iExec- The Future of Cloud Computing

Let’s face it- the current cloud computing solutions will slowly be replaced by decentralized blockchain cloud solutions. The main reasons for this are the challenges with the current solutions:

  1. They cannot meet the requirements of the dApps that need full decentralization for their execution.
  2. Expensive and complex cloud and HPC infrastructures that cannot be afforded by small companies.
  3. Growth in demand for computing power from industries and scientific communities for their large applications and data.
  4. High energy consumption by data centers for running and cooling servers. This also impacts negatively on the environment.
  5. Centralized supercomputers are also very costly. This is because they are owned by monopolies.  

These are problems faced by multitudes of decentralized businesses. Question is, what is being done to reach a sustainable solution? One company that’s working towards these challenges is iExec. iExec started off a research project but is now a fully functional company. It is headquartered in Lyon, France, with a subsidiary in Hong Kong.

What is iExec.?

Cool fact: iExec stand for I execute. This should tell you that the company is willing to really execute!

iExec aims to create a platform that makes it easy for everyone to access computing resources. In essence, they aim to create a marketplace for computing resources. They aim to build a decentralized cloud infrastructure that will support blockchain-based distributed applications. Moreover, the decentralized cloud infrastructure will enable cost-effective high-performance computing.

The team intends to have an ecosystem of companies that offer storage, computer farms, data providers, web hosting and SaaS applications to conduct services with each other.

We want to allow people to have access to a wide variety of providers instead of having one contract with one provider.” Jean-Charles Cabelguen, Ph.D

What is the blueprint for this breakthrough?

Cool fact: The CTO, Oleg Lodygensky, Ph.D. is the founder of XtremWeb-Hep which is the core software behind iExec.

One of the co-founders, Gilles Fedak (Ph.D.), has a background in grid and cloud computing and has worked as a research scientist at INRIA for almost 15 years. The second one, Haiwu He. (Ph.D.), is a scientist in grid computing and also a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.” Jean-Charles Cabelguen, Ph.D

It won’t come as a shock to discover that iExec leverages on a lot of research that has been undertaken by INRIA and CNRS research institutes in the field of Desktop Grid Computing.  The team believes that Grid computing will be essential for blockchain in the future. This has encouraged the team to use XtremeWeb-Hep. This is an open-source software that enables the sharing of spare computing power. How? You may wonder! Users with unused computing power can share that computing power with other users by allowing them to connect to the system of their machines. This is what will drive the buying and selling of computing power on the iExec marketplace. Sharing is truly caring in this case!

Moreover, iExec is working on a new Proof-of-Contribution protocol for provable consensus, traceability, and trust on the network. This will mainly be used to ensure the appropriate division of payment within the platform for the services provided. Moreover, the PoCo protocol enables off-chain computing. This means that the protocol is able to verify that computations that happened off-chain have been executed accordingly. The protocol ensures that the data on the off-chain is reflected on the blockchain for visibility and audit purposes to the participants. Overall, this will allow external resource providers to have the usage of their resources certified on the blockchain.

That’s not the only awesome aspect. iExec is also implementing sidechains. According to their whitepaper, this is aimed at promoting a new form of distributed government that involved key HPC, big data, and cloud industry leaders. The sidechains will ensure scalability and high-performance. The sidechain also considers traditional cloud services- so they should not be that worried. It does this by allowing them to run within their decentralized markets. This innovation will ensure that computing resources are provided by both private data centers and public workers. This will definitely be one of a kind marketplace and the first-ever global marketplace that offers services to both private data centers and public workers. This seems to be a party whereby everyone is invited. All companies should be RSVP’ing by now.

Lastly, iExec is combating the problem of the DAO attack by implementing a Domain Specified Sidechain. Moreover, this specified sidechain will help the platform manage multitude task submissions and cases whereby low latency is needed. These can be processed due to the specific capabilities of the sidechain.

Why should decentralized businesses care about iExec?

