Interview: Flavian Manea, CEO of Bware Labs on Decentralized APIs and Blast Testnet

As the adoption of web3 technologies continues to rise, Bware Labs, a web3 infrastructure solutions company recently announced the launch of its Blast testnet. With Blast, the company aims to offer what it considers to be the fastest and the most reliable decentralized API solution in the market. To know more about Bware Labs and their Blast offering, we caught up with Flavian Manea, the CEO of Bware Labs and asked him a few questions.

One among the 5 co-founders, Flavian has over 10 years of experience in software development which he has put to use in various companies including Poker 888, Intel and Luxoft. In this interview, he speaks about Bware Labs, decentralized blockchain APIs, the ongoing Blast testnet phases and their learnings from it as well as the future they envision for web3 with Bware Labs and Blast playing a pivotal role in it.

Q: Let us start with some background. Can you tell us more about Bware Labs and how it empowers web3 development?

A: Simply put, by offering Web3 developers a suite of infrastructure services that can help them build dApps faster, easier and with less costs, and also by managing certain parts of infrastructure for various blockchain projects. We created Bware Labs with the purpose to help builders on their path toward Web3 and turn it into a highway.

Usually, in order to access a blockchain network, developers need to deploy their own nodes that can expose API endpoints through which they can perform certain activities on a blockchain network. But the node infrastructure needs to be maintained and scaled as the project gets successful.  They would need different sets of skills and resources to keep it up and running. So, if one wants to focus on building, without the hurdles of creating an entire infrastructure cluster around their project just for APIs, they can use an API provider.

Until now, our main focus was on our decentralized API platform, Blast. Through it, we aim to provide decentralized API access for a wide range of blockchain networks on mainnet and testnet. The platform offers a free plan and public API endpoints, suitable for a blockchain developer who is just beginning to build his dApp on one or more networks, as well as paid and customizable subscriptions for those who are way ahead with their projects and have much higher traffic needs.

Q: Please share more information about Decentralized Blockchain APIs in general and how it is going to benefit the community.

A: By relying on a decentralized infrastructure provider, one can eliminate single points of failure that can damage the entire project, and make sure that in case something goes wrong in one region, the work is being rerouted to different regions and the users can still access and use the product. Through decentralization we aim to eliminate centralized controllers and give developers access to more reliable decentralized infrastructure services with improved speed, availability, uptime, and a democratization of access to resources and responsibilities.

Q: Tell us more about Blast. How is it different from other decentralized API providers?

A: The main differentiator between Blast and other API providers is our focus on both decentralization and high performance.

In the current market, you can find one or the other but it is really difficult to have both. With Blast, we aim to solve this issue and provide the fastest and most reliable API solution on the market without sacrificing decentralization.

The technical innovations developed by our engineering team will allow the platform to automatically monitor and enforce quality on the part of Node Providers joining the platform. Thus we will be able to guarantee the platform’s current performance even after the decentralization is complete. Providers will be able to join in a permissionless way, but at the same time, they will be required to prove their service quality both to finish the registration process and to remain active within the platform. We call this Proof of Quality.

Among the innovations I was talking about, I would like to highlight our Integrity Protocol which handles the performance and integrity monitoring, calculates performance scores or takes coercive measures against the misbehaving nodes.

Our staking mechanism is also worth mentioning as it takes into account each node’s performance as well as the difficulty of running nodes on different blockchains.

The entire ecosystem we have created revolves around fairness and performance. Basically, performance and quality are required as well as rewarded so that users should not feel any difference in quality when using our APIs while, at the same time, not having to do any tradeoffs in terms of decentralization.

Q: What drove you to the blockchain sector, web3 space in particular? Why web3 infrastructure in particular?

A: I was already working in the blockchain domain, first getting in touch with it as an amateur investor, then starting to be involved professionally in the sector. When the Infura crash happened and we noticed the impact it had on the markets, we decided to get involved hands on in the improvement of the space and started Bware Labs. Our first target was building Blast, the decentralized API platform, but we also have other projects in the making, aimed at helping Web3 developers on all levels of their journey.

Q: If I am not wrong, Blast is still in the development phase, and you have an incentivized testnet program underway. What are your expectations from this campaign?

A: There are two components here. The API platform is already in production since April this year, but it’s functioning in a centralized way. Through the current testnet, we started the process of migrating to a decentralized model without losing any of the performance we currently have as decentralized providers.

