In its short definition, iExec RLC is a decentralized cloud computing solution built on the top of blockchain technology. In the iExec ecosystem, developers can easily rent computing power, servers, and data centers. All of these transactions are directly done on the Ethereum blockchain with iExec’s native cryptocurrency called RLC. With this article, we will dive deep into the iExec RLC project as well as the problem it is trying to solve.
The Centralized Cloud Computing
So, the world, as we know today, is big business for cloud computing industry. For you who don’t know much about cloud computing, basically, it is an industry that tries to solve the problem with expensive storage, processing power, and applications. Instead of trying to buy and optimize all these hardware types of equipment, nowadays, developers and companies can just use ‘cloud computing’ and connect directly to the cloud and start developing.
Some analysts claimed that cloud computing business could get as big as $400 billion by 2020. Everything actually makes sense. With cloud computing, companies can easily avoid unnecessary costs for IT departments, hardware maintenance, and physical space allocation. Nowadays, companies can just ‘pay’ for what they actually need, and they won’t have to spend more than what they require. For example, Netflix is 100% run on Amazon cloud computing service. The demand for cloud computing gets larger every day.
The largest tech companies in the world typically have their own cloud computing department. Amazon has Amazon Web Service (AWS), Microsoft has Microsoft Azure, IBM has IBM Cloud, Google has Google Cloud Platform, and Alibaba also has Alibaba Cloud. Each of them probably has at least 50,000 servers.
So, Why Do We Need Decentralized Cloud Computing?
In its basic definition, a decentralized cloud computing means a service like AWS but decentralized. The idea here is to use individual computers from all over the world to form one giant network instead of multiple data centers in centralized locations. Remember that cloud computing and data storage solutions are two very different things. Some people often think the two are interchangeable, but they are actually not. A decentralized data storage solution is like Sia or Filecoin. Think of a service like OneDrive but decentralized. Now, for decentralized cloud computing, companies can rent the idle computing power from the network (and not storage space).
Perhaps, the biggest question that comes to mind is that, why would anyone choose a decentralized cloud computing solution like iExec and not just go directly with Amazon? Well, to be fair, with the current technology, it would be hard to compete with the likes of Amazon. iExec’s biggest selling point is that it utilizes the blockchain to eliminate a single point of failure as well as to ‘redistribute’ the influence of the people. But apart from that, it seems the reliability and speed of centralized cloud computing are still better.
History of iExec
At the time of this post writing, there’s not much available information about the history of iExec. Most likely because the project itself is not that popular compared to other altcoins. What we know is that iExec project has a headquarter in Lyon, France. The founders are Gilles Fedak and Haiwu He. Gilles Fedak is the CEO while Haiwu He is the head of the Asia Pacific region. Meanwhile, Oleg Lodygensky acts as the CTO.
The cool thing about this project is that six of the core team have PhDs, with four of them have been doing cloud computing business for more than ten years. Haiwu He, Gilles Fedak, Oleg Lodygensky, and Mircea Mora (acts as a business developer) all have been developing Desktop Grid applications, and this is why they now are in the iExec project. After they encountered Ethereum in 2016, they believed the blockchain could help them create a distributed cloud computing service based on Desktop Grid computing.
iExec project was funded through initial coin offering (ICO). The ICO was launched on April 19, 2017, and at the time, it successfully gathered $12 million from the early enthusiasts. There’s not much history apart from the ICO itself. Fast forward two years later, iExec has a market cap of $27 million with Binance as its main liquidity provider.
Use Cases of iExec
Once again, iExec is ‘live’ on top of the Ethereum blockchain. If iExec fully utilizes the Ethereum blockchain with onchain computing, it would clog the network. That’s why iExec uses offchain computing. The idea here is that decentralized apps (dApps) have to ‘connect’ to the offchain computing, and then the data and results would be brought back straight to the Ethereum blockchain for verification purposes. By doing this, dApps developers can easily utilize iExec’s decentralized cloud computing power way more efficiently. This solution is far better than the Ethereum Virtual Machine (Ethereum VM).
