iExec — Amazon Web Services for the New Age
Category / Sector
What they do ?
iExec promise is huge: Reinventing Cloud Computing. They aim to challenge the current mammoth, centralised cloud providers (e.g. AWS, GCE, Azure, Digital Ocean …) offering a way to run your applications on a (potentially) huge distributed network of computers with idle resources (like a computer you may have at home, a bunch of servers a business is not using anymore …). What’s more, you will get paid (in RLC, their own token) for allowing someone to use those idle resources.
Their ultimate aspiration is to provide cheaper and easier access to cloud resources and do it in a more sustainable way than current centralized server hives (with their skyrocketing energy needs).
How they do it ?
iExec team has evolved their previous knowledge on Desktop Grid Computing to the blockchain era.
Their technology relies on Ethereum Smart Contracts (to enable the acquisition and provisioning of computing resources and automatic post-execution payment) and a number of protocols (most of them under development) to create a marketplace between application developers (dApps) and individuals/entities with spare computing capacity.
RLCs (their own token), will be the only way of payment between the marketplace participants.
A key ingredient they will need to sort, is how to undeniably demonstrate who has provided/who has used resources, how many, for how long … something they are doing via their (under development) Proof of Contribution protocol.
Who does it ?
The team is mostly coming from academia (scientists with more than 80 papers from INRIA and CNRS research institutes).
They have an extensive background in Desktop Grid computing and it seems the blockchain appearance has been a catalyzer for all the past research to sublimate in a business project (and maybe an easy way to get extra funding for their research ?).
A question mark may be raised due to their limited (if any) previous exposure to blockchain and related technologies (something core to their business endeavour).
How is it progressing ?
One of the usual complains I have been reading about iExec is that they lack marketing flare. This may be true (given their modest social following/activity) and maybe understandable given founders backgrounds. What is true for sure (and maybe something that they care more about) is that they are strictly following their road-map (something plenty of projects don’t).
V1 was released last November, followed by a (bare bones by now) dApp Store late December, first (unknown) Cloud Provider to join the marketplace in January and so on. Although these are limited achievements, it is great that they are on track. The biggest challenge will come later this year (May hopefully) when they should release V2 with the full marketplace of infrastructure providers and dApps creators powered by their Proof of Contribution protocol.
They are really good too with follow ups on the project, which are regular and complete. Another good indicator of their focus and direction.
Who else is doing it ?
Their main competitor in the space is Golem, which has similar aims.
While the (initial) focus of iExec seems to be more on dApps, Golem (again initial) focus is more on traditional HPC (High Performance Computing) users (CGI professionals, scientists, financial analyst …). Eventually though, they will target the same market with a similar approach.
Golem is without a doubt marketing itself better while iExec seems to have been able to better execute.
How is it funded ?
iExec ICO was launched on April 19th 2017 and raised 2,761.761 BTC and 173,886 ETH ($12,158,963 USD at that time). This should give them fuel for a long while.
I don’t especially like(even though normal in ICOland) the fact that payments to founders/team are not linked to roadmap achievements and that are pretty significant in the short term (750k RLCs to founders and 2.25m RLCs to team from Oct 2017 to Oct 2018). Let’s see how this affects their focus and commitment.
What can go wrong ?
As with most cryptoprojects, many things. And main, shared one, is how extremely generous funding paired with limited accountability will impact roadmap execution.
Cause iExec challenges ahead are staggering. First they need to create a bunch of things that don’t exist (Proof of Contribution protocol, a Matchmaking process for the marketplace, an scalable scheduling system to submit jobs, another one to get and rely results …). Then they will have to convince people that their system is secure enough (having your data sent to random computers doesn’t sound bulletproof). And finally they will have to carve a growing niche under Amazon / Microsoft / Google noses.
In any case, the business logic is strong and the market drive for distributed computing is there (Fog/Edge…).
I think iExec has a lot of potential but plenty of things (maybe too many) will need to align and be smoothly executed. The market is there. The technology is moving along. They have the first mover advantage.
Do they have (or can acquire) the business skills necessary to make all of this happen ?. Will have to see. But overall is an extremely interesting idea, with a sound use case and a seemingly milestone oriented team. We will closely follow it.
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Originally published at www.tokenrati.com on March 3, 2018.