Up on Cloud Nine – iEXEC RLC
- iExec is looking to disrupt the cloud-computing space by enabling developers to run programmes on a decentralised marketplace for cloud resources.
- RLC is an Ethereum token used to pay for and rent computing power and data on the iExec cloud platform. It burst onto the scene with major exchange listings, but has since retracted.
- With major partnerships with IBM, Google, NVIDIA and Microsoft, this project looks like it could grow over time.
Two Time’s the Charm for the Snek
In today’s world, cloud computing is commonplace for enterprises looking for processing power, without having to purchase and maintain expensive technological infrastructure. Companies such as Netflix, Hulu and even Apple, manage most, if not all, of their applications and data on the “cloud” by renting the infrastructure from providers such as Amazon (Amazon Web Services), Microsoft (Azure) or Google (Cloud). A majority of the traditional cloud service providers follow a centralised architecture, where a single large server services multiple clients. Think of it as Amazon or Microsoft having this incredibly large and powerful cloud computer that is rented by multiple clients. This server usually has more computing resources than its clients, which allows it to do all of the major processing.
iExec is looking to disrupt this space by providing the same cloud computing service but in a decentralised manner. In a decentralised cloud computing architecture, the cloud computing resources are distributed across numerous nodes (providers) and all of them are able to service any request equally. Even individuals would be able to host their own cloud servers and rent them out, if they have extra computing resources. One of the primary advantages of decentralised cloud computing is that there isn’t a single point of failure. Moreover, it becomes more scalable when more people join the network and rent out their computing resources (becoming nodes).
Ethereum’s virtual machine houses and executes smart contracts on its network nodes using mining programs. If a smart contract, built on Ethereum or any DApp platform, for that matter, is heavy and needs to function efficiently, such as a real-world use case, it will likely need access to more computing than the Ethereum virtual machine provides. This is where iExec comes into the picture. It aims to be the one-stop resource for blockchain cloud computing.
As DApps and smart contracts see increasing adoption, running all these computations through Ethereum’s blockchain would create a latency/scalability disaster of such magnitude that it would render the network useless. Essentially, iExec is looking to create a network of computing resources that will allow the Ethereum ecosystem to scale to its potential in the future.
iExec’s core team consists of six PhDs, four of which have been working in cloud computing since the early 2000s. These four, Gilles Fedak, Haiwu He, Oleg Lodygensky and Mircea Moca, have experience working at INRIA and CNRS developing programs for Desktop Grid computing. iExec is the product of their collective experience after Gilles Fedak discovered Ethereum in 2016.
ABC’s of RLC
In order to support DApps, smart contracts and their platforms, iExec takes intensive processing computations off-chain so as to keep on-chain functions running smoothly. To do this, iExec makes use of an open-sourced Desktop Grid Software. Desktop Grid computing, also known as Volunteer Computing, pools unused computing resources to use them in applications and platforms. Essentially, with this software, DApps can utilise any computing resource in the iExec framework to run their programs. As such, developers and DApp users can commission processing power from resources as small as a PC’s CPU and as large as a warehouse-sized data centre. Options are flexible, scalable and market driven, which allows users to find just the right amount of computing power they seek.
iExec accomplishes this service matching by using its smart contracts. The Matchmaking algorithm, for example, takes resource requests on the network and matches them with an appropriate provider. This smart contract basically looks at a DApp’s task and asks, “Can this computing resource run this program?” If yes, then it’s a match made in heaven. If not, then it’s time to move on (nothing personal). In order to ensure that users are getting the resources they need, iExec uses a Proof of Contribution (PoCo) model. This consensus algorithm makes sure that a node provides the computational power needed by the user, and it rewards this node with RLC, iExec’s token, in return for these services.
The components in iExec RLC consist of three features. Decentralized Application (DApp) store: The DApp store is iExec RLC’s equivalent of Google’s Playstore or Apple’s App store. iExec deployed their DApp store on 20 December 2017. Users can access apps on the DApp store and pay using the RLC tokens. It also provides DApp developers with the possibility to release their applications for monetisation. The DApp store is the only platform that bridges users with iExec RLC DApps.
Data Marketplace: The Data Marketplace is the interface where users can interact with and access data. It is the data equivalent of the DApp store. RLC’s Marketplace is the platform for the utilisation of Big Data. This data may include medical records, statistics, financial records and stocks. Individuals, applications and services can access this data and pay for them.
Cloud Marketplace: This component provides users access to perform transactions with cloud-computing resources. This feature solves the problem of cost and scalability on cloud infrastructure. A user can release his free computing resources to the network in exchange for the RLC token. Developers and individuals can browse for the processing resources they require for their software.
It allows users to state the required level of trust they deem worthy. Users can also pick from a large array of computing resources. These resources include CPU, GPU or even Trusted Execution Environments (TEE). The more trust is required for computational results, the higher the price of the transaction. The resources marketplace also provides a smart contract that evaluates the reliability of a resource provider. This smart contract is called the “Reputation” smart contract. The more reliable a resource provider is, the costlier they are. However, if a user desires something cheaper, they would have to settle for less reliable resource providers.
RLC, the native token of iExec stands for 'Run on Lots of Computers'. It was designed, from the ground up, to enable the exchange of computing resources, which means that part of its role is to serve as a medium of exchange. iExec ultimately operates on Ethereum's platform and has a supply of 86,999,785 RLC with 92% RLC in circulation.There is no “admin access” to the RLC ERC20 smart contract, meaning the total supply is written in stone and can never change. The market for the cloud computing industry is projected to reach $55bn by 2026. Capturing a meaningful portion of the market share could translate into the significant adoption of RLC and its price increasing. RLC can be purchased directly from various crypto exchange platforms including Binance, Coinbase and Uniswap.
Cloud of Suspicion
As with other developing projects and protocols, it is still too early to say whether iExec will capture the lion’s share of the cloud computing market or not. But it is hard to cast a dark cloud on RLC, when considering the amount of brainpower and determination behind this team as well as the partnerships it has forged thus far.,
That said, iExec is still subject to competition from other decentralised computing protocols like Golem and SOMN. These projects differ slightly from iExec, however, as they are building a decentralised supercomputer on blockchain technology, while iExec is targeting DApp development and sustainability. All of these technologies are working towards a future powered by blockchain and a decentralised internet, but their functions, while sometimes similar, are more complementary than conflicting. Other protocols, such as Filecoin (FIL), work similarly, but offer cloud storage instead of computing power.
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