Cloud computing is a rapidly growing industry that has seen rapid growth since 2015, and is forecast to grow at an exponential rate well into the 2020s.
But there are several disadvantages to the cloud computing platform which lend to the creation of decentralized cloud computing platforms. Centralized cloud computing services are expensive, slow and comparatively less secure. Current market leaders Microsoft and Amazon are the go-to sources in a world that is becoming increasingly reliant on the cloud to conduct its business operations.
The statistics from a Gartner report are quite telling. In the early 2000s, Software as a Service (SaaS) was a key factor in driving business growth, but that has since been succeeded by Infrastructure-as a Service (IaaS) - and one could also include Blockchain-as-a-Service. BY 2022, the total investment in cloud services is expected to reach $331 billion, up from $182 billion in 2018. This is accompanied by the fact that over 30 % of technology providers considering cloud services investment to be a top priority.
Cloud computing is ripe for the application of Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLTs), and many projects have already been systems that show the possibilities of the solutions. Here, I’ll detail the history and purpose of the Aelf (ELF) project, the technology supporting that purpose, the partnerships it has formed and the competition it faces in what is a very competitive niche.
The History of Aelf (ELF)
Headquartered in China, Aelf (ELF) was founded in 2017 by Ma Haobo and Chen Zhuling. The project’s vision can broadly be described as offering resource efficient and highly performant blockchains that are customized for the purpose of each company. Specifically, the team wants to tackle the problems of performance, resource segregation and governance.
The whole vision of the project is centered around the focus on overcoming these challenges, in addition to bringing blockchain possibilities to existing businesses.
Aelf conducted its Initial Coin Offering (ICO) in December 2018, at the time of the great market boom. The project raised just under $25 million.
The Aelf team hit multiple milestones in 2018, including releasing the testnet and launching the innovation alliance. The goal of the alliance is to “encourage information sharing within the crypto and blockchain community, inviting businesses of all sizes to join the conversation and to seek counsel from some of the most prominent blockchain experts from across the globe.” Members include Signum Capital, FBG Capital, Rolan Berger, Michael Arrington and Celer Network.
2019 has been focused on a block explorer, the ELF wallet, exchange support, development and debugging tools, and developer support.
It should be noted that the roadmap is a little dated, though the team does offer updates from time to time.
The Purpose of Aelf (ELF)
The team has described the key objectives of Aelf as being the offering of a highly customizable OS that is efficient, cross chain interaction, customizable blockchains and seamless protocol updates. Essentially, the team ses current blockchain models as not being conducive for the creation of networks that serve corporate operations well.
The team does appear to have backed up its ambition of performing a high performance blockchain, with the team stating that the baseline performance is roughly at 15,000 transactions per second. That is a phenomenal level of performance that is more than suitable for its purpose, but is additionally strengthened by its sidechains.
The platform uses the Delegated Proof-of-Stake consensus algorithm and sidechains are at the heart of the services that Aelf has been built to offer.
Resource segregation comes in the form of each smart contract running on its own blockchain, which in turn offers high performance. Every full node also runs on cloud servers, which further increases performance. All side chains have full data integration with the main chain. Development for the side chain has been completed.
Aelf features an adaptable governance model that uses the DPoS, which is what EOS uses, to allow nodes to be elected by token holders. However, the DPoS model has proven to be vulnerable and has had doubt cast on it, including by Vitalik Buterin.
The team has envisioned several use cases already, including industries such as Internet of Things (IoT), digital identity management, financial services, insurance and smart cities, among others. The application of decentralized cloud computing services is virtually endless, as the world we live in is one that is inextricably tied to software.
Sidechains accept the ELF token both as a store of value and as a means of transfer. When a sidechain is indexed by the main chain, some tokens are locked in from the main chain. Transaction fees incurred on the sidechains are partially shared with miners on the main chain.
All of these features are suitable for enterprise blockchains, which are proving to be a very strong trend in 2019. The tools that the Aelf team developers and the business strategy that they take to enterprises will be critical to the adoption of the platform, and so far, they have made some progress in this regard, as we will see below in the partnerships section.
The Aelf whitepaper explains the technical underpinnings of the project in far greater detail. The whitepaper explains the concepts of sidechain indexing and “one sidechain, one smart contract” in extensive detail.
Aelf has formed several partnerships over the course of its existence, with most having to do with finding new and a diverse set of applications with the Elf token.
Probably the biggest partnership that Aelf has formed is that with Huawei Cloud. This is a cross-chain product that is aimed at enterprise clients, allowing developers to deploy applications using the software development kits and tools that have been provided. The goal is make the development process easier and get businesses off the ground quickly.
Amaten, Japan’s largest gift card exchange, is also collaborating with Aelf, with the partnership seeing the gift cards being transformed into digital assets using the Aelf Enterprise platform.
Aelf has also partnered with other blockchain projects, working with those projects such that there is a mutual leveraging of each platform’s strengths.
Among these partnerships is one with the Content Network Blockchain. The latter is focused on revamping the content industry with blockchain technology and the partnership will explore the ways in which the aelf token can be applied to content creation.
Another such partnership which is notable is with Poseidon Network, a mixed blockchain application platform that “optimizes the bandwidth of network content through distributed nodes and digital credentials.” Users on this network can contribute bandwidth, storage and computing power. Aelf’s role will be to serve as the platform upon which Poseidon Network’s smart contracts will be deployed.
Perhaps most significant of these is a strategic cooperation with Decentraland, the Virtual Reality focused blockchain project. This strategic cooperation allows users to buy virtual land on Decentraland using ELF tokens.
Aelf has partnered with HyperPay, a wallet that offers both hot and cold services. The partnership will see HyperPay use the advantages of Aelf’s blockchain to power its services.
Lastly, Aelf has partnered with VCC exchange, a digital asset trading platform that is backed by the Vietnamese government.
Aelf has several competitors in this niche and undoubtedly faces a big task if it is to become the go-to platform for its services. Granted, it is focused slightly on the enterprise side of things, but there are several projects that tackle this problem too.
Among its competitors are Golem Network (GNT), iExec (RLC), MaidSafeCoin (MAID) and SONM (SNM). Golem Network is probably its most accomplished competitor, with this project already having a working use case ready. The project has a clear path forward and is well known in the cryptocurrency circles. Similarly, MaidSafeCoin has a long development history and some clout in the cryptocommunity.
Not that the other projects are not capable competitors too. Distributed cloud computing is a very well known application, and there are projects working on more general usage as well as very specific points. Stroj, Siacoin and FileCoin, for example, all offer storage services on a distributed cloud.
The uniqueness in Aelf is that it is very enterprise focused and solves the problem of governance, resource segregation and scalability. But then again, the other projects tackle this in some way or the other as well. Many of them are ERC-20 tokens and will see the benefits of sharding and Casper that comes with Ethereum 2.0. Many also tackle problems like resource segregation in their own way.
So Aelf will have to prove itself in the near to long term future if it is going to convince investors that it is a solid project for investment. This is true of all projects in the niche, which is no doubt one of the most useful applications of blockchain technology.
Whether Aelf does remains to be seen, but there is certainly potential here. This project is worth keeping an eye on, that is for certain. The key indicator will be the extent of enterprise adoption of the Aelf platform.