iExec RLC: The Missing Piece of the Blockchain Puzzle
4th Apr 2018
As the decentralisation of applications continues, very few people realise that blockchain is not designed for heavy computing calculations, which DApps require. iExec aims to provide decentralised cloud services to become the backbone of the blockchain ecosystem.
“Give it back Jason, it’s mine,” said Michael to his bully. His most beloved Yu-Gi-Oh card was in the hands of his persecutor. It was so precious to him: unique in the whole school, very, very rare and without a single scratch. He cared for it more than almost anything else. He bought it with all the pocket money he had during a trip from another kid who was also a Yu-GiOh fan.
And now it was gone. Even worse, it was now in the possession of the devil incarnate, Jason, who now could and most definitely would brag about having such an awesome card. What a shame that Michael had no way of proving that actually the card was rightfully his.
Some twenty years have passed since then, and now Michael is all about trading crypto. He was minding his own business when one day before the end of 2017 he heard about this cool new blockchain-based game called CryptoKitties.
At first glance, it strongly reminded him of the old days when he traded collectible cards with his friends.
Now, however, things were looking quite different. CryptoKitties had one major advantage that the classic game didn’t have. Everything was written onto the Ethereum blockchain. No one could steal anything (hacking aside) precisely because it was tracable.
On the other hand, it also came with a major disadvantage. Everything was written onto the Ethereum blockchain. Although this was beneficial for the user, it really harmed the network by slowing it down significantly.
Cryptokitties is the first successful game in the crypto space that has garnered so much attention and controversy at the same time.
The fact that people trade virtual cats and make thousands of dollars from it has shocked many, but also revealed the Achilles’ heel of the Ethereum network.
According to ETH Gas Station, the game accounted for over 10% of traffic on Ethereum, slowing down its network while also increasing the transaction fees.
This was an eye-opening case, showing how group of players can disturb one of the largest decentralised networks.
Unfortunately, it was not the only downside of the furball game. Although kitty ownerships are stored on the blockchain, the app itself is hosted on a centralised server.
“But hey, what’s the big deal here?” you may ask.
The fact that the game could disappear with a button click on a centralised server, causing the whole ecosystem to vanish, goes against the basic blockchain principles.
This shouldn’t be the direction decentralised apps head in, and even the founder of CryptoKitties, Griff Green, admitted that during an interview with CoinDesk:
“Currently, the options for creating a truly decentralised application are very limited and in the end impractical. […] Trying to run an app on the Ethereum blockchain without using some help from central servers is UX suicide.”
The need for a solution addressing this issue can hardly be any more urgent.
It is obvious that this will grow into a bigger and bigger problem as DApps get more popular. Luckily for us, there is already someone working to address the issue.
Their name is iExec and they’re creating a decentralised cloud in order to harvest the computing power from computers spread all over the world.
Although we are happy that CryptoKitties is bringing attention to the blockchain space, it has also revealed many issues that need to be addressed as soon as possible.
iExec – The Missing Puzzle of the Blockchain
For clarification, “Exec” stands for executable whereas “i” stands for cloud.
As sexy as cloud computing sounds, it is nothing but a series of data centers distributed in a few different locations. Companies like Amazon and Google allow other companies to rent their computing power so they can focus on running their business rather than worrying about hardware infrastructure. But when you put all your eggs in one basket, failure is inevitable. And if you look back in time, you’ll notice that these companies tend to drop the basket every now and then and break a few eggs.
We don’t even have to go back in time that far. In early 2017, Amazon AWS went down, causing almost 150,000 sites to go offline.
The online world is desperate for more decentralisation. It is unavoidable, necessary and it is around the corner.
Not only for payments, but the applications built around the blockchain technology also need to operate in a decentralised ecosystem.
iExec aims to provide the essential decentralised computing infrastructure for blockchain applications.
The market will need iExec as much as the Brits need their cuppa (sorry, we couldn’t resist).