There are some partners that can demonstrate the power of iExec. The first example is Flixxo. For you who don’t know, Flixxo is basically a decentralized alternative to YouTube. Imagine if Flixxo was built directly on Ethereum. It would require a massive amount of computation, and Flixxo would be extremely slow to operate. But with iExec’s cloud resources, Flixxo is able to run its operation just fine.
Another example is the Request Network. Request wants to become the automatic auditing machine on the blockchain. Well, auditing financial reports can be resource-intensive. That’s why they choose to partner with iExec, because only the results of the audit need to be ‘stored’ on the Ethereum blockchain.
And then, there’s AI chessbot created by Stockfish. Considering it utilizes AI, you cannot really expect the Ethereum blockchain to be able to handle all of the complex movements of the chessbot. With iExec, all the computational power required to process the AI movements are stored offchain, and only the move results would be brought back to Ethereum.
All of these examples above proved that it’s actually possible to utilize Ethereum blockchain for complex and resource-heavy tasks, but you cannot just do everything onchain. Thankfully, we have iExec that provides offchain solution despite still maintaining its ‘decentralization’ ideology. Imagine if, in the future, we want to utilize all kinds of use cases on the Ethereum blockchain, such as big data or artificial intelligence. You need a perfect solution to do everything offchain. iExec can be that perfect solution.
Fortunately, there’s no known controversy around this project. It seems the team has not participated in any kind of public controversy or fight. The team is free from controversy, but it is also free from any kind of heavy publicity. If the project can become more popular and its native cryptocurrency (RLC) can get a higher market cap, it’s possible the project would eventually get involved in bigger publicity (and thus, controversy as well).
RLC Token In The Crypto Market
iExec’s native cryptocurrency is called ‘RLC’. It stands for Run on Lots of Computers. You need to use RLC in order to access services in the iExec ecosystem. And just like most other cryptocurrencies, the health of the RLC token is often used as the deciding factor to judge whether iExec project is successful or not.
Well, at the moment (October 22nd, 2019), RLC is ranked 114th in the crypto rankings. It has a $27,554,142 USD market cap and a $671,061 USD daily trading volume. Most of the volume can be found on Binance, the most popular crypto exchange in the world at the moment.
Sadly, the above volume also means there aren’t enough buyers or sellers for the RLC token. So, if there’s an individual with a decent amount of money, and he wants to buy RLC on the crypto exchanges, it would be a bit hard unless he wants to wait for a few days to get more liquidity (the thing is, price can easily change within a short period of time).
Apart from some of the entities that we have mentioned above under Use Cases section, iExec has partnered with traditional companies as well. Some of the biggest names are IBM, Intel, and EDF. With Intel, iExec has showcased the world how Intel’s SGX trusted education could collaborate with blockchain technology to give an autonomous solution for the smart cities.
The other partner, IBM, has given access to iExec to use an IBM worker-pool. Also, the largest utility provider in France called EDF, has deployed blockchain applications by partnering with iExec. To see a more detailed partners list, you can go to the official website of iExec. Scroll down until you see the names of the partners and you can click each of the partner's logo to see what the partnership is all about.
There are some notable competitors to the iExec project. They are Golem (GNT), SONM (SNM), and Edge (DADI). Golem, especially, is perhaps the biggest rival to the iExec project. When people talk about ‘distributed cloud computing service,’ usually Golem comes to their mind before iExec. The cake, however, is still big enough to share. There’s no clear winner in the race so far.
Of course, outside the blockchain space, you can count on centralized cloud computing services as the biggest roadblocks for this project. AWS, Microsoft Azure, and other giant platforms are still ahead of iExec, Golem, and other blockchain-based solutions.
iExec and its native cryptocurrency RLC have significant potential to transform the cloud computing industry. However, it looks like the whole decentralization movement in this specific industry still needs more time to mature and to be able to compete with centralized platforms. It’s interesting to see the direction of iExec in the next few years. Let’s see!