Second pillar of an SSI network: Network operations

February 4, 2020

Note: In celebration of Sovrin Foundation’s new membership program, the Foundation is writing a series of blogs that highlight the core activities it provides as a nonprofit which Sovrin Chairman Phil Windley refers to as the “Four Pillars of an SSI Network”. Much of the material used in this blog post was originally published on Phil’s blog Technometria

The Sovrin Foundation is developing the infrastructure needed to make digital identity how it should be—secure, privacy-enhancing, and controlled by the individual. We call this self-sovereign identity (SSI). 

To accomplish this mission, we have built the Sovrin Network which is an identity metasystem upon which anyone may build an identity system for their specific needs, while retaining interoperability with other network participants.

“[The Sovrin Network] can provide the identity component for any specific industry, government, or organization application,” said Heather C. Dahl, Executive Director & CEO of the Sovrin Foundation. “The architecture of the Sovrin Network allows for a universal trust framework while still supporting a decentralization of identity systems where each participant can make their own decisions and solve their own, unique problems. This ensures that others avoid spending significant time and money in building independent identity solutions—while also supporting interoperability and ubiquity.”

An important part of our efforts as an international nonprofit is supporting effective network operations. Sovrin Foundation Chairman Phil Windley describes in further detail what that entails:

“The foundational layer of the Sovrin Network is a ledger for storing DIDs, credential definitions, and other important artifacts, that everyone needs for making trust decisions. Validation on the Sovrin Ledger is based on a known set of nodes run by the Stewards. To operate the nodes on the Sovrin Network, the Sovrin Stewards use the open source code housed in the Hyperledger Indy project. They run code produced by the Hyperledger Indy project.

Some of the key operational functions of the Sovrin Foundation are coordinating code releases and supporting Stewards. The Foundation Ops Team monitors the nodes which run the Sovrin Network to ensure they operate in accordance with the Governance Framework and the network meets important requirements, like censorship resistance.

Sovrin Stewards are organizations approved by the Trustees to operate a node to maintain the Sovrin Ledger. The ledger is permissioned, meaning that the nodes are run by organizations known to the Foundation and in accordance with the Governance Framework. Stewards must contractually agree to the Sovrin Steward Agreement and Steward Data Processing Agreement with the Sovrin Foundation. These agreements commit them to terms and conditions relating to confidentiality, intellectual property, and data privacy, among others. The nodes run an RBFT consensus algorithm called Plenum to come to agreement on the content of the ledger. Stewards can include for-profit and not-for-profit entities as well as governments or anyone else who abides by the Sovrin Governance Transaction Author and Transaction Endorser agreements who wants to write transactions to the Sovrin Ledger.

Three ledgers are in operation now: the MainNet for production use, a BuilderNet for testing, and the StagingNet for non-production use that requires more performance stability than the BuilderNet offers. Depending on the needs of the Sovrin community, there could be other ledgers in the future.

Because Sovrin is a permissioned network, validator nodes are chosen for each of these ledgers according to a node selection algorithm defined by Sovrin’s Technical Governance Board. The Foundation provides staff to monitor node selection, coordinate communications with Stewards, Transaction Endorsers, and Transaction Authors, and ensure the network is technically strong and operating in accordance with Sovrin governance agreements.”

Sovrin Foundation Members’ contributions provide the needed financial support to continue effectively administering the network’s operations. We welcome you and your organization to join us in this important work by becoming a Sovrin Foundation Member. Until February 29, 2020, any organization that wishes to support the Sovrin Foundation by becoming a Donor, and therefore a Sovrin Foundation Member, will receive a 10% discount. To take advantage of this discount, fill out the interest form at




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