Distributed Computing and Cryptocurrency - A Match Made In Heaven
A fascinating and innovative technology is finally starting to gain ground thanks to cryptocurrency. That concept is decentralized computing. To put it simply, decentralized computing is where complex computing tasks are chopped up into small pieces and sent out to thousands or more personal computers or servers to process and return. Once all the pieces are processed, the facilitating service puts them all together and the job is complete.
In this article, we're going to talk about what decentralized computing is, and how it fits into the modern and future cryptocurrency economy.
An endless need for more computing power
Today, there are a multitude of different types of businesses and research groups, like universities, that need tons of computing power. For example, companies that deal in 3D graphics (like the ones we see in television and movies today) all require computer power for rendering. Graphics rendering projects, depending on the complexity, can take hundreds or even thousands of hours, even with the most high-end computers available.
Universities engaged in medical research also require intense computing power to conduct their research. For example, the Stanford University program called [email protected] has been running for several years now. The program allows for volunteers to run folding software on their computer. This software then receives small jobs and processes them before returning them to the network.
In the future, we are likely to see more companies and universities engaging in artificial intelligence (AI) research. AI research and testing is also very computationally intensive, and so universities typically need to own or have access to supercomputers.
How does decentralized computing fit in?
In order to process or provide all the necessary computing power for these resource intensive projects, companies and universities either need to invest millions upon millions of dollars into buying or building a supercomputer, or they need to pay high rates to cloud computing services. Cloud computing typically is a centralized service such as the one offered by Amazon.com with their Amazon cloud computing platform. On such platforms, a researcher, for instance, would send their unprocessed raw data to Amazon, and from there Amazon would process it and return it.
This kind of computing has opened doors for many, as it does not require the upfront costs of building a supercomputer. However, it's not without its downsides.
First, it is still quite expensive. This is because there are not many cloud computing providers available, and so they have a huge control over the market.
Second, as these are centralized services, they are prone to attacks and have fewer individual points of failure.
Finally, as the services continue to consolidate, there could be fewer and fewer competing providers which would lead to even higher prices and worse service.
Distributed computing takes this paradigm in a completely different direction. Instead of sending the raw data to a centralized service, decentralized computing allows for thousands or more individual participants to receive and process jobs in exchange for payment.
This is where cryptocurrency comes in. In the past, it would have been unfeasible to pay thousands of participants for single job that may be worth a few dollars or so. This is because there may be more participants than there are units of currency, such as US cents. For instance, if a five dollar processing job is split up to 1000 participants, it's not easy to split up that five dollars into 1000 increments of half a cent.
With cryptocurrency, something like that would be child's play.
Distributed computing on the blockchain today
Today, there are a few different providers of distributed computing services that use cryptocurrency as an incentive for network participants.
One of those is called Render Token, or RNDR. Render Token is run by the Otoy group which is famous in the cloud rendering and GPU rendering services industry. Simply put, Render Token is a platform that is specifically for 3D graphics rendering. Participants on the network that complete jobs will be rewarded in RNDR tokens.
Remember the Stanford University [email protected] program? While the program itself has no rewards, an enterprising group came up with a concept that they call Cure Coin. Those who register with Cure Coin and complete [email protected] tasks can earn a daily payout of Cure Coins. Your coins can then be used to make purchases at some stores directly, or to exchange into another cryptocurrency like bitcoin on a supported exchange.
A few other players are in the marketplace as well, such as iExec which offers a general-purpose distributed computing platform, and is also based on Ethereum.
Distributed computing for the future
Distributed computing is a highly elegant solution to a complex problem. It allows companies and universities to get access to virtually unlimited computing resources, all without any upfront costs. Further, these networks are designed to be highly competitive and have no single point of failure.
Finally, much like cryptocurrency mining today, it may be possible that some people will want to set up their own distributed computing farms that run full-time in an attempt to earn steady income just by providing computing resources to a network. Someday, all this could be possible. But for today, we are still a little ways out from distributed computing taking over. And it almost certainly will, eventually.