How to Choose an Enterprise Blockchain Infrastructure Partner
Adding blockchain into your tech stack is an important part of future-proofing any business. In the early 2000’s, it was commonplace to differentiate “internet” companies” from the others, but today all companies use the internet. Similarly, blockchain technology is disruptive to most businesses and most capital markets, which is why applications leveraging it are often referred to as “Web3”.
Blockchain stands to unlock trillions of dollars of illiquid capital into the market as well as provide alternatives to the advertising-centric business model employed by most technology companies. Businesses must choose partners with the experience and knowledge to navigate the opportunities effectively.
This guide aims to help you choose blockchain infrastructure companies that offer comprehensive products to support your business goals and user requirements.
What are the different types of blockchain infrastructure providers companies should evaluate?
Blockchain infrastructure providers offer solutions at every part of the web3 developer stack; from RPC node providers that let engineers read and write to the blockchain to Wallets-as-a-Service providers that give businesses a streamlined way to offer their customers web3 wallets.
1. Wallet Solutions
Wallets give users control of their digital assets and allow them to participate in the web3 economy. With a wallet, people can borrow and lend on DeFi apps, mint and display NFTs, play games, and participate in consumer loyalty and membership programs, all while keeping their assets secure.
For many years, EOA (“Externally Owned Account”) wallets that rely on seed phrases for recovery have dominated the market; however, new types of wallets that improve the user experience without reducing security and privacy, including Wallet-as-a-Service providers, are gaining a lot of traction.
Threshold Signature Scheme (TSS) MPC wallets, smart contract wallets, and MPC wallets that incorporate Account Abstraction (MPC + AA) offer simpler onboarding for new users by removing the need for recovery phrases and reducing the level of technical knowledge needed to interact with web3.
Account Abstraction: The Most Seamless User Experience
The new Account Abstraction primitive has arrived to ease the transition into web3 - no longer is the onboarding experience plagued by confusing private key requirements that bankrupt forever if you forget your seed phrase.
Solutions such as Alchemy's Account Kit provide all the tools necessary to onboard your users to blockchain without them even knowing: social and passkey account recovery, sponsored gas fees, and batched transactions.
With integrations for signers like Portal, enterprises can use Account Kit to create embedded smart wallets that support social login, passkey account recovery, sponsored gas fees, and batched transactions.
2. Custody Solutions
Custodians are third-party vendors that provide secure storage and management of private keys on behalf of individuals and institutions. Custodians offer robust security and technical knowledge to entities that are required to use outside vendors or prefer to pay for key management services instead of managing operations internally.
Custodians typically use cold storage (i.e. keys are held offline), to reduce attack vectors from hackers, and require institutions to go through KYC and other anti-money laundering checks before they can be onboarded as a customer.
The availability of custodians—particularly licensed ones—is critical for institutional adoption of web3, as they provide infrastructure and compliance frameworks required by traditional financial institutions.
3. RPC Node Providers
RPC node providers provide the infrastructure that allows web3 applications to interact with blockchain networks by either querying data or submitting transactions. Although it is possible for anyone to host an RPC node, many solo developers and companies prefer to use enterprise-grade RPC node providers to run and scale the infrastructure.
By offering core APIs, enhanced APIs, and a user-friendly developer platform, RPC node providers simplify the development process, allowing engineers to focus on building applications without worrying about infrastructure.
4. Web3 Development Platform
Building decentralized applications that run on public blockchains requires developers to learn a new set of tools and design patterns, and terminology. Choosing the right vendor as your Blockchain Development platform can accelerate your time to market by combining many developer tools into a single, easy-to-understand user interface.
If a development platform’s tech stack creates too much friction for engineers, builders may take a long time to build applications, abandon projects, or have a bad developer experience.
What features should be considered when choosing a blockchain infrastructure provider?
The features offered by blockchain infrastructure vendors depend on your product scope and goals. There are a few common areas to evaluate including features that support usability, security, composability, and scalability.
