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Ant pivots further towards hard tech with new blockchain storage engine

Ant Group, which is still undergoing a restructuring after regulators blocked its initial public offering in 2020, unveiled a blockchain storage engine on Thursday as the fintech giant signals a pivot towards hard tech.

The Ant Group Digital Technologies unit unveiled Letus, or Log-structured Efficient Trusted Universal Storage, at the Apsara Conference in Hangzhou, describing it as a way to lower the storage costs of blockchain networks, according to a press release on Thursday.

“Letus can improve storage throughput by 15 times, reduce latency by 90 per cent, and save disk bandwidth and space usage by 95 per cent and 60 per cent [respectively],” said Yan Ying, technical director of AntChain, in the release.

The company also released updated versions of various “platform-as-a-service” products at the event, however Ant – which still runs the country’s most dominant mobile payment services app – revealed little new on the financial services side of its operations.

Ant’s planned IPO in Shanghai and Hong Kong was called off at the last minute two years ago after a change in the regulatory environment.
It is still undergoing a state-directed restructuring process, with no new schedule for a revived listing yet. The financial services side of its business, which includes the lucrative consumer credit space, now falls under the same regulations as traditional banking businesses.

Ant Group is an affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding, which owns the South China Morning Post.

Links between Alibaba and Ant, which were both co-founded by Jack Ma and once very close, have been diluted this year. Alibaba revealed in July that Ant’s top executives, including chairman and chief executive Eric Jing Xiandong, chief technology officer Ni Xingjun and the president of its international business group Angel Zhao Ying, had exited from its partnership structure.

Ant Group Digital Technologies has released a number of blockchain-related products and solutions in the past two years, including AntChain Station, an all-in-one workstation, and Blockchain Transmission Network, a high-speed, long-distance blockchain communications technology.
Geoff Jiang, president of the Digital Technology Business Group at Ant Group, said the company “remains focused on the technological breakthroughs that create a trusted digital network to improve industrial collaboration and allow us to use our innovative products and services to better serve the real economy”. South China Morning Post

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