Remote Work Isn’t Enough: Shifting Toward a Decentralized System Architecture

Why and how to shift your business toward a decentralized system architecture amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic has upended businesses around the world, forcing companies to retool their organizations to weather one of the worst disruptions to the global economy in decades. In the face of unpredictability, both decentralization in the workplace and system architectures have taken center stage as methods to combat ever-changing circumstances. While each company faces its own set of challenges, decentralized organizations are inherently better equipped to take on today’s inclement business environment.

Decentralization via microservices

Binance’s system architecture is a good case study when it comes to decentralization. Over the past two years, our core development team has devised a decentralized solution to Binance’s software platform, shifting from a more monolithic sub-architecture to a microservices-based solution.

While a monolithic architecture has its benefits, different components of its software applications are tightly coupled and built within the same software framework, presenting a problem when any singular component needs to be altered or updated.

A microservices-based architecture, on the other hand, decouples these software components so that they can work independently with fewer opportunities for inadvertent cross-interference.

This approach has enabled Binance developers to work from anywhere in the world, as various teams can work on different parts of the software independently while communicating via an application program interface, or API. A geographically diverse development team also allows Binance team members to react quickly and autonomously to achieve the highest degree of system security, resilience and reliability. Solutions can be built and executed rapidly, and when urgent updates need to be applied, there is always someone awake who can respond quickly during local working hours.

Transitioning to a microservices-based solution allows teams to work remotely as well as work independently, which side-steps the frictional costs of collaborating over different time zones and working hours.

Cloud-based server solutions

Binance has always been among the first to embrace innovative solutions that put security and users first. On the server side, Binance utilizes a cloud-based server solution that allows the team to deploy services closer to local users, thereby reducing latency and allowing users to enjoy a more responsive user experience.

While other organizations may rely on solutions based on traditional physical data centers or hybrid clouds, Binance is able to maintain an entirely cloud-based solution that allows for rapid server deployment to users around the world, meeting local users’ needs without having to establish a costly physical presence.

Built from the ground up on cloud-based infrastructure and with zero legacy infrastructure to contend with, the Binance DevOps team is able to manage thousands of servers around the world from consolidated interfaces. This means Binance is able to uphold the highest standards for security across all servers, with the same security standard applied to every operating server.

When it comes to compliance, cloud-based solutions allow the Binance team to quickly deploy local servers that meet local requirements. These local servers often have unique software integrations that are designed to maintain security and compliance in local markets.

Security-first innovation

The Binance development team:

“Security is always top priority. Internally, from product design to architecture implementations, security is always the ground rule we need to work with to keep user funds safe.”

The Binance internal system follows a zero-trust model to ensure maximum security when it comes to identity verification. This is especially important, as Binance developers need to access critical internal systems remotely. Every Binance employee needs to go through an authentication process before they are able to successfully login. No users — internal or external — are trusted until their identity is verified. These measures are applied to every single system.

Once users are verified, permissions to login to certain internal systems are granted on a least-privilege access model, depending on the roles and permissions assigned to a particular employee.

System stability and performance

In addition to security, Binance developers are continually seeking ways to improve the system architecture to achieve a high degree of resiliency. Resilient systems are configured to maintain a seamless user experience despite unpredictable external factors such as high traffic or demand.

Data-driven integrations continually monitor for incoming traffic system performance and respond to an influx in demand by adjusting the system architecture automatically, using a method called autoscaling to offer greater uptimes during periods of volatility. As trading activity has intensified during these recent months, Binance developers have been working diligently to ensure that the system maintains fast response times, creating “zero user perception” of system pressure.

Organizational decentralization

Finally, a decentralized organization needs to be decentralized by design. Binance employees are expected to execute tasks autonomously and serve as lead subject matter experts wherever possible to cut down on decision-making bottlenecks. Most employees own and lead their own projects, set their own goals, and continually find new ways to innovate upon existing solutions. This independence allows team members to execute quickly and work efficiently while connecting on an ad hoc-basis with team members. Collaboration is, of course, key, but projects move more quickly with a nimble team at the helm.

In addition to a decentralized organizational design philosophy, Binance has employed a remote workforce for most of its existence, with 1200+ team members in 50+ countries and regions collaborating together via voice and video calls, messaging apps and occasional face-to-face meetups whenever possible.

In the face of the global pandemic, tech giants like Apple, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook have all instituted mid-to-long-term remote work policies. Ultimately, a fully decentralized workplace provides opportunities for companies to weather challenging business environments while experiencing minimal operational disruptions. The current global pandemic will undoubtedly push companies to further decentralize where possible, serving as a bellwether for change in workplaces around the world.

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Changpeng Zhao (aka “CZ”) launched Binance in July 2017 and has since grown it into the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange for retail investors. It’s a long way from when he was flipping burgers while studying at McGill in Montreal. In addition to steering Binance, CZ has also become a social media personality in his own right, with his trademark “funds are safu” launched into the crypto-meme hall of fame.

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