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Always Be Shipping: Maurycy Pietrzak of Infura

What does it take to bring one of Ethereum’s most important API tools to market?
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In this wide-eyed new world of Web3, many of the key players and developers who have built Ethereum to what it is today paved the initial paths with a forward-thinking mind and a dedicated heart. Without them, this space would be a shell of what it is today. Without them, we’d have pretty much nothing to show for the original White Paper. This all started in 2013. Five years later and we have a multi-billion dollar ecosystem often compared to the first days of the original Web2 internet.
With all this in mind, it’s important to remember that we’re still early in this new frontier. The infrastructure and systems and dApps we’ve built continue to carry the weight of the ecosystem and keep it afloat. That’s why we’ve started this new series, Always Be Shipping, as an ode to the hard working developers, project leads, and core individuals behind Ethereum’s greatest exports. Within, you will find words of wisdom that will hopefully guide you and your efforts in building the future of Web3.
First up, we have [url=]Maurycy Pietrzak[/url] from Infura. Infura is a ConsenSys spoke that developed some of the first and most reliable Ethereum API and developer tools. In order for dApps to function, they need infrastructure to be able to access the Ethereum network and its data — Infura provides this secure, reliable, and scalable infrastructure. Most importantly, Infura provides access to the JSON-RPC API, which is the standard API for Ethereum. This API supplies information about blocks, transactions, events, and other information, and it allows users of Ethereum to send transactions. We caught up with Maurycy to discuss his time developing the project to gain some insight on what it takes to ship a core product like Infura to market.

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What got you into blockchain and Ethereum?
I was working at an MIT spinout called ID3, which introduced the concept of a “personal cloud” called Open Mustard Seed (OMS). The OMS design was quite innovative and called for various next-gen components, among them a self-sovereign identity system. As part of our work, we had a chance to interact with cryptocurrency projects such as Bitcoin, and when we learned of Ethereum in January 2014, we were excited about the potential of using Ethereum smart contracts in OMS. ID3 made contact with Joe Lubin, which eventually led to my joining ConsenSys in 2015.
Any mentors along the way?
Early ConsenSys was a fun and incredibly interesting place to work (it remains so today), and like others on the team back then, I considered Joe a mentor. He played this role in his usual gentle, understanding, hands-off way.
What challenges do your spoke address and hope to solve?
The mission of Infura is to provide easy access to Ethereum. When Infura was formed in mid-2016, I came to understand deeply that someday the infrastructure question would come to the fore. Yet at the time, running Geth was fairly simple; syncing was fast and resource usage was low, so most people were focused on other things. Our thesis was proven correct only a few months later, when the network was attacked during Devcon2, and for the first time keeping a client synced became tricky. Since then, running clients has become more and more challenging.
Which project(s) inspired you the most in your journey towards shipping?
Infura is a sort of bridge between the traditional Web2 and Web3 worlds, so we often look to successful Web2 projects for inspiration. I was inspired by GitHub and DigitalOcean. Both projects do a good job of providing infrastructure to developers, as well as enhancing it with great UX/UI and additional value-add features.
What was it like to develop your spoke from concept to product?
Infura has been running in production from the very beginning (starting two years ago) as a 24/7 product. We got to production very quickly, and the main challenge since then has been iterating and improving the product to handle the increasing traffic and the rapidly growing number of users.
If you could Bounty any part of the process, what would it/they be?
The Ethereum protocol does not incentivize network participation (full nodes). This is a challenging problem, and we are continuing to research it ourselves with help from a few community members. It would be great to get even more people involved — including with the help of bounties.
What was going through your mind in the moments leading up to launch and day-of?
Launch day was in mid-2016. If memory serves, I was excited to be working on a product that demanded the discipline of 24/7 uptime. I knew this aspect of Infura would have a lasting impact on our team. In the back of my mind, I was also wondering how long it would take before our hopes and predictions were proven right — and always slightly doubting that they would.
How did you manage the days/weeks/months that followed the launch of your product?
Soon after launching, we had to deal with the ETH/ETC fork. Not long after that, we went to Devcon2 in Shanghai and were quickly jolted — like the entire community — by the network attacks. Following the conference, we introduced the first major revision to our architecture (called Boomerang) and spent a lot of time maintaining the infra, keeping up with client releases and forks and so on.
What are some of the biggest differences you’ve found between pre-ship and post-ship in terms of operations?
Post-ship has been most of the life of the project. Over time, as both traffic and interest in the project grew, we had to maintain the discipline of keeping things running all the time (this was especially tricky early on, when the team was tiny). The main trick has been to figure out how to prioritize the building of new features in the face of all the maintenance required by the existing infrastructure; if something happens in production, we have to stop what we’re doing and fix the issue! But I think we’ve found our stride.

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