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The Decentralized Cloud: How Blockchain Technology is Changing Resource Sharing

Recent advancements in blockchain technology have exposed various concepts that can and have revolutionized several markets such as finance, social media, art trading, and music royalties. Bitcoin itself has challenged traditional fiat currency in a way that we never thought possible, and it is only a matter of time before that extends to computing and app development. In fact, the technology that will make a true “metaverse” a reality is already in development.

What is Blockchain?

Blockchain is a term that explains a special type of decentralized, distributed database that writes data into blocks that are dependent on previous data blocks in a “chain” hence the name “Block-Chain.” In the case of bitcoin, it is a decentralized distributed ledger that uses specialized protocols to maintain the integrity of transaction data written to the network by its users. This data is then validated by a network of peer-to-peer clients known as nodes that must come together to decide if the data written to a block is valid in a process known as consensus which is a method of verification blockchain uses to ensure the data in a block is correct. Once the transaction data is validated and written to the Bitcoin blockchain it becomes immutable and cannot be changed without affecting the rest of the blockchain itself because each block builds off one another. This, along with the ledger being public and viewable by everyone, adds a layer of security and permanence to the blockchain technology. Bitcoin as a transactional ledger works similarly to traditional banking systems, are used daily but are not governed by a central authority such as Wells Fargo or Navy Federal, making its appeal and rapid adoption understandable and fascinating.


The Decentralized Cloud & The Metaverse Concept

Now that you have a brief idea of what blockchain is and how it works, let us apply that same concept to applications and computing. We already have an example of this within the Ethereum network which has sought to add a layer of programmable logic to the blockchain, and it is here that we find our next building block. Smart contracts are pieces of programmable code written to a blockchain that ensures that a specific action triggers a specific response. This allows blockchain to host more than a simple database such as a ledger and the possibilities are endless. Applications such as decentralized finance (defi) that function as exchanges that allow users to trade different cryptocurrencies between different blockchains, play to earn games that reward time played with cryptocurrency yields, and even domain name reservation utilities such as Ethereum Name Service (ENS) that serve a similar function to sites like GoDaddy.com. So, what happens when we take this all a step further? What if we could provide all these services in a shared user environment, in which one could traverse seamlessly, with little to no latency and that was universally available and most importantly secure? Well, it would look a lot like author Neal Stephenson’s vision of the successor to the internet, the “Metaverse” a term coined by the author in his 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash. Which details an interconnected virtual world in which people live, work, and play. There are many examples of these virtual worlds today mostly in the form of massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) such as Roblox, Minecraft, World of Warcraft, etc. With companies like Meta leading innovations in interactive peripherals, true virtual social interactions are just on the horizon. While these innovations are amazing, there are a few key limitations that prevent these companies from achieving a true shared virtual experience. Think of each of these virtual platforms as islands, some may have bridges built between them in the form of APIs or shared databases such as Facebook and Instagram both being owned and operated by Meta, but most of these ecosystems are standalone without much interaction between each other. There are many factors that affect this that can be addressed by the blockchain these environments are all owned and operated by a centralized entity that either owns its own dedicated servers or outsources its computing needs to centralized cloud providers. These data centers are all geographically separated and located typically in large metros such as Atlanta, Dallas, New York, etc. And depending on a user’s proximity to the data center and their personal internet speeds they could experience latency, low ping, and slow connection speeds. But what if we could distribute the responsibility of providing computational resources across the entire network?


Peer Driven Collaboration

Enter Computecoin LLC, this crypto project is leading the way in innovation when it comes to providing a decentralized cloud computing platform in which developers can create shared experiences with greater ease. Computecoin is developing an ecosystem that aggregates CPU, memory, and storage resources from geographically dispersed nodes in its network and makes those resources available to developers and users accessing the ecosystem from any access point available to them. Computecoin’s public whitepaper details the innovation and patented technology behind its many systems and components developed by the project’s core members. These components are the Metaverse computing protocol (MCP), a Layer 1 blockchain with a new kind of consensus titled Proof of Honesty (POH), and PEKKA, described by Computecoin as its power source. This protocol aggregates data from different decentralized clouds allowing users to utilize computing power easily and affordably. Imagine virtual worlds built on a unified infrastructure that is secure, highly available, and high-speed. Projects like this will be bridges that connect metaverse environments to one another, changing the way we interact with each other over the internet forever.


