Would Decentralizing the Cloud Mean Owning Virtual Computers?

friend unifying platform

Did you know that you’re already using the Cloud every day without even realizing it? From typing a query into a search engine, to sending emails, or by even browsing your favourite social media platforms, the Cloud is almost synonymous with the Internet, and managed cloud-based services have enabled organizations and individuals to move away from relying solely on local hard drives and servers, allowing for the access to information and applications from anywhere in the world. Convenient, yes, but is it secure? Can blockchain-based projects like Friend Unifying Platform revolutionize an already revolutionary market and make cloud computing better?

Sharing the Cloud: What is the current state of the cloud-computing market?

Cloud computing is big business. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of cloud service providers, and according to influencers worldwide around 83% of enterprise workloads will run in the Cloud by 2020.

It’s no surprise then that cloud service revenues are expected to almost double from the 2016 figures of $220 billion to a projected $411 billion by 2020.

Worldwide Public Cloud Services Revenue Forecast (Billions of U.S. Dollars)

Cloud Services Revenue

In a survey of 1,400 IT professionals, Intel Security found that organizations are increasingly adopting a “Cloud First” mentality, with around 80% of all IT spending focusing towards the adoption of cloud solutions and applications in 2018.

Cloud usage, adoption, and spending are rapidly increasing and becoming the norm. Click To Tweet

Cloud usage, adoption, and spending are rapidly increasing and becoming the norm. The more that organizations understand and come to grips with the potential benefits that it holds, the more likely they are to cement a future for their businesses.

What exactly is the Cloud?

Contrary to popular belief, the Cloud is not just used for storage (although that is a big part of the business). Cloud computing simply means accessing data, applications, and all sorts of other information over the Internet instead of your local hard drive or company servers.

In reality, information is stored and accessed through off-site centralized servers that are usually managed as a service by a third-party provider.

Today, there are various types of cloud services that businesses might look to incorporate into their existing systems.

For more information on the Cloud, this post from ExplainThatStuff is quite very informative.

How does a cloud-computing service work?

cloud computing Above is a simplified version of what the chain of participants in a cloud-computing service might look like.

  • Many companies will interact directly with a cloud service provider and negotiate the terms of what services they require.  
  • In some instances, the cloud computing provider might outsource a part of their service to third-party cloud-computing providers (a software-as-a-service provider might actually run their data through a bigger infrastructure-as-a-service provider).
  • As cloud services became more complex and as bigger companies are requiring an increased scope of that service, cloud brokers have started to emerge as a result. A cloud broker can help to protect and negotiate on behalf of the client by establishing who’s liable and who’s responsible in providing which services.

What does the market share look like?

The current cloud-computing market is dominated by four main players, including Amazon Web Services (or AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google’s Cloud Platform, and IBM Cloud.

cloud providers
Source: Business Insider

According to Reuters, Microsoft’s Azure brought in an estimated $2 billion in Q3 2017 (a 90% year-on-year increase), while Amazon’s AWS posted revenues of $4.6 billion for the same period (a 42% year-on-year increase).

In comparison, Google’s cloud platform earned relatively low – but still very respectable – quarterly revenues of $870 million (an increase of 76% year-on-year).

On the other hand, IBM reported fourth-quarter cloud revenues of $5.5 billion (up 30%).

Although cloud computing has been around for a few years, the numbers also show how the market has grown over the previous twelve months.

Cloud-computing fee structures are notoriously complex and will generally depend on numerous factors categorized under three main headings. This includes the network (cost per rack unit), computing (cost per GB of virtual ram), and storage (cost per GB of virtual disk).

Right Scale did an in-depth analysis on the cloud fee structures of Google, Amazon, Microsoft and IBM. In it, they look at which provider has the lowest cost option under which circumstances.

Overall, Microsoft’s Azure came out on top as the most cost-effective option.

Microsoft Azure

What are the current issues that users of traditional cloud services face?

Many of the challenges that conventional cloud industry have are a result of centralized structures.

This includes:

Centralized governance

A cloud service platform will often be managed by a centralized provider. That means they have complete oversight over your data and can, in theory, do with it as they please. Data privacy for businesses can therefore be a huge concern.

Centralized management also means that if the systems of your service provider are down, your whole operation could potentially be affected. This is completely out of your control, and users could face costly downtimes while they wait for the service provider to restore the entire network.

Security

Centralized platforms carry huge security risks as they provide hackers with a single point of weakness. If one attack is successful, it exposes millions of customer data to fraudulent attacks, which makes cloud platforms a particularly lucrative target.

