The growth of blockchain technology, fed by the rabid nature of investors looking to make a quick buck, has been accompanied by a copious amount of bloated descriptions that sell the advantages of the technology in every possible industry. Just because the technology can be applied in several scenarios doesn’t mean that it should. Sometimes centralized solutions are more suitable for a certain use case than a decentralized one (however inflammatory this may sound, this is true.)
However, one application that has been receiving a lot of attention, but where the attention is also completely warranted, is that of the cloud computing space. Rife with several projects that are employing their own distinct solutions to make cheaper and faster the processes of cloud computing, which cover both commercial and enterprise-level use cases.
The fact that several legitimate projects focusing on this particular use case is a testament to blockchain’s suitability for the purpose. Besides covering a considerable number of use cases that are applicable to all levels of users, such networks also possess the capability to let users with the most barebone of computers to earn money by renting out idle computing resources to others on the network. The strong economic incentive inherent in these networks, which makes the cloud computing niche an almost unavoidable investment for the ardent crypt investor, is something we will discuss shortly.
Our attention will turn to the Golem Network (GNT) project, which happens to be one of the most popular and well-documented of projects in the cloud computing niche.
History of the Golem Network Token (GNT)
Headquartered in Warsaw, Poland, the Golem Network project was launched in 2016 by co-founders Julian Zawistowski, Piotr Janiuk, Aleksandra Skrzypczak. Golem raised $8 million in its ICO held in November 2016. The team has described the project as being the “AirBnB” for computers, which is an accurate way to describe the features of decentralized cloud computing projects.
The team considers the Golem Network team to be both an Infrastructure-as-a-Service and Platform-as-a-Service, with the intention of giving users a viable alternative to the expensive, slower and less secure options of centralized cloud computing. The project has been in existence for roughly 3 years, with the team taking a slow and steady approach to development.
In June 2019, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Julian Zawistowski and Chief of Operations (COO) Andrzej Regulski resigned from their respective positions and formed the Golem Foundation, a non-profit which, in their own words, was built to pursue “new – perhaps innovative and experimental, and at the same time riskier – approaches to the value proposition for Golem and for the Golem Network Token (GNT).” The two were replaced by Piotr Janiuk and Aleksandra Skrzypczak respectively.
The roadmap of the project splits development into 4 phases, each accompanied by major changes to the network. These phases are: Brass Golem, Clay Golem, Stone Golem and Iron Golem. The name Golem comes from the mythical creature of Jewish folklore.
Golem is currently in its Brass Beta phase, with the features and updates of the Clay Golem phase under development. Given the complicated nature of the systems that make the Golem Network function, it is outside the scope of this article to give a detailed analysis of each of the milestones that have been accomplished within the Brass Golem phase. Brass Beta has already launched on the Ethereum mainnet. The primary focus for this phase was getting the first use case up - CGI rendering - up and running. Milestones that were crossed in this stage include the basic task definition scheme and application registry, the integration of IPFS, basic UI, basic reputation system, and much more. This phase lays the basic infrastructure for future development.
Clay Golem, which is under development, focuses, among many other things, on a basic task API, an initial transaction framework model, support for virtual machines, and the use cases of machine learning and computational chemistry. Stone Golem will bring full task APIs, the application registry and support for SaaS. Iron Golem, the last phase, will bring external data links, a Golem web client, additional security mechanisms, a Golem developer toolkit, advanced transaction systems and a Golem standard library, besides much else.
The team is highly transparent with development progress, and a detailed Trello board keeps track of their work. A Trello board for Brass Beta shows what is in development and what has been completed, while a separate board details their mid term goals for 2019.
While being the AirBnB of decentralized cloud computing may be the project’s short and medium term goals, the project has a much grander long term ambition - facilitating the creation of Web3, otherwise known as the decentralized internet. Web3 is a rapidly growing development focus that seeks to revamp the current internet model with more secure, fair and open protocols - and features the participation of such names as Gavin Wood, one of Ethereum’s co-founders, who is the founder of the Web3 Foundation Council.
Purpose of the Golem Network Token (GNT)
The GNT token is an ERC-20 token that, like all networks with a strong economic incentive, is employed to great effect to encourage network participation. At the most fundamental level, Golem’s core services lets users earn money from renting out computing resources to others for various use cases that might require a large amount of computing power.
The primary stakeholders in the network are the requestors, who ask for the required computing resources; the providers or workers, who offer their idle computing power; and the software developers, who develop solutions and are paid in GNT when their applications are used. The Golem network is essentially a decentralized computing marketplace. One other notable feature is the fact that Golem utilizes the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS), an established P2P data storage and exchange protocol popularized by projects like FileCoin.