Blockchain is perfect for storing immutable data. But can we really harness it to run all the required DApps operations? We don’t think so. And we’re not the only ones. Take a look on what our friend Vitalik Buterin said himself about Ethereum:
„Scalability sucks; the blockchain design fundamentally relies on bottlenecks where individual nodes must process every signle transaction in the entire network.”
Take the game Go, for example.
This game is in many ways similar to chess when it comes to predicting and calculating different moves. The Ethereum blockchain would be perfect use for storing the pawns’ positions, but it is not a perfect fit for calculating their movements and all sorts of predictions.
This is where iExec enters the game and provides the game with its off-chain yet decentralised computing power.
To put it in other words, in this scenario a decentralised network of computers would make all the necessary calculations for the best possible move, and once it produces the outcome it is stored on the blockchain.
Theoretically, Ethereum is able to handle any given calculation, but the issue arises when it comes to its execution costs and the time it needs to process the data. That’s why we see a bright future for iExec, which solves the problem by taking the heavy burden off ETH’s shoulders and letting it do what it was created for.
iExec can also be adapted to other blockchain ecosystems like NEO/EOS and provide its off-chain infrastructure.
Why Not Use Amazon or Microsoft Cloud Instead?
Indeed, those two giants have large data centers spread all over the world. Highly secure with competitive pricing. Is there a piece of the pie for iExec in this massively crowded space?
There is not.
That’s because iExec bakes its own pie.
iExec does not compete with any of the above.
Amazon and Google Cloud serve centralised applications, and iExec aims to serve primarily decentralised ones.
Over the past few months, we have observed companies popping up in the crypto space with their own ideas to be implemented on the blockchain.
The majority of them will require computing power. Currently, most of them are hosted on developer servers and testnets.
There are almost no decentralised apps in the crypto space used by the masses. Yet.
Things are about to change drastically.
In order for DApps to prove their worth to the world, they must become fully decentralised just like they claim to be.
The companies behind them will need to run their operations in a decentralised cloud, which iExec provides.
A decentralised network of machines providing enough computing power for all these apps must be large.
Just like Bitcoin in its early days, it had to start at some point. One mining machine after another added to the network.
The snowball effect took over, and now we have thousands of people keeping the Bitcoin network alive.
This will also happen to the iExec network.
Once companies fully realise the necessity of hosting their babies in a cloud, we predict a similar growth of its infrastructure (hint: and thus the price of RLC token).
There is one thing that could speed up the growth of iExec’s infrastructure in its early stages: miners utilising their extra computing power by joining the iExec network.
Let’s take a step back for a moment to better understand how today’s miners can help the cloud grow in numbers, using the example of Bitcoin.
Bitcoin as we know it today is sustained by a network of computers who use their calculating power to verify the transactions on the blockchain. We call them “miners”, and they are being rewarded in BTC for their contribution. This verification process is called Proof-of-Work.
Back in the early days, people were able to mine hundreds of BTC a week with their personal computers.
These days are gone and the difficulty of the algorithm has increased to the point where mining Bitcoin with an average PC is no longer profitable.
Proof-of-Work is being criticised more and more, as this model cannot be infinitely sustained. Mining Bitcoin today requires continuously growing amounts of computing power and electricity as mining difficulty increases.
Other models such as Proof-of-Stake (PoS) are being developed. Take ETH as an example, where the shift to PoS is about to be implemented, as its founders have already spotted the weakness of PoW. We can’t expect this model to be sustainable in its current form in the coming years.
Large mining farms have taken the lead, and the average Joe left with his small mining rigs has to switch to other cryptocurrencies.
The shift is about to happen.
Sooner or later, we will get to the point where not just the average Joes but also larger farms will seek an alternative use for their hardware.
iExec introduces us to a system called Proof of Contribution, which creates a perfect opportunity for people to monetise their infrastructure.
The Proof of Contribution is something that particularly draws our attention. After all, this will be the shield protecting the users, just like a bulletproof vest.
Just like a vest made of hard Kevlar consists of many different layers, the Proof of Contribution is a complex composition of different protocols and mechanisms from all over the cryptospace. Any malicious attempt at faking a contribution in order to claim illegitimate rewards would not come to fruition, thanks to Proof-of-Stake protocol (used by Peercoin), a 14-day backward mutability window (used by Gridcoin), spotchecking and a reputation mechanism.
