We’ve all been there; emailing a document to ourselves so that we can open it at work, bringing our own laptop somewhere because we need access to a specific program, or having to remember 15 different passwords when we are using someone else’s device. These common problems all share the same denominator; localized computers. There are plenty of services available that alleviate some of these issues, but none of them come close to actually solving the greater problem of seamless integration. Our digital lives are too segmented. We use multiple services in conjunction to accomplish single tasks, but it may be that blockchain technology contains the key to combining all of these separate parts into one service.
The Virtual Machine and You
In simple terms, the computer experience is governed by three parts: the capabilities of the machine, where your data is stored, and the specific applications you need to complete your tasks.
In a local setting, you are limited by the specifications of your device. If you need more RAM, a better graphics card, or a more powerful CPU to run a resource-heavy program, perhaps to edit a video from a family vacation, you have to go purchase the hardware then install it. However, with a virtual computer you can access all of these additional upgrades on demand, only paying what you need, when you need it. Buying a program is like buying a house, while using a program on demand is like renting a room at a hotel; you only pay for the time you spent there.
Many of us already use Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, iCloud, or one of the other numerous cloud storage options out there. The problem is that we don’t use them for all of our documents, and our local computers still contain the bulk of our stored data. When we need to take that data with us, we have to remember to upload it ahead of time or place it on a flash drive. On a virtual machine, however, our entire experience would take place in the Cloud through encrypted channels, meaning you could never forget to bring that document with you since it would be accessible (only by you) from anywhere.
From games to photo editing software, financial programs to utilities, there are countless programs that can be run on various operating systems. The problem is that we all have specific programs installed on our individual machines, and those programs are often limited to the operating system they are installed on, whether that be macOS, Windows, Android, or another system. In a virtual setting, your computer and its programs are accessible from anywhere, thereby making programs less dependent on individual operating systems. Because they are system independent, these programs wouldn’t have to be installed over and over on different machines, and your custom settings would always be waiting for you whenever you logged on.
The Blockchain as an Operating System
Cloud computing already exists, but it is expensive and riddled with security issues. Innovation in the field, specifically by incorporating blockchain technology, could lead to a variety of benefits to perpetuate the market.
No central governance
Current cloud computing is based on servers that are governed by companies who set the price, which are sometimes 10 times more expensive than their blockchain counterparts. In a blockchain environment, the price would be set by market demand, and would fluctuate based on how many providers were available. In the case of cloud storage giant FileZilla, they use “Storj [which] uses blockchain to track digital ‘farmers’ who, similar to Bitcoin miners, have signed on to allow an application to share excess network and storage capacity on their computers or servers. The blockchain electronic distributed ledger is also used to pay farmers in cryptocurrency.” — Lucas Mearian, Senior Reporter at Computer World.
With centralized cloud computing, outages are prevalent and a huge risk of time and money. In 2017 when Amazon AWS suffered a 4-hour power outage, it caused problems for hundreds of thousands of websites. In a decentralized approach, the files are stored across multiple nodes, with many more redundancies. However, because there is no centralized hub, you are dependent on the nodes (even if it is many hundreds) to maintain the integrity of the system. This enables increased availability so long as the nodes remain interested in maintaining the network, as well as conquering one of the biggest problems in cloud storage: security.
Data stored on a decentralized cloud benefits from being spread across many individual nodes (with sharding), not just spread within one data center. Put simply, it is the equivalent of taking a one dollar bill and cutting it into three pieces, giving each piece to a friend to place into their safe instead of depositing the whole bill into a bank. If a thief wants to steal the money, they have to break into three separate safes and reassemble the dollar bill, instead of just breaking into one bank. This makes it more secure not only against hackers, but also against natural disasters. “Since Blockchain is a decentralized network spread out across computers in different locations, there is no single point of weakness vulnerable to security breaches.”, Andrew Medal, Entrepreneur
Is a blockchain solution ready yet?
What’s keeping companies from jumping ship from traditional centralized providers to join the blockchain revolution could be a couple different things. The first, and arguably the most powerful, is that centralized providers like Dropbox have first-mover advantage (FMA), and companies are hesitant to try something new when their current service works, even if it could save them money. Individuals, however, have less fear when switching providers, as they may even be using both providers at once for a period of time to see which they prefer. Even if the decentralized approach was proven to be the optimal method, the underlying technology is still new and volatile, which can make potential users hesitant to become involved until it is the industry standard.
Decentralized cloud computing is still in its infancy, and because of that the market has the potential to not meet all of the users’ expectations. As more companies launch and become integrated with the market, more DApps will be released and this will increase usability. Plus, more competing companies means lower prices and more options. However, whether cloud computing is decentralized or not, it is still dependent on a stable Internet connection to function, which nearly half of the world’s population currently lacks.
As Easy as Logging On
Ease of access is what keeps many people from using virtual computers, whether that be because the software is too expensive, too limited, or just inconvenient. But what if using a virtual machine was as simple as using your local machine at home?
Friend Unifying Platform
FriendUP aims to remove the clutter from the cloud computing experience and make a connection to a virtual computer as easy as turning on a device. This device doesn’t have to be a computer, it could be a smartphone, a virtual reality device, or any other internet connected medium that allows input and visual output. FriendUP offers nearly endless possibilities for a variety of diverse consumers, no matter what specific problem they are aiming to solve, thanks to the marketplace’s integration with independently developed applications.
The average user will find it easy to create a virtual computer using a template, or if they wish they can customize every part of their experience from the operating system to graphics integration, default applications, and everything between.
This virtual environment will be assigned to their specific username, meaning they can access it from anywhere at anytime.
If they seek more advanced programs, the Friend Store contains a huge collection of applications that can be purchased or rented using Friend Network Tokens.
A more specialized example would be a university professor using the Friend Network to set up a Friend Cloud Computer template that contains all of the specific applications that his or her students will need to complete the course. In this template, the professor can also create libraries of information for the students to utilize, as well as a shared drive for students to submit assignments. When the semester begins, she can effortlessly create unique user accounts, assign them to students, and guide them to a video introduction to answer any questions. Students could access this digital environment from smart phones, computers, tablets, and more, meaning they don’t need to spend money on specific hardware or software.
Although FriendUP aims to encompass the market, they aren’t without competitors, the primarily centralized companies that currently exist. Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and the Google Cloud Platform all offer basic capabilities for storage, networking, and virtual computing, and all three of these providers permit clients to run applications on the Cloud. In the decentralized market, there are only projects for more specific purposes. Storj, Sia, FileCoin, and Genaro all focus on blockchain distributed storage, and many of them are still in development. However, the beauty of FriendUP is that all of these competitors can be utilized through the Friend Network, meaning that the more useful their competitors become, the better they can be implemented into FriendUP.
The Future of Cloud Computing
Local computers aren’t going away anytime soon, but that does not mean there isn’t space for cloud computing to grow as an industry. Gartner, a technology research company, predicts that the public cloud services market will reach $411 billion by 2020. That is nearly an 88% increase from the $219 billion in 2016. The largest growth seen is in IaaS (infrastructure as a service), indicating that even if we maintain local computers in the future, we will seek computing services on the Cloud, whether to process medical research, compile complicated code, or something else that our local machines simply cannot handle. No one can be certain whether or not it will be FriendUP that dominates the market, but it is clear that this industry will keep growing and that the void of the market will need to be filled.
About the author:
Kirill Shilov — Founder of Geekforge.io and Howtotoken.com. Interviewing the top 10,000 worldwide experts who reveal the biggest issues on the way to technological singularity. Join my #10kqachallenge: GeekForge Formula.