The Greek philosopher Plato famously said that "Technology imitates nature." His wisdom continues to hold true more than two thousand years later, and holds a special relevance for the birth of blockchain. Although many tout the blockchain as disruptive force in today's connected world, the core technology’s tenet – decentralization – is as timeless as Plato’s insight. The power of trustless protocols and distributed systems stem from the coordination of the collective. Decentralized networks harness the activity of individual users to create massive computing power, opening the door to exciting new possibilities in technology and business today.
Distributed Cloud Computing (DCC) enables any trusted hardware that runs on Intel Software Guard Extensions (SGX) to work on diverse computing tasks ranging from medical research to web security. The blockchain startup Ankr Network refers to this process as Proof-of-Useful-Work (PoUW). Each computer works as a single node but coordinates with hundreds or thousands of other decentralized nodes, each of which represents another trusted computer. Together, this network of users and hardware works toward a shared goal.
Ankr's PoUW is drastically different from existing technologies. For example, Bitcoin's proof-of-work (PoW) approach has been criticized for using huge energy resources to secure its network. These (Bitcoin) PoW computations merely "solve arbitrary math puzzles that do not serve society," says Stanley Wu, co-founder and CTO of the California-based Ankr. Indeed, the Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index estimates that bitcoin alone will consume 0.5% of the world's electricity by the end of 2018
In contrast, Ankr’s PoUW focuses nearly 99% its computing power to do useful calculations that are actually needed by clients and other stakeholders. "It makes more sense to use these [computing] resources for the good of society — for people's benefit," says Stanley Wu, who is a leading industry expert after rising to Level 6 Software Engineer at Amazon Web Services.
Idle Computing Resources
The world's computational capacity is at an all-time high. Forrester Research estimates the global total of computers to exceed two billion devices, while GSMA projects 75% of the world’s population to own a mobile computer (smartphone). However, despite the remarkable penetration of technology, much of its potential remains dormant as many users cannot access the full impact of the computing capacity of their devices. Ankr’s platform breaks the constraints of the status quo, empowering every consumer and company to maximize their devices and expand global computing power through DCC.
Similar DCC Projects
While other blockchain-based cloud computing projects exist, there are key differences between such platforms and Ankr, as the Ankr Network offers clear advantages for security, speed, and scalability.
For example, the penetration of Golem is limited by its use of third-party computing containers. In contrast, Ankr can access greater computing power because it is built on the collective support of all miners. Ankr also offers superior security options, as the platform’s DCC takes place in Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) which allows Intel SGX devices to keep data protected and private. Furthermore, Ankr creates more financial opportunities for users. According to a spokesperson, "Users of Golem have single source of income for cloud computing but Ankr users have three revenue streams: mining, transactions and smart contracts, as well as, cloud computing."
Dr. David Anderson is involved in the project as advisor and is a leading authority. Anderson is professor at University of California at Berkeley and founder of the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC), a volunteer distributed computing network with more than 300,000 users. Other key differences include the long-term applications to business.
Technologies like Sonm and DFINITY are similar to Golem but are focused on different application markets. "In contrast, Ankr's proof-of-useful-work is executed directly in CPU and therefore not constrained by the limitation of smart contracts," says an Ankr spokesperson. "And with our project, all miners are participating.
Leveraging Existing Users
With experts like Dr. Anderson guiding the team, Ankr plans to leverage the BOINC user base to rapidly increase the adoption of distributed cloud computing (DCC). This would be enabled by BOINC's software, which also allows owners of Android smartphones to participate in volunteer DCC, and could happen as early as August 2018.