Any blockchain tool you choose for your web3 stack should be easy to learn, simple to use, and robust in its ability to satisfy your intents. Platforms should have clear documentation, a professional user experience, and enterprise-grade functionality to support your team’s goals today and in the future.
2. Organizational Security
Blockchain applications carry new types of risks like protocol risk, smart contract risk, and traditional types of risk like organizational controls. Before signing an agreement with a new vendor, review your prospective partner’s security:
- SOC II certification
- System testing and resiliency
- Penetration testing reports
- External security audits
- Documented security controls
Composability is a feature in web3 that enables companies to interact with public, open-source applications, APIs, and smart contracts (i.e. flexible and extensible building blocks that make web3 products easier to build).
When choosing a vendor, consider how well your vendor’s product suite composes with other products and tools you plan to use in your stack (e.g. IDEs, debugging tools, etc).
An infrastructure partner should make it easy to include the specific capabilities that fit your needs without requiring developers to implement every feature. For instance, an end-to-end web3 connectivity provider like Portal enables account management functionality like setting up new users, backup, and recovery options. They also support wallet management flows like sending, receiving, storing, and swapping assets.
That might be enough for your build, but if you want to build a dapp store, connect to browser-only apps, or integrate natively to protocols, you have the option to do so with Portal’s SDK without additional backend integrations.
4. Feature Roadmap
Blockchain infrastructure platforms are evolving to meet emerging needs of web3 developers, and selecting the right partner should also be based on the partner’s planned roadmap to improving and expanding their product offerings.
Product expansion could include features that expand use cases to new verticals (e.g. exchanges, fintech, cross border payments, self-sovereign identity), or to more niche use cases within existing verticals (e.g. NFT sales, etc.)
The goal of researching the feature set of an infrastructure partner is to determine whether or not they can service your product’s baseline feature set, can scale to meet greater demand, and grow to support expanded use cases.
What questions should companies ask blockchain infrastructure providers?
Questions that companies should ask potential blockchain infra providers fall into a few different categories: team, experience, support, and roadmap.
1. Team, clients, and backers
Before choosing a vendor, ask questions to gauge the quality of the team you are evaluating:
- What experience does the product engineering team have?
- What experience does the leadership team have?
- Who are their current customers and what do they say about them?
- What kinds of partnerships does the vendor have?
- Who are the company’s investors and advisors?
2. Quality of technology and developer experience
Before selecting a vendor’s products, ask questions to evaluate the quality of the team’s tech stack:
- What is the architecture of the technology?
- Have large customers churned or publicly disclosed negative experiences with the company?
- Is the technology audited and secure?
- What is the quality and clarity of the product’s documentation?
- For Wallet-as-a-Service providers, can users “eject their wallets," (i.e. export their private keys?)
3. Customer support and relationship management
Before entering into an agreement with a software vendor, qualify the team’s ability to support your relationship:
- What channels does the vendor use to communicate with your teams?
- Does the team offer direct communication with engineers and technical support staff?
- Does the company have a robust ticketing, observability, and status reporting system?
- Is technical support available in a timely manner, particularly when there are severe problems?
- Is the vendor responsive to feedback and product change requests?
4. Vendor product timeline and roadmap
Before picking a blockchain infra partner, assess the product management team’s product roadmap:
- What features are being planned in the near-term and long-term?
- How quickly can a comprehensive product be launched with them?
- How easily can customers suggest product features and requests?
- What is the team’s shipping velocity with new products and features?
- What is the team’s process for releasing products in alpha, beta, and general access phases?
Asking questions of sales leaders, product managers, and engineers while judging the fit of a new blockchain infrastructure partner is essential to getting a web3 product to market.
Additionally, companies should try the products, get demos, read documentation, watch tutorials, and talk to current customers to analyze if the vendor they’re evaluating is the right choice for their use case. Although completing due diligence requires a lot of research and time, a thorough process can save time, money, and resources.