Distributed Storage Comparison

Following on from my previous articles (see references at bottom) extolling the virtues of distributed storage (vs cloud), I have prepared a matrix comparing the key features of the leading technologies, followed by a brief explanation of the reasoning behind my analysis and some specific characteristics of each platform and my conclusion.

The Comparison Matrix

Click HERE to download the Matrix (PDF Document)

The Contenders

AWS (for comparison purposes), Filecoin, Sia, Storj & 0Chain.

General

Distributed storage has the potential to achieve the goal of making data globally accessible with much more reliability than centralized cloud solutions. Some of the platforms analysed here also offer the possibility of increased efficiency compared with the typical replication used by cloud providers. Perhaps most importantly, where native encryption is available, the user gains total control of their data, not even the providers can access the data without the users private keys.

My aim with this comparison is to highlight the key features of each platform, including elements such as hardware requirements.

I think hardware requirements is an often overlooked area. There is a theory that spare storage on personal computers around the world could be harnessed as an efficient solution to provide distributed storage. I hope this will shed light on whether this is a reality or not. Having high hardware requirements for the mining/blockchain element negates this potential efficiency and high hardware requirements for client software may inhibit easy adoption and make mobile or web apps unfeasible.

I have kept price details very vague. There are so many aspects, direct comparison is probably not fair, however a follow up when platforms are more established is certainly on the cards. This includes on the mining/storage/service provider side.

Here are some specifics about each platform:-

AWS (Amazon Web Services)

The undisputed King of Cloud, AWS now boasts the lions share of Amazons revenue. The established S3 storage protocols form the de facto industry standard. Among the main criticisms of AWS S3 storage include:-

  • Security concerns
  • Escalating costs for egress (it is cheap to upload / store data but many times more expensive to retrieve it)
  • Service Outages and SLA inadequacy (SLA T&Cs plus poor compensation credit)

AWS is used as the basis of comparison with distributed providers.

I have done minimal testing using a AWS instance since its characteristics are already well documented.

Filecoin

Built on top of IPFS, Filecoin aims to add an incentive/reward layer to the established platform.

Its hardware requirements are incredibly high and its main focus is publicly accessible data via replication. Although the WPs allow for it, there is currently no implement of encryption or data sharding that the other distributed offerings here utilize for security and efficiency.

I have been unable to achieve any meaningful testing on this platform to date but have been able to collate information from the website and community resources.

Sia

Sia is the oldest distributed storage platform listed. It aims to utilize spare capacity from computers around the world.

It requires custom ASICs for its miners and also requires a full blockchain sync for clients which is a significant barrier to adoption.

I have extensively tested this platform both hosting and renting. Storage is relatively cheap but poor quality hosts cause significant node churn.

Storj

Now on v3 of its network, the 2nd version had a huge following but failed due to its inability to scale.

Although data is distributed, Storj totally relies on centralized satellites and the Tardigrade client access relies heavily on websites. It utilizes an Ethereum ERC20 token for payments but the network does not utilize blockchain.

I have extensively tested this platform as a host and a client. It lacks the transparency of other distributed offerings due to it’s highly centralized nature. The vast majority of data on the platform remains test data several months into Mainnet.

0Chain

Currently in Betanet, 0Chain deploys its own high-speed blockchain and is heavily focused on privacy and security enterprise markets.

Requirements are minimal through use of efficient protocols, this also allows for mobile and web browser apps.

I have extensively tested this platform as a client but currently awaiting for the onboarding of external miners to evaluate.

Conclusion

I believe that the data shows that the best potential for a distributed storage platform lies with combining efficiency and flexibility.

The clear winner in this regard is 0chain. Not only does it offer high flexibility with its configurable Erasure Coding and Challenge Completion, it is built on a super-fast blockchain giving huge potential for a variety of applications. Additional key features such as private sharing are essential for serious Enterprise adoption.

I would also highly commend Sia. Probably the budget option here, has stood the test of time and certainly comes closest to the utilizing spare storage ideology.

Storj has the luxury of being in its 3rd incarnation. If you are not too worried about the centralized elements then it has an S3 compatible layer and gives good performance. A huge gripe I had with Storj was the misleading host calculator they had on their website until very recently. I brought it to their attention in December 2019, and it barely improved in the 8 months until it was removed. I hope that not many miners were enticed into buying hardware because of this. (Storj officially do not recommend purchasing hardware for this purpose). Unfortunately this type of incident, combined with lack of transparency because of its centralized aspects prevents me from recommending it to anyone.

Filecoin doesn’t seem to promise to offer much that these other platforms don’t. Its seems to be trying to carve a niche to compete with Amazon Glacier (slow access, archival storage) but with added security. However, I seriously doubt it can achieve this efficiently due to the excessive miner hardware requirements (and also on the client side). I think this project could be a huge disappointment to everyone except those who have sold hardware on the back of the hype.

References:

Previous Articles:-

https://link.medium.com/ab48LQ1IpZ

Disclosure:

I am an independent developer and Ambassador for the 0Chain project. I have evaluated each platform using my own finances and resources. If there are inaccuracies, I will be glad to make corrections accordingly.

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