It’s no secret that in order for a business to be successful, it has to innovate. Choosing to innovate with iExec has multitudes of advantages for decentralized companies:

  • Off-chain computations on demand for dApp developers.
  • Safe, robust and reliable infrastructure with low computing costs.
  • Expansion of potential market size by integrating company services with iExec’s marketplace.
  • Companies with underused computing resources can provide their servers to the iExec marketplace in return for higher profits.

Honestly speaking, who would not want these features? I mean, if you’re going to innovate, you might as well do it right and go for iExec.

iExec’s ICO journey

Cool fact: iExec did their ICO is less than 3 hours and raised 10,000 BTC

iExec’s ICO journey was an interesting and successful one. Who am I kidding? 10k BTC under 3 HOURS? It was VERY interesting and VERY successful. The secret behind their success is the fact that the founder had more than 15 years experience in Grid Computing. This skill is forecasted to be beneficial in regards to the blockchain. It’s true what they say, experience really breeds excellence.

The Roadmap

iExec’s roadmap is interesting because it relies on the participants of the distributed computing system. The main goal is to have these participants work with each other so as to provide their products and services to the marketplace. The team creates new versions in order to host new participants on the platform.

Version 1 and 1.5 (December 2017): This connects decentralized application providers and has a dApp store where it’s possible to feature dApps.

Version 2 (Released on the29th of May 2018): This connects providers onboard.

Upcoming versions:

Version 3: data providers

Version 4: Mining farms, miners, GPU apps

Version 5: Emerging classes of applications

Achieving version 5 is crucial for iExec. This is because this version will help the team attain its goal of having their clients being big players within the decentralized economy as seen below;

“In one year, we want to be enterprise ready. So, we have a step by step plan to create this platform with the needed requirements. We want to reach the level where it will be possible to have clients that are big players from the centralized economy (…). We want to provide to them a more flexible way to access computing resources.”  Jean-Charles Cabelguen, Ph.D

Does iExec have any competition?

iExec’s closest competition is Golem Network.

According to iExec, the only similarity between the two companies is the vision of a blockchain-enabled cloud infrastructure.

However, the differences are seen in their go-to-market strategy. Firstly, Golem specifically targets rendering markets and assembles a network to attract regular 3D rendering users. iExec however, targets wider sectors such as AI, big data finance, and sectors in huge need of computing resources. Secondly, Golem first assembles a network to attract regular 3D rendering users to their platform.  iExec, on the other hand, focuses on supporting dApps to build a decentralized cloud that will be competitive enough to attract cloud and HPC users.

Their differences prove that these two companies are not necessarily rivals as explained during the interview;

I think there are different ways to provide easy access to computing resources and I don’t want to criticize the competitors. I mean, we have met with some of them and they are doing a good job. There is a market for everybody.Jean-Charles Cabelguen, Ph.D

iExec’s value proposition is that they consider computing resources like a commodity where it is possible to trade computing resources based on availability. It could be interesting to increase or decrease the price and to ensure that the availability will reach 100% regarding provider capacity. Jean-Charles explains this aspect by stating the following;

We want to be able to provide a platform where it’s possible to trade computing resources the same way we do with commodities like rice or gas. This approach is very different and will create new opportunities.” Jean-Charles Cabelguen, Ph.D.,

Challenges

The challenge iExec is facing is that they are trying hard not to be a blockchain project. Instead, they want to be referred to as a project that only uses blockchain. This is because they want to always be players. Moreover, they want to target the decentralized economy and provide a new paradigm in consuming computing resources.

Another big challenge is reaching the enterprise level as soon as possible. However, they have started working with a few companies like Intel to ensure that this happens. The fact that iExec is working towards this challenge, shows that they really are intending to become the world’s premier decentralized computing market.

The future looks exciting for iExec. If you are a decentralized business or intending to go into that industry, iExec is definitely your best option.

iExec

Useful links

Whitepaper

Website

This article is based on an exclusive interview between Decentral Magazine and  Jean-Charles Cabelguen, Ph.D., Chief Innovation, and Adoption at iExec during Blockshow Europe 2018. This event took place from 28th-29th May in Berlin. There were over 3000 attendees and over 150 blockchain projects.

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Nini Rose Moru

I am a blockchain enthusiast. Always eager to learn more about the technology.

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