In the past years blockchain has shown new, more democratic ways how we exchange assets, finance startups, or govern identities and permissions. This rapidly evolving ecosystem thrives without relying on (some) established foundations that are often controlled by few powerful organizations. But how does this brave new world look like when it comes to the IT infrastructure it is running on?
We are not talking about mining farms and hash rates here. We are talking about hosting decentralized applications, storage, web hosting — anything that creates value on top of the blockchain ecosystem. Is there any blockchain native hosting solution for general purpose decentralized applications? Or is everything running in the server farms of a hand full of big public cloud providers? We at HiveNet are convinced that everyone should be able to run their computing tasks in a simple and decentralized way. That is why we are building HiveNet.
The adjectives ‘distributed’ and ‘decentralized’ are often used in a confusing manner and should maybe be replaced with a completely different adjective in many places. Let me explain why. Historically, distributed computing or distributed systems referred to networks of computers or systems that collaborated on tasks by sharing effort and thus provided a greater utility than any single component within the network. Prime example of this might be the SETI@home project — the largest distributed computing project to date. Roughly ten years after the inception of SETI@home, Bitcoin entered the stage and pioneered a rich ecosystem of so called ‘distributed ledgers’. But differently to the previously mentioned distributed system, the blockchain-type distributed ledgers have not split tasks across participating nodes and thus increasing the computational power of the whole network. Instead, they relied on a consensus between nodes that all held the (approximately) same data and processed the (approximately) same operations. Hence a more appropriate name might have been ‘replicated ledgers’.
Before you start ripping me apart for those heretical remarks: The enormous wave of innovation inspired by the distributed ledger technology and the almost magical creation of a globally trusted infrastructure with no corporation or nation state vouching for its availability, maintenance, or security are a unique achievement in the information technology era. More than ten years after its publication, Bitcoin is, with very moderate upgrades, still working securely and reliably — an achievement, which very few IT projects can claim. But would the distributed ledger technology take the same design decisions differently if they were to be re-implemented from scratch today? Would we design the inherent reward system to be wasteful of energy in the times where every Friday hundreds of thousands of young people take to the streets to demonstrate for a more careful handling of this planets resources? Or would we try to utilize the network to the best of our ability?
We at HiveNet believe that CPU and GPU cycles should not be wasted to produce hashes with many leading zeros — those hashes do not advance mankind. Instead those CPU and GPU cycles should go towards machine learning, medical research, scientific simulations, or data analytics. And that is why a superior distributed ledger technology will not be a ‘replicated’ one that does not increase its productivity when more nodes join its network but a truly ‘distributed’ one that gets additional productivity out of each node that joins it. And this system should not be dominated or owned by one or few organizations, it should be open for everyone to contribute and use. It should be a ‘distributed cloud computing network’.
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