Blockchain-Powered Supercomputer: How to Use Bitcoin Mining’s Enormous Capacities

Cointelegraph caught up with Sergey Ponomarev, CEO at SONM, working to build a supercomputer powered by blockchain technology.

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Blockchain-Powered Supercomputer: How to Use Bitcoin Mining’s Enormous Capacities

Blockchain technology, which is gaining traction across different industries, might provide a solution for making more economic and efficient use of all the computing power that is going to waste while our PCs, laptops and other mobile devices are standing idly.

So, how is it possible to build an Airbnb or Uber for computers, open for anyone willing to lend their device for computing resources and get paid for that?

Cointelegraph caught up with Sergey Ponomarev, CEO at SONM, working to build a supercomputer powered by Blockchain technology.

We need more power!

The demand for computing power from industries and scientific communities for processing enormous amounts of data and running large applications is huge and increasing exponentially, as well as the need to process operations at a faster pace than ever before.

As for the computing power market, it is largely centralized today with global giants like Amazon, Google, Microsoft and IBM holding significant market share. This, in turn, reduces the pricing efficiency of computing services and makes the computing market generally unstable and easy to control.

SONM has been working on the solution to allow millions of miners worldwide to start supplying computing resources through the SONM Application Pool.

It has been noted before that GPU mining is becoming less and less profitable due to the significant increase in mining difficulty. Besides, many cryptocurrencies are going to migrate to a proof-of-stake algorithm making mining equipment practically useless. But GPU mining farms are basically general-purpose computing systems with standard CPUs, sufficient amount of RAM memory and a hard drive. So these resources could potentially be opened up for an access to those demanding computing power.

For instance, according to publicly available data, Amazon EC2 C3 Instance Cluster computing power stands at 484 Flops = 0.0004842 EFlops, which is approximately 0.012 percent of the total computing power of all mining equipment (according to SONM calculations the total computing power of altcoin miners’ resources is as high as ~4EFlops). This is not taking into account idle computing power not used in mining, including PCs, mobile devices, game consoles, etc. Provided with a platform for efficient distribution, these computing resources could eventually prevail on the market.

How to make use of enormous Bitcoin mining capacities

Ponomarev, CEO and founder at SONM, has been working in the field of useful calculations since late 2013. He became obsessed with the idea of making use of Bitcoin mining capacities outside the cryptocurrency space. He was going through various fork options until he faced the key limitation - performing calculations directly on Blockchain is not rational, besides it was impossible to create the full P2P scheme. This is how he came up with the idea to create concentration hubs.

Ponomarev has successfully completed a study focusing on this issue and started looking for a developer with an already built platform. Through the Russian-speaking community of BOINC, Ponomarev met Andrey Voronkov, who had been conducting research on medicines in Norway.

At that time, Voronkov had been struggling with the inefficiency in computing power for biomedical resources. He founded a DrugDiscover@home project, a distributed computing project, which uses the power of different computing devices worldwide (PCs, GPUs, smartphones, clusters, etc.), provided by volunteers to contribute to the discovery of new drugs for cancer, age-related diseases, as well as the development of antibiotics and antivirals. Together with Ponomarev, they embarked on a journey to build a global supercomputer.

SONM attracts “neighboring” hubs and deploys unique PoE technology for undetermined computations (e.g. launch of applications, hosting, machine learning, etc.). The platform is built on Yandex.Cocaine which supports a variety of programming languages.

Ponomarev notes:

“Alignment of programs represent an important concern. OS parameters of a customer’s device and the one of a developer can differ significantly, which might result in errors when launching an application. SONM managed to solve this problem by implementing Docker Container into the system.”

He notes that SONM architecture is an extension of many other existing projects, and migration to Yandex.Cocaine, an open source PaaS with a large Russian-speaking community, is one of the most important strategic decisions. As a result of this decision, founder of Cocaine Anton Tyurin joined the SONM team.

Compatibility is a challenge

Development of a supercomputer is certainly a very ambitious task and implies certain challenges. Geographical distances between suppliers of computing power and those in need for it, network congestions and signal collisions are some of the key challenges faced in the field of distributed computing. Besides, devices need to be able to communicate with each other to trade computational resources in real time, therefore they need to be compatible.

As noted by Ponomarev, building SONM architecture itself represented a challenge; an enormous amount of time and resources have been invested into combining platforms and systems that allowed for higher security and universality, particularly the integration of Yandex.Cocaine.

Ponomarev says:

“PaaS technology with open source code, a wide variety of other platforms including BTSync, Whisper, ensures faster exchange of data and communication between nodes, as well as the implementation of Ethereum smart contracts.”

Besides that, SONM is challenged to ensure the highest level of security. At the moment, the team is testing a complex, multi-level, anti-fraud system, which is deploying both mechanical and reputational security tools.

Keeping up with the competition

For a long time, SONM has been considered as a key competitor of Golem. However, the CEO of SONM explains to Cointelegraph:

“The project of Polish developers Golem is focused on the development of their own platform, and they moved away from deploying existing solutions in the field of computing, therefore risking getting stuck trying to invent a bicycle and find solutions that have already been found.”

Compared to Golem, SONM is making use of existing platforms. Initially, the platform was planned to be built on BOINC platform, however, the SONM team decided to change their strategy.

Ponomarev tells Cointelegraph:

“Working with BOINC we have faced a few issues, particularly the fact that BOINC platform supports programming languages limited to C++, FORTRAN and Python, and is generally not that universal. Therefore, we have made a decision to migrate to Yandex. Cocaine, which is more flexible and convenient. The platform is the key to universal services and, generally, the implementation of fog computing.”

To beat global giants

At the moment, the SONM team is investing time, energy and resources into establishing a team of high-end developers, who could work and deliver results according to the SONM roadmap. Besides, SONM is getting ready to launch an alpha version and a user prototype.

The SONM team gave a little sneak peak into what is coming next. Once the alpha version is launched, they are planning to release a teaser presenting endless amounts of use-cases for the platform.

Ponomarev says:

“We decided to make a teaser through a server of popular game Quake. With the unfolding of service locators, we expect companies of AAA class to start purchasing SONM services. We are planning to attract hosting services, which are now working with Amazon. End users and leasers will realize the benefits of hosting websites and applications on SONM platform, as decentralized computing will be much cheaper than those cloud services provided by industry giants.”

Step by step, SONM is planning to provide solutions for a wide range of issues. For example, it will be possible to use the platform for computing in science projects, hosting of applications and websites, game servers, neural networks, as well as CGI and video rendering.

Ponomarev noted that the project was met with enormous interest in the Blockchain community. The team has managed to collect $500,000 within 10 hours of pre-ICO.

There is a huge belief that distributed computing will be able to shake off cloud services from their pedestals. Ponomarev says that it is very important for them to see huge support from the community, as the next step they are planning is to test their platform with companies which are ready to replace AWS, an alike with the fog computing platform developed by SONM.

If you are interested in what SONM is working on, be sure to find them at Consensus in New York and at the Blockchain Expo in Berlin. They are open to starting discussions not only with experts from the Blockchain industry but also with those who are full of enthusiasm to work on use-cases for the SONM platform and test it once it is launched.