There is no mining involved because the RLC (iExec’s tokens) are already minted. Simply by renting computing power, the machine owners are being paid in RLC by those who need that extra power.
The infrastructure for iExec is already out there and the shift is about to happen.
As investors, we are being given a fantastic opportunity to buy these utility tokens dirt cheap and watch how their value grows as the demand for iExec service increases.
The Beauty of iExec
It was 9 March 2016. Two man sat in front of each other with a board game in between them. Hundreds of thousands people were staring at the TV screens. Not a single word was spoken either by them or the audience.
It was a match between world champion Lee Sedol and computer program AlphaGo in a board game of Go.
(Left: AlphaGo Team Member who placed the stones the AI proposed. Right: Lee Sedol, considered the top Go player of the past decade.)
This tournament was a breakthrough in AI science, as AlphaGo’s win surprised everyone, including Elon Musk and scientists who thought that AI beating a professional Go player was still 10 years away.
AlphaGo’s victory was an eye-opening moment for many companies all over the world, proving that the future is here. Today, if you look up the projects in the crypto space, you see many of them covering AI in their pitch.
However, AI requires heavy computing power.
AlphaGo, in order to calculate the best possible moves during one game, required as much as 1202 CPUs and 176 GPUs. That is a ton of infrastructure and is not cheap.
AI companies, especially in the crypto space, will wonder whether to buy this type of hardware on their own, putting a lot of money into it and therefore probably losing their decentralisation status, or simply rent the computing power on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Companies like these can focus on developing and polishing their AI algorithms while not having to worry about their growing need for infrastructure.
For us, the road to choose is simple. And it will be for those companies as well.
Discovering the French Team
We couldn’t be more excited to tell you about this brilliant crew behind iExec. Unlike any other, it has 6 PhDs on the board with similar backgrounds in distributed systems and cloud computing.
One of our most important findings were the publications of the CEO, Gilles Fedak, in which he describes global computing models and using unused computing resources back in the year 2000. That’s some real Nostradamus-level prediction skills!
The fact that 18 years later he keeps working on the same concept makes us confident that we are investing in the right people who are dedicating their lives to their visions.
Together with Haiwu Hu, who is a professor at the Computer Network Information Center at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing with more than 30 scientific papers published, we believe these two are the perfect fit to lead a project such as iExec.
With their reputation and expertise, the iExec team is one of the most solid teams in the crypto space.
Their goal is to create a working product first and then present it to the world, not the other way around. We could not be happier with this plan for two reasons: the first is that they clearly show us that they are not yet another greedy project in the crypto space. Secondly, we have time to accumulate more as the token is still traded under the radar.
Two hundred and fifty million dollars.
That’s a lot of money.
That’s what a supercomputer can cost.
And that’s without mentioning the six to seven million dollars in annual maintenance costs.
What if we told you that you could save almost all of that money and put it to better use?
iExec is essentially going to save that sum multiple times over.
Imagine how big of an impact this will have, on both the crypto space and on all the science and research that requires insane amounts of computing power to simulate complex processes, from nuclear fusion to the detection of tsunamis to the anticipation of upcoming hurricanes.
There are a lot of scientists wanting to use a supercomputer for their research. For example, every six months Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory gets around 20 to 25 proposals from different national laboratories and accepts only about 10 of them.
Humanity could really use some additional computing power for the greater good of saving lives. For instance, this could be achieved through better mechanisms of early warning before an incoming tsunami or a hurricane. This and many other use cases will be possible with iExec. Investing in a project that potentially can save millions of lives? It doesn’t get much better than that!
How iExec Will Conquer the Market
Step 1: Community Edition
Currently, the first version of iExec is already in use, as DApps can access off-chain computing resources. There are already 15 DApps in their DAppStore and 15 more are upcoming after being granted part of the $150,000 prize from iExec to teams with the most potential. In February, a challenge took place where anyone could pitch their DApp idea to iExec. Out of 37 participants, 15 were granted up to $20,000 to reach their milestones. An additional $10,000 is still to be granted for one or two DApps to implement the ideas that the iExec team has in mind.
