When it comes to distributed applications, it’s clear there’s a lot of IT infrastructure capacity available that goes largely unused most of the time. But with the rise of fog computing applications that require access to compute resources at the edge of a global network, interest in tapping into all that unused IT infrastructure is on the rise.
Supercomputer Organized by Network Mining (SONM), which is building a decentralized platfom that provides the equivalent of a supercomputer using distributed resources provided by third parties participating in an online marketplace connected via a blockchain, has teamed up with Storj Labs, a provider of software that allows organizations or individuals to make unused storage capacity available to external applications on demand, to make distributed instances of persistent storage enabled by Storj Labs available to organizations employing the SONM blockchain.
John Quinn, chief strategy officer of Storj Labs, says there are massive amounts of storage already deployed that for one reason or another are not being used. Storj Labs provides individuals and organizations the ability to monetize that storage until they see fit to use it for their own purposes. Storj Labs refers to these organizations as “farmers.”
“We’ve already got 35,000 farmers participating,” says Quinn.
Quinn notes that, as already proven by digital currencies, blockchain is a natural distributed application. To put that theory to the test, SONM is building a peer-to-peer instance of a blockchain that organizations use to make compute resources available on demand. In effect, the SONM service is a commercial instance of a “fog computing” environment that makes used of compute and storage resources residing on the edge of a global network. Quinn says all the data moving across the peer-to-peer network is encrypted by default.
The assumption widely made today is that blockchains are too compute intensive to consider deploying anywhere other than the cloud. But as organizations become more familiar with how blockchain applications work, it may very well turn out that edge computing is going to play a much bigger role than most organizations today might think. After all, blockchain software was originally developed to enable digital currencies, which are arguably the most distributed transaction application ever devised. It may make sense to get started using blockchain by relying on a cloud service. But over time, many organizations may soon discover that blockchain and fog computing are very much two intertwined emerging technologies.
The assumption that most of the IT vendors are making today is that most processing horsepower required to drive blockchain transactions will be delivered via clouds that provide access to massive amounts of inexpensive compute and storage. It’s obviously still early days when it comes to anything to do with blockchain software that promises to reinvent how transactions are conducted. But chances are, whatever ultimately gets deployed may wind up being very different from what most IT people would currently expect.