With this in mind, we wanted to make sure that all aspects of decentralizing the underlying infrastructure of Blast were thoroughly validated, not just in lab conditions (which we have thoroughly tested), but also in real-world operations. We also wanted to make sure that the onboarding process for node providers is as smooth as possible, to minimize any overhead on them and facilitate the participation of as many providers as possible. The feedback we received from participants made us think we succeeded, as the user experience was deemed to be “simple and easy to understand” and the documentation “splendid”. As we’re working our way up from onboarding, to evaluating performance and reward distribution, we’ll also target finer tasks like enhancements and corner cases.

Q: The first of three stage testnet program, Launch Phase seems to have concluded. Would you like to share the outcome of this phase? What were the key learnings?

A: We were very pleased with the confirmation of our efforts regarding the ease of use of our onboarding mechanism. And the focus we put on building an easy-to-follow, yet thorough, documentation was appreciated and has helped many of our participants. We were even told it was helpful outside of the Blast context, for trying to run nodes without the goal of onboarding them in Blast.

During this phase, we also gathered feedback regarding UX and UI, and we’re working on implementing an improved UX to increase self-debugging capabilities for jailed nodes.

The feedback from our participants was very useful in this stage, but the best is yet to come! In Phase 2 and 3 we will be onboarding more and more participants, and we’ll be adding new functionalities and missions, so we’re expecting the difficulty levels to increase both for us and for the testnet participants.

Q: Did you or the team come across any serious issues that need to be resolved during/before the subsequent testnet phases?

A: We did not find any security or critical issues until now! We did receive a lot of feedback though! Feedback regarding user experience and flows, as well as some requests on the part of node providers to display more info regarding their nodes so that they can improve their services in accordance with the protocol’s requirements. However, we are still at the beginning, there are two more phases left and we are thrilled to see how the protocol and platform are received by the wider audience starting in Phase 2, which is being started this week!

Q: How has the developer community reacted to the introduction of Blast?

A: We’ve had an excellent welcome of Blast in the developer community and beyond. People are excited about the performance of Blast and the level of professionalism of our team, offering dedicated support to cater to all types of infrastructure requirements. A good testament of that is our ever-growing customer base, expanding from individuals using the Free or Development subscription, to larger entities on the Startup and Custom plans. We could also boast a little bit about our growth in terms of the daily number of requests made on Blast endpoints, a number we manage to more-than-double month to month.

Q: What was the community response for Houston testnet like? How many applications did Bware Labs receive for it?

A: The Houston Testnet was very well received by the community. Phase 1 was private, limited to participants from our close network of partners in the node-operating market. We just wrapped up the open enrollment in our phase 2 and are working to select a few hundred participants from the public and plan to further increase that number in the third and final phase. The response has been amazing, we received several thousand applications so far and we’re very eager to onboard our new testnet participants as soon as possible.

Q:  What are the next steps for the testnet?

A: We’re preparing to start Phase 2 of the testnet, named Orbit, which is arguably the heaviest lift of the program. We want to drastically increase the number of participants and validate the Integrity Protocol, Performance assessment and enforcement module, staking mechanism and rewards distribution. When we’re happy with how everything works, we’ll move to the final phase, named Landing, further increasing the participation, and shifting the focus to fine-tuning the experience and finalizing the last details.

Along with opening Phase 2, we will also be opening the enrollment form for the third phase of the Houston Testnet, so those who are interested can already submit a registration.

Q: Anything else you would like to share with our readers?

A: We’d like to encourage everyone to take a look at our testnet website: https://houston.blastapi.io/houston-testnet , to find out more about what we’re trying to accomplish and how things are progressing. Participation is still possible at the moment both at a technical level running nodes on our third Phase, or as a tester in our new Community phase. We’re confident you can find interesting things in there, whether you’re just a blockchain enthusiast, a beginner developer or node-runner who might have something to gain by joining the testnet, or even the mainnet after that.

For those of you who wish to get a glimpse on how our Phase 1 went overall, here is some feedback we received from our participants:

“With the increase in sanctions and restrictions across web3 protocols, the demand for censorship-resistant decentralized infrastructure providers is growing. The team at Bware Labs is dedicated to serving this demand through its infrastructure network.

It has been great working with the Bware Labs team and trying out the Houston Incentivized testnet. The onboarding process, the feature rollout, and the communication from the team has been phenomenal, and we look forward to a successful mainnet launch.”

— Abhinav Pathak, Woodstock

 

“First of all, typically configuring each API among different blockchains is difficult and confusing, but the UI/UX of BwareLabs with BlastAPI is simple and easy to understand.

In addition, the integration of the official documents for various blockchains was splendid. Not for Bware only but also for other node operators which can use that information for their own purpose.

One thing we are concerned about is an alert system. We think that the small alert(like connected RPCs down, BlastAPI down, and so on) system needs on the BlastAPI. It would be great for the node operator who runs nodes within Blast.”

— Lucas Ku, B-Harvest

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