The team announced that this was the first edition of the iExec DApp Challenge. This implies more upcoming editions, with every edition getting more attention than the one before. Every new project and every new DApp will not only increase awareness around the project, but also the price of the RLC tokens, since the utilisation of iExec’s environment obviously involves spending them.
That’s what we call encouragement to help build a diverse and complementary ecosystem. This proves that the team has their marketing on the right track, and also ensures that such challenges will make iExec noticeable among other projects.
According to their roadmap, the iExec team plans to release their V2 in the second quarter of this year.. As our reader, you’ve got an amazing opportunity to stock up before this project gathers more attention in the anticipation of the launch.
The market network is about to be released. It will utilise the Proof-of-Contribution algorithm to enable the first users to connect their hardware to the first decentralised cloud and earn RLC tokens.
Within V2, a Pay-per-Task scheme is being introduced. In this step, the creators can monetise their work.
Think of Adobe Photoshop. Not long ago, in order to get an original copy of Photoshop, you had to buy it in a physical store, in a plastic box with a handful of CDs inside.
Thankfully, these days are gone. Not only do we not have to make in-store purchases, but we can also get access to the program using the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model.
Now imagine that you could pay for Photoshop only when you needed it.
This model would surely have a large pool of adopters who will utilise these resources, but the upcoming years will verify whether SaaS and PpT can coexist with each other or whether SaaS will be replaced with PpT.
iExec will be the precursor to the new Pay-per-Task model.
We strongly believe the PpT will bring traction to the iExec marketplace and stimulate the value of the RLC token.
Step 2: Enterprise Edition
This edition consists of three versions and its aim is to establish a full market network that is profitable for a wide range of businesses.
Application and server providers are the first group that will be addressed and able to profit from the launch of the marketplace in the V2. Users will be able to launch the classic open source applications that require a ton of computing power.
Think about 3D rendering software, biomedical research, mathematics and finance as the typical industries for the applications that could run on the market network.
As far as small cloud and home server providers are concerned, they will be able to rent their servers and mining rigs and create an additional revenue stream for their business. This stage is the beginning phase of making it possible for the iExec early adopters to monetise their resources.
The V2 release is planned for 31st May 2018, and we see this date as a breakthrough in the crypto timeline.
The question is, are you going to be on board before that?
So far, the iExec team has stuck to their roadmap by delivering their promises on time. We strongly believe that they will not face any major obstacles and V2 will be released in a timely manner.
In V3, data providers will join the iExec marketplace. What’s more, businesses will now receive full control over the private employment of their computing resources. As a consequence, this version will bring new DApps to the market network, which require a higher level of trust. This will result in strengthening the revenue stream for iExec.
V4 opens its doors to miners who would like to become part of the market network and offer true supercomputing power, which we already mentioned. Currently, the mining farms rely on monetising their GPU resources with a computing blockchain consensus. By joining the iExec marketplace, they will be able to access a new market of blockchain-based High Performance Computing applications. Consequently, they will be better able to utilise their resources and increase their revenue by reaching new customers.
Step 3: Research Edition
As you probably have already realised, use cases for the technology that iExec brings into the world go far beyond DApps. They are just the beginning, a springboard if you will.
It’s true that many existing problems can be tackled with this innovative approach, but just think about all the problems that we haven’t yet faced. All the technologies that we didn’t think were possible until now. With inventions like virtual reality, the Internet of Things and smart cities becoming popular, the demand for higher computation power will rise significantly in the coming years.
Luckily for us, we will have already invested in the most popular tool used for cloud computing 3 years ahead of time, since the deadline for this final step is set for mid-summer of 2021. By that time, if you stay patient and smart, you just might find yourself sipping a delicious cocktail, laying under a palm tree, and listening to the calm and steady sound of the waves. And you can be even more sure of it by investing in iExec today.
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