The team has several use cases in mind that cover multiple industries. These include CGI rendering, video transcoding, machine learning, scientific computation, finance-related tasks, natural language processing, business analytics and more. Software developers play an important role here - they will be responsible for developing their own use cases on the Golem Network and it is for this reason that the team considers the Application Registry and Transaction Framework to be one of the core elements of the network.
Golem has already integrated with Blender for a demonstration of its application in the CGI rendering use case. The next phase of development will bring two more highly practical use cases: computational chemistry and machine learning. Both of these are prominent tasks that require a lot of computational resources. By offering decentralized cloud computing solutions, Golem gives individuals and groups in their respective fields a cost-effective opportunity to carry out their tasks at speed.
The speed, cost and security benefits of Golem’s solutions are far-reaching and have potentially deep ramifications for several industries. The aforementioned use cases, the team has itself said, is but the tip of the iceberg. The true potential of Golem comes from the work that could be put in by software developers, who can develop their own solutions using the Application Registry. This is what makes Golem a true marketplace for decentralized cloud computing, giving individuals the chance to earn money passively, and software developers the chance to earn money as their specific solutions are used to the benefit of the other stakeholders.
While there have been no major issues or controversies surrounding Golem Network, per se, there are two particular obstacles that Golem faces in its bid to become the premiere decentralized cloud computing platform.
The first is that it is developing what is certainly one of blockchain technology’s most complicated applications. There are several concerns surrounding security and reliability with decentralized cloud computing. The team is certainly doing a commendable job of keeping the community updated with thorough updates and descriptions of milestones - nonetheless, such a network brings with it some complex challenges, which the team are well aware of and are doing their best to overcome. The release of several features - fully operational - are a testament to the team’s commitment to the effort.
The complexity of the goals at hand are also likely behind the second, relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, issue with Golem’s development: there have been a few delays with some of its releases. This is something that occurs relatively frequently with major changes to networks (just take a look at Ethereum, for example), and perhaps investors have rather prematurely voiced concern over it.
Golem Network does not have much in the way of partnerships, being a yet relatively nascent project whose focus is the development of its network and major features. That being said, the team has established a few strong partnerships with a few teams in various spaces. The team has explicitly stated that it is intent on integrating Golem’s solutions in various industries, including science, 3D rendering and the video games industry.
One of these partners is Hoard, a game development company also located in Warsaw. The implementation of Golem Network within the Hoard Code Compiler will allow developers to use joint desktop processing power. This involves a hub in which the admin of the network can automate the prioritization of tasks. The Hub assigns tasks automatically. Additionally, the team can earn GNT tokens by renting idle computing power out.
Hoard itself is working on the implementation of digital assets within video games - a highly discussed use case - using Ethereum and the Plasma technology. Hoard has also collaborated with another project which in the past has been associated with Golem Network - OmiseGO.
As it so happens, there is a good deal of competition in the cloud computing niche - once could even argue that it is the most competitive of niches in the blockchain space, besides that of the decentralized payments network/remittances space. There may even be up to 10 projects working on this use case alone, which happens to be quite complicated - although only a few have designed working products with a convincing roadmap for the future.
Some also happen to be working on particular aspects of cloud computing, as opposed to the greater basket of particular features that the Golem Network team is working on. For example, Storj is a cloud storage platform which offers users cheaper cloud storage features. SiaCoin and FileCoin are two other such projects.
Among these competitors are iExec (RLC), MaidSafeCoin (MAID) and SONM (SNM), the former two especially being competitors that match Golem in terms of development progress and popularity (although MaidSafeCoin has been around for a long time, and is well known for its methodical approach).
Given the fact that there are so many projects in this niche, and that there is much work to be done before the features can become product-ready at a large scale, there is some uncertainty as to which project will become the market’s go-to cloud computing network.
It is without a doubt that, among the many potential applications of blockchain technology, cloud computing is one that will find itself among the most celebrated. There is no argument about that - it is imply cheaper, faster, and more secure than the centralized alternatives of today.
For this reason, from an investment perspective, it is logical to make an investment in a project or two in this niche. However, which project emerges as the ultimate cloud computing platform, with reliable services that cover a broad range of use cases, is a question that cannot be answered at the moment. This remains one of the more complicated decentralized solutions, and certainly security and reliability will be some of the biggest challenges, and one of the deciding factors for the success of, for any and all networks in this space.
The Golem Network Team, however, is well aware of that, and has charted a detailed and thorough roadmap that plots the course that such a network might take. Competition may be tough, but Golem Network stands as one of the top of the bunch.