NKN Mainnet 2.0, Security Audit, OpenAPI, and Partnerships with Allen Dixon


Managing partnerships with Apple for Nokia taught me that the best mobile phones need a significantly newer kind of network to unleash its full potential.

Allen Dixon, June 2020
Allen Dixon, Head of NKN Business Development

Last month NKN promised its community a “hot month” for June. The imminent release of NKN Mainnet 2.0 later today and the details of its security audit just published, are the primary sources of this anticipated heatwave.

Heatwave, London King’s Cross

NKN released details of its extensive six month security audit. 

With the successful completion of this audit, the security of the project is significantly improved and every functional module can be operated in a relatively safe and secure manner. This is a crucial milestone and prerequisite for NKN 2.0.

Many bugs were squished, and many vulnerabilities identified and fixed.

A total of 16 vulnerabilities have been identified through the complete security audit, including 5 critical 4 high 2 medium and 5 low vulnerabilities. 15 vulnerabilities have been fixed, while 1 (low vulnerability, details in appendix) remains unfixed.

Other noteworthy news includes the launch of the community-driven OpenAPI initiative to encourage and ease development of dApps in the NKN network, the release of an encrypted stream library by CTO Dr. Yilun Zhang, and this year’s scheduled unlocking of team and foundation tokens which took place on May 28th.

With the upcoming release of NKN 2.0, the community developer scene is growing strongly. Recently the developers of the community-known NKNx ecosystem ChrisT and lightmyfire and the creator of nStatus, Mutsi, decided to join force and form the first NKN Open-Source community called “Rule110”.

Having spoken in the past with NKN co-founders Dr. Yilun Zhang, Yanbo Li and Zheng “Bruce” Li, it is my great pleasure to introduce NKN’s last key team member and head of Business Development, Allen Dixon.

With over 20 years of telecom experience, and leading partnerships with Apple, Amazon, startups, and more, there is no better person to talk to about NKN business in the coming months than Head of Biz Dev Allen Dixon.

The Interview

Q. Hi Allen! Could you please tell us about life before NKN? How do those experiences at Motorola and Nokia now benefit NKN?

Sure, In many ways, my experiences at Motorola and Nokia have led me to my current role at NKN. 

Motorola, at the time, was a great training ground for a budding engineer. I was given the opportunity to work on 2G, 3G, and 4G technologies first designing, building and delivering demos of internal innovations to engage customers worldwide and later focusing more on RF performance. I experienced first hand the importance of highly reliable and scalable networks, which I believe is a big part of the value of NKN and frames many of our customer discussions.

Fast forward a few years later to Nokia, where I was responsible for not only scouting Silicon Valley companies with complementary solutions in areas such as Security, Telco Cloud, and IoT, but also managing successful partnerships with leading technology companies including Apple, RedHat, and others. Managing partnerships with Apple for Nokia taught me that the best mobile phones need a significantly newer kind of network to unleash its full potential. In addition, I also learned that while no one company can be great at everything, building an ecosystem of complementary partners can open the door to new opportunities and new solutions, which is a strategy I have helped develop at NKN. The result is our continued development of partnerships with companies like IoTeX, Digital Ocean, Google Cloud, Amazon AWS, and others. 

Q. NKN is a member of Nokia’s Open Ecosystem. What’s the significance of this relationship?

Good question. We work with Nokia through our partnership with Datapace (a Nokia spinoff) as well as our participation as a finalist in the Nokia Open Innovation Challenge. From these experiences, NKN was invited to be a part of the Open Ecosystem Network which was started by Nokia and serves to bring together companies of different sizes and create new business opportunities. As part of this ecosystem we have engaged with Nokia on connectivity related technologies and solutions.

Allen Dixon – nLearning – Content Delivery Network

Q. What’s the objective of the community-driven OpenAPI initiative, and how is it funded? Is there a significance to CA Rule 110 after which the team behind it is named?

First of all, Rule 110 is a community driven project, brought together by the makers of popular NKN community apps NKNx and nStatus, that promises to provide developers the tools and help they need to learn and contribute to the growing NKN developer community. Their first project called NKN OpenAPI, which is based on the NKNx API, offers an easy-to-use programming interface for developers. I believe this is a good step toward making the NKN platform more accessible for developers to build. NKN does offer community rewards for such projects that offer a significant contribution to the community such as this one awarded to NKNx last year and we are always looking to promote great projects from the community.

According to the Rule 110 team, the name represents a Turing complete elementary cellular automaton (CA), which is a fundamental building block behind NKN Any calculation or computer program can be simulated using a Rule 110 automaton. Similarly, the Rule 110 team is seeking to offer foundational tools to help developers learn and build on top of NKN. 

Q. I noticed heavy centralisation of node deployment (98% USA, mostly AWS). What do you attribute this to, how much does this concern you, and why aren’t more people running nodes at home?