In 2012 Dropbox was hacked, releasing 68 million user credentials onto the Internet, and one of the most famous cyber breaches this decade involved Apple’s iCloud, when hackers broke into the personal accounts of various celebrities.

Inefficient data centers

Cloud service providers will often make use of remote mega data centers to store client data. These data centers not only consume massive amounts of energy but they are also very susceptible to hazardous risks such as flooding and fire.

Monopolistic and expensive

We’ve seen above that the four biggest cloud computing providers control nearly 60% of the market. This is not good for competition or innovation. As such, fees tend to be expensive, making many of the services unattainable for medium and smaller-sized organizations.

Technological compatibility

Companies will often have to overhaul IT infrastructures just so they are compatible with a cloud service provider’s systems. These “requirements” from cloud computing companies can therefore come at a big expense.

Cloud decentralization: how can the blockchain change the Cloud?

Blockchain brings with it decentralization and a technology that facilitates a true P2P economy, enabling users to transact peer-to-peer, not just in sharing data but in computing power and application functionality, all done over a secure, cost-effective, and efficient network.

The blockchain enables users to transact computing power and application functionality Click To Tweet

Why does the market need decentralization?

Traditional cloud-computing solutions are based on centralized platforms, relying on centralized data centers and managed by centralized parties.

This is making the Internet an increasingly centralized marketplace. The problem is that the Internet was never intended to be centralized; it’s a massive resource that should be widely and freely available to all if we are to continue seeking innovation in every industry on earth, Including the betterment of consumer lives.

Almost every corporation and individual now uses the Cloud to create, store, and process data. There’s a need for more powerful applications to process large amounts of data. But the existing infrastructure (big, centralized data centers) can’t keep up.

As they are pushed to their limits, they burn huge amounts of energy and cloud providers inevitably raise user fees to either increase infrastructure capabilities or repair overused systems.

This has a knock-on effect that eventually prices out smaller organizations, thereby further limiting innovation.

With so much data on the line, there’s also a greater need for trust and security. We already know the weak spot that centralized Cloud platforms provide to cybercriminals. But can we trust the providers themselves to not divulge (intentionally or unintentionally) private or valuable information?

What are the pros and cons of a blockchain-based solution?

Pros:

  • The blockchain can create a trustless environment through pre-programmable smart contracts that only execute when certain specified conditions are satisfied. This not only mitigates the need for a central governance party but it also increases automation to reduce cost.
  • Costs can further be reduced by trading excess computing power over a secure network. Individuals with unused processing power or storage space can rent it out to people in the network at a much lower price than that of centralized data centers.
  • Users can monetize their excess computing capabilities.
  • Young startups get access to very powerful computing power at low cost.
  • Blockchain capabilities can help users find the nearest distributed computing resources, making the transfer of data quicker and more efficient.
  • Blockchain networks are inherently distributed and near impossible for cybercriminals to hack, making it much more secure than traditional platforms.
  • Distributed blockchain-based platforms will allow startups to scale much quicker, and perhaps much larger as they get access to virtually unlimited processing power without having to invest in additional employees or expensive infrastructure.

Cons:

  • A big barrier to user adoption is unfamiliarity. Consumers are used to working with traditional cloud providers, and in several instances they have spent a lot of money investing in IT infrastructures to tailor their own systems to that of the cloud provider. The blockchain is still very much an unfamiliar concept and businesses, as well as individuals, will be hesitant to make the switch.
  • If a network is too small, the available computing capabilities will be insufficient and unable to provide the benefits of a decentralized network compared to conventional cloud solutions.
  • To become a user of blockchain-based cloud computing and to participate in these ecosystems, you will have to purchase a native cryptocurrency on the network. Consumers can view this as too much effort; the cryptocurrency will limit their options to a specific solution only and digital coins can be extremely volatile.
  • Network maintenance is another potential issue. If your traditional cloud-computing network goes down, you simply call up your provider to get it sorted out. On a decentralized network, there is no central authority, so who would be responsible if you encounter a problem?
  • Most distributed cloud-computing providers will run their decentralized apps off of Ethereum’s blockchain (unless they develop their own blockchains). In theory, Ethereum is capable of performing any computation (Turing-complete), but at the moment, the network will struggle with more complicated computations at a reasonable cost.

What does a cloud-computing platform utilizing blockchain technology look like?

There are various platforms that are currently utilizing blockchain technology to build distributed cloud-computing systems to provide operating system-like interfaces, supply a foundation for building decentralized Cloud applications, or simply to act as an affordable, powerful, general purpose, virtual computer in the Cloud. But the Cloud is about sharing and connecting. This is why the Friend Unifying Platform is one of the blockchain-based projects that aims to connect other decentralized projects into one complete solution.

