Blockchain for Cloud Services.
Decentralization, whether you like it or not, has managed to creep into every aspect of life imaginable. Be it finance, supply chain management, healthcare, computing, and what not, blockchain has paved the way for faster, more efficient, and more trustworthy systems. The primary effects of the blockchain boom have been felt in the finance and the computing sectors, with cryptocurrencies like bitcoin being major beneficiaries. Another area where the features of a blockchain can be utilized are cloud storage services. With the increase in storage spaces required, it has become necessary to revolutionize and innovate in the field of cloud services. Blockchain for cloud services provides us with a platform to build better storage services, and to make a faster and trustier cloud.
How do the traditional cloud services work?
Traditional cloud services like Google Drive work on a few basic principles. They store user data in one of many data centers, which are equivalent to an off-site storage system for the user. When a user wants to view/edit/share his/her data, a request is sent to the servers of the company hosting the data, and then the server allows the computer to access the data. Usually, companies offer a limited amount of free storage, after which the user incurs storage charges for the extra space used. There are no maintenance or other fees, and the storage charges are usually paid annually. As mentioned before, Google Drive is a great example of a successful cloud storage site. But the real thing is that traditional cloud storage doesn’t come without its set of problems.
Problems faced by traditional cloud services
The most common issue is that the data centers are far away from the user’s location, and hence data delivery takes time. This is an understandable issue to have since it cannot be controlled by the company in which users will be close to a data center and which users will not. Also, the amount of storage needed is so much that large storage farms are needed. Controlling the temperature in and around these farms is a cause for concern, as damages caused due to overheating can lead to serious losses. The environmental aspect of these data centers is, thus, detrimental to our planet.
When it comes to safety, even if we ignore physical theft and catastrophes, data is not safe. As soon as other humans and companies get involved, human error becomes a factor. Also, there can be many situations where various third parties can access your data legally. This puts your personal data at risk. According to reports, large companies have already gone through personal, non-encrypted files of users, which further enhances the need for a proper solution to the vulnerabilities of traditional cloud storage services. Enter blockchain.
How does blockchain for cloud services solve these problems?
Over the past few years, the blockchain has emerged as a method to implement cloud storage services, which removes the chances of human error and increases trust in the system. Blockchain has already been successfully utilized by cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, and there is no doubt as to why we can’t employ blockchain for cloud services (storj and IPFS suggest we can, already). With blockchain technology being likened to the internet in the 90s, it could be the answer to an insatiable need for storage. Decentralization means that data is stored on independent-but-connected nodes, which eliminates the need for large storage farms, and the environmental impacts that come with it. It is predicted that by 2020, over 50 billion devices will be connected to the internet, therefore, an infinite amount of storage will be required. Blockchain for cloud services can help us to tackle the insane demand, mainly due to its decentralized nature. By using techniques such as splitting the data into parts and storing them onto separate nodes on the blockchain, both speed and security are increased. Thus, most of the problems that occur with traditional cloud services can be solved using blockchain for cloud services.
The main advantages of using the blockchain for cloud services
- Decentralization and privacy.
“Decentralized” is the word to focus on when it comes to blockchain for cloud services. Decentralized data ultimately means more security and privacy. All the parts of a file which are created due to sharding are protected with their own private keys. This helps in concealing the information contained in the files from other nodes on the network. Also, since a part of the file contains only some of the information, it means that reading the entire contents of a file is impossible until all shards are connected. Losses due to transmission and other factors are also minimized, as extra copies of data are stored in case of emergencies. Efficient resource usage is also ensured by the distributed nature of the blockchain for cloud services. It makes adding new nodes onto the network easier as well. Therefore, building a trusted network, and a complete platform is so much easier with blockchain for cloud services.
- Increased speed.
