A next-generation Ethereum-based distributed cloud computing platform is coming. The project, called iExec (I Execute) is led by an innovative team of research scientists in France who will launch a crowdsale on 12 April.
Earlier iterations of distributed computing networks have been restricted to special projects of academic institutions and citizen scientists, but now iExec will put the technology in the hands of enterprise users. The distributed system will use the Ethereum blockchain to organize a global P2P market, where everyone can rent computing resources and applications.
The pioneering SETI@home project, started in 1999 and dedicated to finding candidate signals from alien civilizations in data collected by astronomical observations, distributed data analysis tasks to citizen scientists, the core idea being that of letting participants contribute spare computing resources to a noble and exciting purpose. The first version of SETI@home was based on custom software, but later versions have been ported to the BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing) platform, which hosts many other similar projects.
The distributed “grid computing” framework was then adopted by large scientific collaborations and used to distribute demanding High Performance Computing (HPC) applications across participating computing nodes. A high-profile example is the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid, a HPC project led by CERN and dedicated to processing data produced by Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiments at CERN.
Borrowing concepts from both approaches, the iExec project wants to open grid computing to all providers and participants in need of outsourced computing power, including businesses. But then, providers aren’t likely to offer their services for free. The iExec project wants to create a sustainable ecosystem for open grid computing, with paying clients and paid providers.
Crypto Insider reached out to iExec co-founder Gilles Fedak to find out more.
Could you explain the core idea in a nutshell?
iEx.ec is a blockchain-based distributed cloud computing infrastructure. Users can rent computing power since servers and data centers will be able to make their unused resources available through a unique marketplace on the blockchain. It’s a new paradigm for Cloud computing that will change the way we develop and execute distributed applications and services.
Could you trace the history of the project in a few lines?
The original idea of building a gigantic network of peers that would be able to put together their computing resources was actually started in the early 2000’s. My colleague and I were working at the forefront of that type of technology at the time. I have been researching and developing distributed computing for the past 17 years through INRIA whilst my collegue, and now co-founder Haiwu He, has been developing cloud systems. Since then, we produced various open source software and algorithms to implement the idea of a global distributed cloud platform. We have worked with many real world businesses and learned the problems they were trying to overcome.
In 2015 we discovered Ethereum and the concept of crossing blockchain with distributed computing. Ethereum really was the key to be able to offer distributed computing beyond the confines of academic and scientific research circles. We now feel the technology is mature enough for iExec to be properly implemented and we are looking forward to releasing the first distributed cloud to the world.
Where do you see the project in 5 years?
Our roadmap carries our vision through for the next four years and has some carefully measured deliverables so we will be feature complete by 2020. At the end, the platform will support many classes of application, ranging from Dapps to HPC, Big Data and enable new form of distributed applications, such as IoT, VR, … The platform will be growing in size and scale as more people take advantage of it.
Could you summarize the main aspects of the upcoming crowdsale?
We are offering RLC tokens that will be the native token of the iExec platform. There will be up to 20% bonus for early investors.
Why should I want to buy in the upcoming crowdsale?
iExec is a brand new platform for distributed computing. It will provide a place for DApps and other resource intensive enterprises (IoT, AI) to do business with one another in the cloud. They will not be held back by the limitations of centralised clouds or gatekeepers but can work in a free, distributed but secure manner. The blockchain community stands to gain directly from the iExec cloud infrastructure so we hope businesses and individuals will get behind us and support the project at this exciting time.
Why do you expect the value of the iExec token to increase with time?
The monetization of services will happen using the iExec token, which means that DApps needing off-chain computation will use and spend the tokens. The first phase of the project, 6 months in, clearly addresses DApps. Providers will earn tokens each time their application (SaaS), servers (IaaS), or data sets (DaaS) are used by other DApps.
We also expect the value of RLC to increase because it is deflationary – there will only ever be 87,000,000 RLC in circulation. With our crowdfund we will be able to get tokens into the hands of as many people as possible in a distributed manner then with such a short time to completion of our first milestone (6 months), we anticipate that market forces will quickly take effect.
What are the main differences between iExec, SETI@home (and other BOINC projects), and CERN’s Grid?
The CERN grid proposes a set of shared data centers for scientists who mainly share the same focus on High Energy Physics with some bio-informatics (DNA research) and other lesser use cases. iExec is focussed on enterprise and open access to everyone. iExec aims to lowers the barriers to entry for enterprise use of high performance computing. The CERN grid is a very powerful tool but it is dedicated to European research centers. iExec will of course be globally available.
SETI@Home and Boinc projects propose a huge amount of volunteer PC provided by individuals but again only available to a few scientists for a limited number of projects. BOINC platform mainly proposes a huge computer.
BOINC system is in fact pretty inhibitive even for those specialist users since you have to appeal to the system for permissions via application, then maintain a kind of blog to document the project- because resource providers want to know what computation they are participating to. Then when it comes to running your own application on the system, it is a quite complex process. In contrast, iEx.ec makes applications integration very simple and is not restricted to compute intensive application. iExec is suitable for any application, even lightweight services.
Who can participate in iExec as a provider of computing services on demand?
Anyone can participate. Individuals can make their unused bandwidth available to the network as well as existing server providers. In fact we have just teamed up with our first industry partner Stimergy who will offer their services through the iExec cloud. We also expect that cryptocurrency mining farms will turn their systems over to the network for extra revenue.
Will participants (providers of computing services) be compensated and how?
The iExec cloud is an open and distributed network so providers of computing services will be able to set their own terms of engagement and they will do this through smart contract technology.