Decentralized Supercomputer: Inevitable Milestone on the Way to the Internet of Things
Time is money, and the value of time in today’s world is only growing, especially when it comes to technological innovations. Quite often, time becomes a decisive factor. For instance, results of a scientific research delayed for some reason may cost a Nobel prize for a scientist, or even take lives in some cases.
In the era of computers, problems related to calculations and mathematical modelling take less time to process, yet as computational capacities of the machines grow, so do user demands. The need for reaching a new level of speed and efficiency resulted in creation of high performance computer aka supercomputer.
How It Started
The first supercomputers emerged in the 1960’s: they were unique monolith devices extremely powerful for their time, and equally expensive. Nearly thirty years later, the paradigm of supercomputers has shifted. Monolith machines have gone for good as it became clear that creating a supercomputer is possible by connecting numerous ordinary computers within a high-speed network. Even though such network-based supercomputers are harder to program, they’ve made the market of highly effective computation way more affordable for researchers and businesses. New supercomputers were easier to assemble, and their components were on the market and were cheaper.
As the internet and cloud services developed, supercomputers have also changed. Computational capacities went to the clouds, which made the market even more affordable to users, who now can use the resources of supercomputers.
Clouds are a distributed network of servers whose services are leased to customers for the agreed time period. Using cloud services, customers may rent capacities without leaving their homes. Even though the service proved to be expensive, the cost of the rent was beyond comparison to that of creating your own supercomputer.
On the Threshold of Revolution
These days, we’re on the threshold of yet another revolutionary paradigm shift of supercomputers. Blockchain technology allows developers to consider yet again reducing the price of HPC services and making supercomputers more accessible.
A new model for decentralized clouds is a classic example of shared economy: the idea is about gathering users in a global p2p network where every machine acts as a provider of computation services by offering a part of its idling capacities. The model promises a major breakthrough for the industry alongside with direct profit for each user. Most of the time, we don’t use more than a half of our computers’ capacities. By connecting a tiny fraction of those idle capacities to the giant supercomputer, users will be able to make money out of thin air.
Those who rent computational capacities may also find major advantages in decentralized services. First, the service will inevitably be cheaper. Decentralized cloud platforms are in fact free markets where demand and supply form competitive prices. Such services will be able to compete with giant corporations like Microsoft, Google, IBM or Amazon, which in its turn is likely to make relevant services cheaper
Second, it’s about security. Reliability of centralized clouds is questionable due to many scandals, including recent hack of iCloud that made thousands personal photos of celebrities available to everybody. Decentralized structures have no single center to be attacked, so they are more reliable by default.
Other advantages include higher probability of finding a node geographically close to the end user, which would also accelerate work with big data. It also may ensure power saving as distributed clouds use capacities of user computers that would have been spent in vain otherwise.
Infrastructure of Tomorrow
It is a widespread belief that the first blockchain-based supercomputer is GridCoin launched back in 2013. Proof of Work algorithms are commonly criticized for using too much energy, and GridCoin solved the problem by transforming PoW into PoR (Proof of Research). It meant that GridCoin miner capacities were used not to hash useless data but to participate in BOINC project, a platform for users to combine capacities of their computers to solve computation problems faced by the scientific community.
GridCoin was followed by CureCoin. ASIC miners in its infrastructure do a very useful thing: they model coagulation of protein molecules thus providing researchers with important data for development of cures for cancer, Alzheimer disease, and other maladies.
These days, distributed cloud services experience another rising tide of popularity. Last year’s project Golem revamped the idea. The project was positioned as a ‘decentralized supercomputer’ being an alternative for centralized cloud services. However, the platform’s developers warn that the final product isn’t likely to be released within the next few years. They watch the industry’s development themselves.
“Many of the other projects are scoped differently. All good intentions and tackling slightly different problems from different perspective. Probably a good thing for innovation,” says Alex Leverington, Golem Network and Ethereum core developer.
The cryptocommunity now rest their hopes on a new decentralized supercomputer known as iEx.ec. Notably, this project also employs Ethereum infrastructure and smart contracts to create a virtual cloud network capable of high-speed computation. The service allows one to gather idle capacities of computers connected to the internet in order to process data for the price laughably low compared to that offered by centralized cloud services.
“HPC is still too expensive and too complex for innovative small businesses like start-ups. The Internet of Things (IoT) is taking off with huge computational and infrastructure needs and we are also seeing a rise in Distrtibuted Applications known as ‘DApps’ that are growing up around blockchain and smart contract technology. What we are doing with iEx.ec is lowering the barriers to entry for those who want to access to high performance computing (HPC) which is now possible with a distributed cloud network, and we hope that such a network will meet the needs of those who feel a distributed cloud more adequately serves their distributed business models,” says Gilles Fedak, CEO and co-founder of iEx.ec
Still, developers don’t think that blockchain revolution will became an instant game changer for the entire industry. Centralized clouds are quite likely to carry on, though the industry as a whole will become much healthier.
“Due to our previous experience, we believe more in an hybrid model where centralized Cloud services still exist and where more and more services migrate to the distributed Cloud. We predict that centralised cloud services will also need to adapt to survive. There will still be a market for some time for centralised cloud services of course but we envision a rapid growth of the decentralized Cloud pushed by the emergence of blockchain technology,” insists Gilles Fedak.
The trends of today make it possible for us to have a sneak peek into the future where all electronic devices are unified under a global decentralized network underlying multiple distributed apps that form the internet of things.