Blockchain for cloud services aims at bringing the ‘data centers’ closer to the user. If a user has extra hard drive space, he/she can rent it out to a blockchain based cloud computing service, such as storj, and get paid in return. This means that the probability of having your data hosted on a center near you is increased. When you upload some data on to the network, it will find the closest node and upload your data there. This means an increase in access speed and reduction of delivery delay time. Chain code could also be deployed because of its quickness to build the schema, initialize data values, and create methods to contain the business logic invoked by external transactions to update or query data.
Also, splitting apart, encrypting and distributing of files on the network ensures ease of access and shorter fetch times. If the service prefers not to split files, it can follow the example of Maidsafe, where the company aims to create a new backbone on which data can be stored and accessed.
A win-win situation for both host and guest, cloud storage services usually offer their own cryptocurrency tokens to people renting out their HDD space. Apart from the obvious speed differential, cost-effectiveness is also a huge factor, with blockchain-based cloud services costing only a fraction of what traditional services charge.
A follow-through from the first point, security is one of the biggest reasons why using blockchain for cloud services is so much better than traditional cloud services. In the blockchain, security of both data and identity is ensured by ways like no other. No third party has any control over any kinds of data, be it personal or public. Due to sharding, data remains secure, as complete contents of the file cannot be gauged from just one fragment. With users in control of their own private keys, it becomes impossible to read the contents of other users’ files. Also, blockchain for cloud services is far less likely to be hacked or taken down by people with malicious intent. The data is stored on distributed nodes, with no single data center being a possible large point of failure. Even if one node is attacked, it cannot take the entire network down, since the network operates independently of any single node. Hackers will have to take down all nodes simultaneously, which is a mammoth task to even plan out, let alone execute.
Use cases and examples
The blockchain is no longer the futuristic technology that is only shown in movies and TV shows. The blockchain is not the future of cloud storage, it is the present. Due to the many advantages discussed before, cloud storage companies have already adopted the blockchain to make their services faster, more secure and infinitely more efficient. Let us discuss some of the companies which have successfully utilized the blockchain for cloud services.
Sia utilizes the smart contracts of the Ethereum blockchain in order to rent or sell storage space monthly to users. A unique feature of Sia is that they use their own blockchain and cryptocurrency to maintain their cloud services. Their currency, known as the Siacoin, is given to miners as an incentive for verifying the blockchain.
Exchanges between those renting out their HDD spaces and those availing services are kept simple and to the point. At the end of the month, users pay for what they use and get paid for what they rent out. It’s that simple. And at USD 10 for 5 TB data for a month, it is one of the cheapest cloud services out there.
Another big name in blockchain for cloud services, storj utilizes the same concept as Sia for using people’s spare HDD spaces in order to provide distributed cloud services for its users. The main difference between Sia and Storj is that Storj utilizes the Ethereum blockchain for all its operations, but has no concept of monthly contracts like Sia. Also, Storj is not only for personal use. Its professional features can be explored on the official website, storj.io.
Their cloud services are highly secure. Storj cannot give other users access to your data, even if they wanted to, because they don’t have it. The sharing concept applied by storj also makes it impossible for hackers to decrypt the entire contents of your file.
The interplanetary file system is another distributed cloud storage provider. It works on the concept of distributed hash tables, generating hashes for files uploaded on the network. IPFS attempts to overcome the shortcomings of traditional cloud services by using a p2p file sharing system. It uses data structures such as Merkle trees to ensure that data blocks exchanged on p2p nodes are accurate and undamaged.
Since the blockchain has successfully proved that it can be utilized in any way, shape or form in all fields, then why should cloud services lag behind? Storj and IPFS have shown people that the presence of cloud services lies in utilizing the blockchain’s unique capabilities, and building a faster and more secure cloud.
Get in Touch!
Sodio has a wide array of Blockchain Development capabilities. Unsurprisingly, our team has been involved in figuring out how blockchain can revolutionize cloud computing. Feel free to get in touch with our team for any consultation regarding your blockchain based cloud services.