The Orchestration Layer: Nillion’s Vision for a Better Internet

PUBLISHED

05.24.2024

AUTHOR

Nillion

CATEGORY

Tech Updates

At the heart of Nillion’s design ethos for what a privacy-enhanced future looks like is the Orchestration Layer – a collaborative vision built upon the assumption that there is no single silver bullet primitive in cryptography that will be the right tool for every job. Different PETs, such as the different flavors of 🐕 Multiparty Computation (MPC), 🐕‍🦺 Fully Homomorphic Encryption (FHE), and 🐈 Zero Knowledge Proofs (ZKPs), are meant to solve different use cases. They also exist in a tradeoff space of many factors like performance, cost, maturity, and functionality. Each technology has its own unique properties and things get interesting when you combine them together.

You can think of the Orchestration Layer as a maestro, conducting its orchestra of cryptographic techniques together to perform more and more complex pieces. It’s a flexible approach that acknowledges that research doesn’t stop while infrastructure is being built and that bets on the value of innovation in the rapidly advancing research field of PETs. Though the orchestra may start small, each new instrument adds to what’s possible.

But what is the Orchestration Layer in relation to Nillion? There are two important pieces that make orchestration possible in Nillion: the compiler and the compute network.

Levels of Orchestration

The idea of a compiler that makes it easy for developers to build programs that can securely store and work with high-value data can exist at different levels of abstraction.

Level 1: Black Box Beginnings
Initially, each PET protocol is opaque to the others, treated as a black box with an API rather than being integrated directly into the language. This stage lays the groundwork, where it’s already possible to combine protocols in interesting ways but with no built-in unified interface or abstractions beyond what happens on the client.

Level 2: Expert Switching
Next, specialized adapters and tooling are built to add various PET protocols directly into the Nada language, giving developers direct access to manually switch between and compose them. This allows for precise adjustments, empowering experts to tailor the system to their specific needs. One such example is the integration of NMC with well-established linear secret-sharing techniques – the platform empowers the developer with cryptography expertise to decide when each is appropriate for the program they’re building.

Level 3: Smart Switching
As the orchestration technology advances, more and more abstractions are added to intelligently automate the selection between different cryptographic protocols. For example, rather than having granular control over different flavors of FHE, there may be a more abstract data type that intelligently assesses the correct one for a program. The same could be done for groupings of 2 party protocols, protocols with different security models, and protocols with different network or hardware bottlenecks. This makes the tech stack simpler for developers with limited cryptographic experience to use, while still giving them the benefits of orchestration.

Level 4: The Intelligent Compiler
Many iterations of additional smart abstractions lead to the final stage, with an intelligent compiler that can take in a developer’s intents, like desired security levels and optimization targets, and allow them to write code focused solely on what should be public or private. It automatically tailors the cryptography to the stated intent, making the development process smoother and more intuitive. Rather than having to think about different protocols, developers are free to focus on the most important part of their blind applications – what is run on the data and what should be private to whom.

Today at Nillion: The Road to Orchestration

Currently, the Orchestration Layer’s blueprint is in process of being realized across Nillion’s network, its Nada language compiler, and the NilVM, with steps of all four stages of the final vision in action.

One of Nillion’s key cryptographic primitives is an example of just that kind of combination: Nil Message Compute (NMC) composes both Linear Secret Sharing and Partially Homomorphic Encryption to create a new flavor of MPC that’s well suited for evaluating sums of products. However, there are also other flavors of MPC in the network with properties that are useful in other ways. The Orchestration Layer is what sits on top of PETs to make it easier for builders to connect and compose them in new and powerful ways.

Nillion’s existing stack has taken early steps towards this blueprint, with glimpses of all four steps in action across the Nillion Network, the Nada language compiler, and the NilVM. For the Orchestration Layer to truly achieve its vision it must reach across the silos of cryptographic research that exist across academia, web2, and web3. Our vision is the creation of an incentivized collective system that breaks down these silos and rapidly accelerates innovation in the service of humanity.

About Nillion

Nillion is humanity’s first Blind Computer. It is powered by a decentralized network of nodes that enables “Blind Computation” through the coordination and orchestration of privacy enhancing technologies (PETs) such as multi-party computation (MPC), fully homomorphic encryption (FHE) and zero-knowledge proofs (ZKP). Nillion believes Blind Computation will become the internet’s base layer for all private data as PETs continue to mature. Nillion has attracted a notable initial cohort of Blind Computation builders across AI, DeFi, medical data, custody, wallets, global identity, messaging, and more.

The Nillion development company, Nilogy, was incubated by CoinList’s seed program. Nilogy’s Founding CTO was the Founding Engineer of Uber (Conrad Whelan), the Chief Strategy Officer was the Founding CMO of Hedera Hashgraph (Andrew Masanto), the Chief Business Officer is the Founder of Indiegogo (Slava Rubin), the General Counsel was the Associate General Counsel of Coinbase (Lindsay Danas Cohen), along with builders hailing from Consensys, LayerZero, Polygon and Google. Learn more by visiting the Nillion website or following us on Twitter, Telegram or Discord.