I believe having a decentralized network is important to the future of NKN’s network as it offers a greater number of points of presence where we can offer more localized services to our customers. However, I also believe that our network is more decentralized than it appears on our Mainnet Explorer. Currently, the tool we use to track the location of NKN nodes is based on public IP addresses, many of which may be owned by a US entity, but could be allocated in datacenters in other parts of the world. However, we do understand the US is the leading location for NKN nodes today. The main reason for the growth in US nodes stems from the offering of 1-click deployments of NKN nodes on AWS, Google Cloud, and Digital Ocean Marketplaces beginning in March of 201 that made it convenient for users to run our nodes on these US based platforms and earn rewards. This was needed to help us grow and scale our network leading up to and including our Mainnet launch in July 2019.

Since then, we have made it much easier to run NKN nodes at home. Using the Fast Deploy feature on the community built NKNx node and wallet tracker, users can now install and run an NKN node with a single line script on almost any linux based machine. We are also offering NKN node software packages for some of the popular wifi routers in China, which will help drive more at home growth in that market as well.

With the launch of NKN 2.0 commercial software, we hope more people will run NKN from home and enjoy a cost benefit over cloud based hosting.

Q. The biggest news is NKN Mainnet 2.0 scheduled for this month. What can you tell us about its new features?

For mainnet 2.0, we are releasing the first security audited version, where all known issues are fixed. We are also moving to a much more secure wallet format v2 (old wallets can still be used, but we provide tools to upgrade existing wallets easily). In addition, we are officially releasing name service and NanoPay which we have been testing internally for a while. On the performance side, we have greatly optimized relay RAM usage, boosting relay throughput for low end devices.

NKN 2.0 is a whole ecosystem release, not just mainnet. Outside mainnet, we are officially releasing Tuna, a free market to use service by paying NKN or host service to earn NKN, and session mode as part of SDK. They both are important technical components of our DataRide service.

Q. Other major news includes the recent security audit. What can you share about that?

The security audit, which was conducted over the course of an exhaustive 6 month evaluation by reputable 3rd party company Chaitin Technologies, is complete and we published the results on June 28th. Overall, NKN has addressed all of the findings and has implemented a new secure wallet format v2 and also added many Network/consensus security enhancements.

Q. Will the security audit pave the way for exchanges listing the native NKN token? 

We will be working with exchanges following the security audit for native NKN token support. However, given the ubiquity of ERC-20 tokens globally, we do expect to have both ERC-20 and native tokens available for the foreseeable future.

Q. Following the announcement of commercial contracts does NKN plan on publishing earnings reports? How much of the revenues go back to the miners?

Miners who participate in traffic from NKN’s commercial contracts such as our content delivery contract with iQIYI will be running the new NKN commercial software, which will give miners the ability to opt-in to NKN services like nCDN and track their earnings. Since NKN has adopted a crowd-sourced business model similar to Airbnb, we give most of the revenue back to the miners who are providing the infrastructure and service. NKN only takes a small commission to maintain the software platform and drive customer activities.

Today, we do not have plans to publish earnings reports, however, once we figure out a way to preserve NDA and confidentiality for our enterprise clients, as well as provide enough transparency for the community, we will work on it.

Q. Operating an NKN nCDN node is not the same as running a regular NKN mining node. Please explain the difference, and also how someone can participate in launching and profiting from an nCDN node?

Miners who are interested in running an nCDN node will have different requirements from those running the open source Full Node release. First of all, you will need to download and install the NKN Commercial edition of the NKN software and opt-in to run nCDN. You will also need to have at least 100GB of storage (preferably SSD) as the node will need to be able to cache and serve content as well. Miners will have the option of not only running nCDN but can also continue to run traditional NKN mining on the same machine which gives you even more opportunities to earn rewards.

IoTalks – Connectivity w/ NKN (July 12, 2019)

Q. NKN’s May 16/31 Bi-weekly report mentioned an “NKN Commercial software release” with more details to follow in June. What can you tell us about this “commercial” release, and will it be open-source?

First of all, thanks for reading the Bi-Weekly report! The report and videos are something I enjoy putting together and sharing with our community. 

NKN Commercial will be the commercial version of the NKN node software with support for hosting NKN applications and services like nCDN. Some parts of the NKN Commercial software will not be open-source since we need to maintain metrics, billing, and other logs for our commercial customers that cannot be shared with the public.

Q. NKN is an open-source project making commercial agreements. How is NKN IP protected, and can NKN secure long-lasting agreements without patents?

We have adopted a structure similar to Linux and RedHat, where Linux is the open source foundation element of the operating system, and RedHat is the for-profit entity that offers commercial applications on services on top of Linux. Similarly, The NKN Foundation is the open source non-profit that has built the blockchain and P2P network infrastructure, and NKN Labs is the corporate entity which will build commercial applications and services such as nCDN and maintain any IP created from those commercial ventures.

Q. Looking into the future, what do you see for NKN?

I am excited about the future of NKN as we move past building the network and towards offering applications and services that everyone can use. That includes applications and services built by our community on NKNs platform as well. Now that we have been able to win business with companies like iQIYI and NETNIC, we now have a model on how to grow our own services business. However, these services are just examples of what’s possible using our platform. I hope the success that NKN has seen will attract more developers to the platform, and I can’t wait to see what our community builds on top of NKN that will be even better than what we have achieved. 

Thanks Allen

Useful Links

NKN website
NKN Official blog
NKN Medium blog
NKN Forum
Allen’s Twitter

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