Blockchain technology acts as the foundation for building decentralized cloud applications Click To Tweet

Friend Unifying Platform

Friend Unifying PlatformThe Friend Unifying Platform is a powerful open source framework where participants share ownership over the infrastructure and get rewarded in tokens. The FRND token can also be used in the Friend Store (an online store) where services, resources, and applications are collected and traded amongst its users and developers.

Designed as an operating system for the blockchain, it allows developers to separate their applications from centralized technology silos for seamless integration with the Ethereum network.

The platform facilitates a secure connection to a personal virtual Friend Cloud Computer. Through this cloud computer network, DApps can be deployed and distributed in seconds on the Ethereum blockchain.  

This innovation helps to reduce development overhead by providing a functionality that covers user access, distribution, and file management, and it enables the creation of distributed systems.

Applications share data and functionality (code, computing power, and storage) through distributed systems among two or more nodes to offer scalability and process efficiencies across any work domain.

The solution is a ready to use virtual computers that separate applications from the underlying hardware, providing people with a complete digital environment that is accessible from anywhere.

The Friend Unifying Platform is an independent project that can work off-chain and by using the Ethereum blockchain only to connect with the decentralized infrastructure that runs the virtual cloud computers for the users. The Ethereum transactions are storing the identity header for the Friend user account, according to their whitepaper.

Friend Network’s decentralized infrastructure

Here are some projects that can be a part of the Friend Network’s decentralized infrastructure:

iExec

iExeciExec enables the development of a virtual Cloud infrastructure for high-performance computing services on demand by leveraging Ethereum smart contract capabilities.

The idea is based around desktop grid computing, focusing on the collection of underutilized computer resources from the Internet to process large applications at a fraction of the cost as compared to traditional supercomputers.

By crossing distributed computing with the Ethereum blockchain, the project creates a marketplace for computing resources, decentralized applications, excess server capacities, and storing capabilities.

The distributed infrastructure can also be used to rent out excess resources as a provider in exchange for RLC tokens to facilitate the decentralized application support.

This encourages competition amongst providers, leading to lower computation costs and increased quality of service.

The Proof-of-Contribution consensus protocol developed by iExec is, however, untested and unproven. Malicious users could fake the contributions and claim illegitimate rewards.

SONM

SONMSONM is essentially a supercomputer that incorporates Ethereum smart contracts, fog computing, an open source protocol, and various P2P technologies in order to provide an ecosystem for general purpose computing and real-world applications.

The project provides computing power suitable for a wide range of consumers, including site hosting, game servers, scientific research, and even machine learning capabilities. SONM token holders can purchase these services through the SOMN decentralized, supercomputer structure, while miners provide computing power to the network in exchange for SONM tokens.

For a project to start off with fog and edge computing, their base solution is extremely risky as these are technically challenging and complicated fields. There are numerous possible complications, and a better strategy would have been to start off with a working product and then develop into these areas.

Golem

GolemGolem is an open source supercomputer made up off the combined power of user machines. The project facilitates a P2P network where distributed computing power is bought and sold among users and producers of computational resources for the calculation of various tasks, including CGI rendering, machine learning, and scientific computing.

Tasks are broken up into smaller parts and distributed over a decentralized network. Each part is processed at the same time and therefore the entire task is completed much quicker. There’s a fee on every completed task and users pay with the native Golem Network Token (GNT)

There is the possibility of users in the network who want to get paid without providing computational power by sending incorrect results. It could be a challenge to mitigate the chances of this happening.

The Friend Unifying Platform is creating a complete cloud solution placing all of these resources, services, and applications under one decentralized network. If you want to be the first one to find out about new integrations you can join their growing community on Telegram, Twitter, or Facebook.

Conclusion

There are still a number of barriers that need to be overcome before blockchain-based cloud-computing solutions will replace existing providers. The biggest of these is blockchain adoption.

Companies and individuals that use existing solutions will not be easily persuaded to move to a lesser known blockchain-based service.

Decentralized cloud computing needs to first make its systems more compatible with current real-world applications, and it needs to increase the scope of services they provide to be more inclusive of different networks and systems, rather than confining users to single platforms with limited services.

Given the benefits that blockchain-based cloud-computing can bring to the market, such as increased security, privacy, efficiencies, and cost savings, the potential is definitely there to, at the very least, disrupt the traditional cloud market and make it better for consumers and providers alike.

The future of cloud computing is a decentralized computing infrastructure through the blockchain Click To Tweet

Leveraging a network of distributed computer resource providers to create a decentralized computing infrastructure through the blockchain looks to be the future of cloud computing. It will serve to increase competition and make these services just as attainable for small startups as they are for big industry corporations.

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