Secure Design

While on the subject of security, we must consider the different vulnerabilities associated with blockchain and what some in the industry now consider traditional web 2.0 vulnerabilities which are still present in a web 3.0 implementation. While many attacks are mitigated inherently within blockchain, there are new blockchain exploits that any company or community must consider while designing their ecosystems. One challenge Computecoin specifically has set out to meet is the concept of verifiable computing, which is the practice of authenticating the results of outsourced computing tasks as discussed earlier, many companies outsource their computational tasks to other companies that own and operate data centers. So, how do these companies know that these tasks are not being tampered with and altered in any way? How do they ensure tasks are executed properly when hardware may differ between vendors? It depends on trust and arrangement between different entities and to eliminate the uncertainty of such agreements, we need a method of automatically authenticating and verifying the results of the data processed. Proof of honesty is the consensus method in which Computecoin achieves this authentication and works by providing rewards to “providers” that correctly complete tasks and punish malicious actors that attempt to exploit phishing tasks sent out at random intervals and concealed as real tasks. These phishing tasks are stored on nodes known as officers that keep a copy of the outcome of the phishing tasks in a repository and can verify tasks completed by providers. Other nodes will then act as judges that determine if the officer is correct and will then vote for the malicious provider to forfeit its rewards and award them to the officer node that caught them. This effectively ensures that the price of attempting to exploit the system is not worth the reward or potential loss.


Digital Ownership & Decentralized Applications

The final layer of the metaverse concept is the interactive layer, where the applications and peripherals we interact with are utilized. This layer has two issues rise above all others and that is the question of ownership and value. Value is the easier of the two issues to solve, humankind has been defining and re-defining value for thousands of years before the rise of the internet and will continue to do so for many to come. Supply and demand will always dictate the value of goods and services and can be replicated digitally with blockchain. The challenge is the question of ownership. How does a user prove that a particular digital asset belongs to them when it can be replicated, hacked, lost, or traded with greater ease than physical goods? Despite their controversial reception Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) have attempted to answer this dilemma. While still early in their conception, NFTs have created a wild phenomenon within the crypto space. These digital goods are described as assets that are assigned a unique cryptographic identifier in a process called minting where the identifier is written to the blockchain and tied to the user that minted it. This asset can now be bought sold and traded as a commodity while ownership is being tracked publicly via blockchain. This system is not without its limits, however, and users are still susceptible to traditional attack vectors via phishing, key loggers, and spyware that can compromise access to ones digital assets by hacking the users public key based crypto wallet. Despite the risk, NFTs remain the best option for digital ownership and adoption is reaching beyond art trading into different markets such as video game rewards and internet domain names. If NFTs are meant to represent goods in the metaverse, then DAPPS or decentralized applications are the services these programs come in the form of sophisticated smart contracts or fully featured virtual applications that allow the users to interact with NFTs and other digital assets. The main advantage these applications have is user privacy and availability because they are hosted via blockchain and distributed across the network they are not subject to the same data collection processes that centralized applications employ. This fact puts security and privacy back into the user’s hands for better or worse this model ensures a free and open internet.

The promise of a true shared virtual experience is ahead of us, but it does not stop there. Secure shared computing can lead to innovations in data science, probability, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing and is a genuinely exciting prospect. We are looking at the pilot stages of a new kind of internet, one not limited to large cloud providers, one where the user’s data security and privacy are paramount. While Computecoin, Ethereum, Cardano, and Solana may be among the first they are not the only organizations catching on. Recent job listings from VMware for blockchain software engineers are signs that the big infrastructure players are in the game to become the most ambiguous far-reaching cloud platforms available and thus be the first pioneers in the new metaverse.

References

  1. Computecoin Network White Paper,ComputeCoin_Whitepaper.pdf (amazonaws.com)

  2. Sam Sehgal. “Blockchain and Smart Contracts Security.” Security concerns with blockchain (linkedin.com)

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