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Blockchain-based marketplace offers cloud alternative: Q&A (Includes interview)

SONM is a computing platform where a variety of complex tasks can be carried out in one arena. The system was designed to be more cost-efficient than the average cloud service. It already hosts two global market audiences that are committed to computing power resources and cryptocurrency calculations.

To understand more about this alternative and the advantages it offers for the business community, Digital Journal caught up with Aleksei Antonov, the SONM company co-founder.

Digital Journal: How important is digital technology for business?

Aleksei Antonov: Digital technology is a key trend for all modern businesses, be it either small startups or corporations, or even state owned companies. We may even say, that digital technology are so important, that the whole business nowadays is completely relying on them, most business tasks are already implemented in digital. At SONM, we believe that digital transformation starts in every senior manager’s mind as a continuous process and no single person could handle that inside a company on its own. There is no magic “digitalisers” that could change the way your business works. So, if you want to digitize your business, start with your team.

DJ:. …And for blockchain?

Antonov: Blockchain is a brainchild of a digital age. Blockchain was born as part of the “Crypto currency” (Bitcoin) technology, and blockchain on it’s own has few value and has limited application. It is overhyped this days and people give it magical abilities to solve problems, but in fact this is just a flow of data records with signatures, that can not be modified.
Blockchain plays well in public environments, as part of a decentralised solutions, for example public currency, together with BFT consensus algorithm and cryptography methods. It also is a requirement to run decentralised smart contracts.

For business it may help only in cases when one business would like to build a truly decentralised solution, so it is usable for decentralised business or for a large pool of companies, wishing to act in strict consensus.

DJ: What are the limitations with cloud-based solutions?

Antonov: There are three main aspects that might be worth to mention in this regard. First, the cost-effectiveness. While the company start to consume more and more cloud services, they might suddenly take the most of the company’s profits.

Second, centralized geographical location of cloud services in a limited number of major data centers. You have a relatively small amount of options where your software will run, most times you do not even have a single datacenter of a chosen cloud provider in your desired couтtry of business. This may bring technical, legal and economic limits to your business scalability, for example if you need compliance.

Third, the bottlenecks of centralised cloud solutions. There are benefits and reasons to run your software in the cloud, however, if you do, you have network limitations, and processing limitations inside DC. In some cases you just can’t transfer all data to a DC, because network is limited.

In SONM market acquisition strategy we see the hybrid cloud-fog infrastructure as a first stage of fog computing adoption. In this case business critical tasks remain securely in the cloud, and the resource-intensive tasks migrate to the more cost-effective fog computing network.

DJ: What is a fog computing structure?

Antonov: At present, there is no single agreed concept of “Fog computing structure”. The authoritative participants of the IT industry, who formed the OpenFog Consortium, are working on the development of such a concept. SONM is also a member of this association.

From our point of view, in opposite to centralized cloud solution, fog computing structure is spread across the world. The minimal possible unit of the network — a fog computing node, could be for example a single home or office PC, a laptop, or a mining rig. Thus, you can execute your computing tasks at the clothest location.

At the same time, fog computing is a software architecture, it is when software may run in a distributed fashion. Imagine any blockchain-based solution (from coinmarketcap) – it is a perfect example of a fog computing application, this kind of applications do not need a DC hosting, they somehow run on the computers everywhere.

DJ: What are the advantages of this?

Antonov: First, geo-distribution. You may find computing nodes not only in your country of choice, but in your city of choice. Second, scalability. You may instantly acquire computing nodes all around planed on demand from global pool.

Third, cost-effectiveness. Fog computing allows you to choose from hundreds and hundreds suppliers, and access the most profitable solution, the one that is optimal for your specific tasks. From operational aspect, you’ll be getting the minimal latency and avoiding network bottlenecks.

DJ: How important is the decentralized aspect?

Antonov: SONM platform is a marketplace where clients find suppliers of computing resources and make deals. The marketplace itself is decentralized and is built on blockchain smart contracts. This leads to the one of the key features of the platform: dependency-free decentralization.

DJ: How does your model work?

Antonov: Hardware supplier installs SONM open-source software on his machine, this software analyses existing hardware, makes performance benchmarks, then places an offer to rent out this hardware on a decentralised marketplace. This offer is automatically optimised for best revenue for hardware supplier.

A customer launches SONM client, searches and filters the marketplace for a list of all computational resources available for rental on the assumption of it’s necessary configuration, geographic location and the desired rental time . He chooses the best option and makes a deal with supplier. This kind of deals are implemented using smart contracts.

DJ: How important is the use of tokens?

Antonov: At the core of decentralized architecture are the blockchain-based smart contracts. This requires the use of the cryptocurrency (tokens) for all deals between users, and doesn’t allow the use of fiat currency inside the system. To facilitate fiat payments special gates are implemented that allow the fiat-to-token exchange. The use of tokens for SONM is also important to protect investors, who backed the project in exchange for tokens during the ICO.

DJ: Which types of businesses will be interested in this technology?

Antonov: First of all, this technology has a big potential for companies specializing on compute-intensive tasks — Machine Learning, CGI rendering, Big Data. The second largest group of potential clients are companies that already use decentralized apps.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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