analytics and on-chain data to a single platform, of just data in general, that interacts with blockchains and interacts with customers — wherever those customers are.
Finally, what do you want to say to the people out there who are skeptical about all of this?
One thing I always say is don't confuse blockchain technology with crypto. There are a lot of things in the news today about crypto exchanges, about trading exchanges, where you have bad actors that are participating in centralized formats. If you think about, for example, these exchanges that are failing, they're all centralized. Blockchain technology, Web3 technology, was built to decentralize all this. And as we think about the data infrastructure that we're building to decentralize further the ability to own your data, to own your funds. And so, all of these play a factor in what blockchain was built for and what Web3 technology was built for.