Funding the IDG development effort

PROJECT NAME: IDG (Interchain Developers Group)

DATE : 25 Mar 2024

CONTACT NAME: Usmann

DISCORD USERNAME: _uk_

GRANT AMOUNT: 85k AXL one time, to be used over the 4 months following this grant vote.

GRANT BREAKDOWN:

65% of this grant will be reserved for supporting the IDG’s current contributors over the grant period. 25% will be set aside for any security audits or services that may be required for new code that the IDG builds. A further 1-5k AXL will be used for administrative costs in launching the IDG. The remainder is designated for unforeseen costs and bringing on one new IDG member during the grant period.

PROPOSAL:

State of the Axelar ecosystem:

For several years, Axelar has been a pivotal force in the cross-chain ecosystem. Top DEXes, wallets, enterprises, and DeFi applications rely on Axelar to secure and enable their operations. In 2024, this will accelerate. With the introduction of the AVM, Axelar will become exponentially more powerful and new classes of cross-chain applications will become viable.

The upcoming Axelar Virtual Machine (AVM) is a programmable platform that enables chain-agnostic development, with its core being a set of cosmwasm contracts living on Axelar.

However, while the Axelar team is building this core, it is far from a complete infrastructure on which to build cross-chain applications. The AVM exposes gaps in the ecosystem, and IDG proposes to fill them. Doing so will benefit all applications building on Axelar.

The job to be done:

New classes of cross-chain applications need new infrastructure to be built for them, and the teams building these apps will need new kinds of services to be provided for them. For a detailed explanation of this situation, see Sergey’s post here: Expanding the Axelar Ecosystem: Ideas for Infrastructure Projects

In short, AVM-enabled applications will strongly benefit from a set of shared infrastructure primitives. By anticipating these needs and building them out early, we can eliminate duplicated work in the ecosystem and accelerate the interchain.

As an example, a rollup-centric future necessitates an easy way to deploy and run Axelar endpoints on any type of new rollup (e.g. OP stack, Arbitrum, Polygon ZK EVM) a team wishes to deploy. With the AVM, adding these connections would be permissionless. However the code to enable deploying these integrations does not exist yet.

Additionally, teams will have to set up relayers between these chains and Axelar. Currently the Axelar team runs their own relayers, but a robust open-source customizable relayer client will be necessary in the future.

Aside from new infrastructure projects, new services will be required as well. Teams wishing to integrate with Axelar or deploy cosmwasm contracts to the hub will need security audits and development guidance. The Interop/Axelar team will not be able to provide all of these services alone. A team with proven familiarity with the Axelar ecosystem would be extremely beneficial to have on hand here.

Why a dedicated team:

The Axelar ecosystem is complex, and new projects integrate with Axelar at their most sensitive parts. An interchain token, for example, has a strong trust requirement on not only Axelar itself but their integration with Axelar. And this landscape is ever-changing; the future, and even the present, is unknown. When planning new infrastructure projects, it is paramount to understand how to prioritize development according to what the ecosystem needs.

This is why it will be beneficial to have a single team that has the knowledge and proven trustworthiness within the Axelar ecosystem to provide the services we’re proposing. By supporting one team consistently we can accelerate the rate of progress of the entire Axelar ecosystem.

This team will have the breadth of knowledge to prioritize infrastructure projects, the depth to build them, and the trustworthiness to be a security partner to new interchain applications.

IMPACT

By building out the shared client infrastructure that interchain apps require, the IDG will accelerate the future of Axelar. The IDG will eliminate duplicated work, gain unique insight into what work needs to be done, and have the mandate to build whatever needs to be created to help applications go cross-chain faster.

This mission will reduce time to launch for new teams going interchain, minimize their expenses, and greatly improve their ease of integration with Axelar. Doing so will increase adoption of the platform, valuation of AXL, and benefit end-users of these applications.

DELIVERABLES AND KPIs

During the grant period we plan to accomplish the following projects. We have divided our goals into two classes:

CERTAIN: The IDG will take responsibility for this task, and make the appropriate concessions to complete it as best serving the community. The IDG will take responsibility for completing this task even after the grant period if need be.

BEST EFFORT: The IDG will make a best effort attempt at defining, scoping, and completing this task within the grant period. BEST EFFORT tasks are moonshots, with uncertainty at this time as to either their amount of work necessary or general feasibility.

CERTAIN: One Click Axelar Rollup Deployments - The IDG will identify the primary rollup development kits used by the Ethereum L2 community. At this time these are thought to be those by Polygon, Optimism, and Arbitrum. The IGD will develop one-click Axelar deployment solutions for these rollups.

CERTAIN: Open Source Relayer Client - The IDG will work with the Axelar team to identify what will be needed for a fully functioning relayer in the new AVM paradigm. The IDG will build one such relayer, robustly and in Rust. If deemed necessary, the IDG will undergo a security audit for this module.

CERTAIN: Axelar-centric Audit service - The IDG will establish an auditing service to supply discounted security code reviews to projects deploying on Axelar. The IDG domain knowledge of the Axelar ecosystem will be extremely useful when conducting these reviews. The founding IDG members are already experienced crypto security auditors. Providing this service, even at a discount, will help fund the IDG after the initial grant period. Thus reducing the size of follow-on grants, if any.

BEST EFFORT: MEV-related infrastructure. The IGD consists of developers experienced in DeFi and MEV. The IGD will architect and prototype cross-chain intent-based infrastructure built on Axelar. This could evolve in several ways, e.g. a CoW-Swap style service or an account abstraction architecture.

RISKS

Duplicate work risk: The IDG may end up completing work that is duplicated or even obsoleted by later work of the Interop labs/Axelar core team. This risk is easily minimized, however, with proper planning and communication. And in fact, the call for infrastructure posted here: Expanding the Axelar Ecosystem: Ideas for Infrastructure Projects already ensures some paths of viable work for the IDG that will not suffer this risk.

Prioritization risk: The IDG may not be completing the projects that most effectively accelerate Axelar adoption. The IDG plans to conduct interviews with prospective cross-chain applications and the Axelar team to minimize this risk.

Key man risk: The founding IDG team is small. If any of the members were to be unavailable for some reason then the IDG’s goals may be at risk. However the team is currently tight knit and have worked together for many years so this risk is extremely unlikely. The funding provided by this proposal will ensure that the IDG members are available for the entire grant period and longer if need be.

MOTIVATION

The IGD’s motivation comes from long-held conviction in the interchain thesis. Recently we have become extremely familiar with Axelar’s codebases and even successfully reported bugs in the core codebase for a bounty. The IDG believes that the Axelar project is the strongest contender to back for the interchain future. Alternatives are either not ready yet, closed platforms, or both. IDG members are professional developers and security researchers with years of experience in crypto. We are here for the long run and would like to do our part to advance the space.

WHO ARE WE:

@usmannk: Usmann is the head of the IDG. He is a professional software developer and security researcher in the crypto space. He has worked on large scale infrastructure projects in the past, including at Google and Square. He has worked as a security researcher on the crypto team at Trail of Bits and is a constantly appearing top competitor on code4rena and Sherlock. He has found and reported bugs that had put tens of millions of dollars at risk in blockchain protocols.

tvdung94: tvdung94 is a software developer at the IDG. He has proven experience across the crypto space, helping found an NFT research platform and has recently been participating as a top security researcher on Sherlock.

The founders have many experience working together, and recently have been diving deep into the Axelar project. They have reported one bug in Axelar for a bounty, that cannot yet be publicly disclosed. Their experience as developers and security researchers across a variety of verticals makes them the ideal candidates for this job.