Distributed data storage: from cloud to blockchain
The search for the effective use of blockchain technology extends not only to the financial sector and everything related to it, but also to areas such as distributed data storage. Despite the relatively high efficiency and popularity, problems with traditional, that is, centralized, repositories still exist.
One of the most revealing and high-profile stories is the closure of the MegaUpload file hosting service, whose servers were physically disabled by the LeaseWeb provider at the request of US intelligence agencies. The founders of the service themselves were arrested.
A popular service such as Dropbox has been repeatedly compromised. It is noteworthy that, unlike many of its centralized competitors, Dropbox does not use data encryption, while each decentralized storage encrypts user data by default.
Unfortunately, most cloud storage services are subject to risks arising from centralization, and distributed systems with the inherent potential for continuous expansion can actually be much more effective both in terms of censorship resistance and in terms of security in general. And it is in the field of distributed data storage that the blockchain can radically change the situation.
If we talk about decentralized data storage as such, we can divide it into two types:
1) The principle of cloud storage.
2) The principle of operation of torrents.
In the case of cloud storage, such data storage is not entirely correct to call decentralized, because the system always has a single operator that rents equipment from third-party companies or has its own servers. One of the key problems of modern cloud storage is precisely the partial centralization of the entire system.
In the case of torrents, files can be stored by ordinary users, who thus contribute to the development of the network and, as it were, provide their data storage services in exchange for the ability to download files from other users. At the same time, such a network may contain quite large servers that store a large number of files, therefore, strictly speaking, this type of system contains its own risks of centralization. But the key drawback of torrents is the lack of clearly defined and tangible incentives for network members.
And here, by the way, we can recall the concept of the Permacoin cryptocurrency, which was proposed by the Microsoft Research working group back in 2010. Very simplified Permacoin is a torrent-like protocol with an internal token that is used to reward users for storing data. One of the prerequisites for working on the Permacoin concept for the working group was the desire to utilize the resources of miners in a more useful way than is the case with Bitcoin. True, mining itself with this decision would have been arranged differently than calculating hashes.
Thus, returning to cloud storages and torrents, it will be more correct and appropriate to use the term “distributed data storage” rather than decentralized.
And since the idea of using blockchain for distributed data storage lies on the surface, at the moment there are already several projects working in this direction. To date, projects that work in the direction of using the blockchain for distributed data storage and content distribution include: Storj, Sia, MaidSafe, Decent, LBRY Credits, FileCoin and others.
The project was launched in 2014. The SJCX token is issued through the Counterparty protocol, which runs on top of the Bitcoin blockchain. It is worth noting that recently, Storj representatives announced the transfer of the token and the main architecture of the project to the Ethereum blockchain, since maintenance within the Bitcoin network has become too expensive, and, most importantly, too slow. The transfer to Ethereum will take place after the next stage of raising funds through Token Sale, which starts on May 19.
At the moment, the cost of storing 1 GB of data with a bandwidth of 30 GB per month costs $ 1.51. At the same time, it is expected that after the project is transferred to the Ethereum blockchain, the cost of data storage will decrease.
The principle of data storage in Storj is simple enough. A file uploaded by a user to the network is encrypted so that only the owner has access to it. The result is divided into several parts and sent to the network.
The process of providing disk space for data storage in exchange for project tokens is called pharming. At an early stage of the project’s development, in order to start farming, you had to have 10,000 SJCX coins in your wallet, but later this rule was canceled.
The project team is originally from Scotland and has been developing infrastructure for decentralized data storage since 2006. The MaidSafe coin itself has existed and has been trading on exchanges since 2014. The token was issued through the MasterCoin protocol, which exists on top of the Bitcoin protocol. It should be noted right away that blockchain is not used in this project to achieve consensus, in fact, the use of a distributed registry is limited to the issuance of a token and the introduction of some additional functions.
At the moment, the first alpha version of the project is available on the official website, but the exact dates for the next releases are not yet known. In addition to storing data, MaidSafe offers secure access to user information without interaction with a third party. In simple words, no one needs to keep records of user files or information necessary for authorization, respectively, and only the owner has access to the data and their decryption.
All files uploaded by the user to the network are encrypted and divided into small parts called chunks, which are distributed throughout the network. Moreover, thanks to a complex authentication system, only the data owner has access to the final file and its chunks.
Instead of mining in the MaidSafe network, the concept of farming is also used, and the process itself consists in providing disk space and computing power of a computer for network maintenance and storage of files downloaded by users. As a reward for farming, users receive SafeCoin tokens.
It is worth noting that the currently MAID token (MaidSafeCoin) token is exchanged for the SafeCoin token, and the exchange procedure itself will be launched after the final release of the product. Given the specifics of bitcoin development over the past three years, there is a chance that this token will be released on top of another blockchain system.
The project has existed since 2015 and uses a blockchain that is close in its properties to the Bitcoin blockchain. SIA’s data storage logic is similar to MaidSafe: user files are encrypted, split into parts and distributed over a decentralized network. Access to user files is through a private key, so that no one except the owner can access the information uploaded to the network. The reward for providing disk space is distributed in SIA tokens.
The calculations about the cost of storing data in the SIA network presented in comparison with the popular cloud storages presented on the project’s website are also interesting. According to the presented calculation, storing 1 TB of information in the SIA network will cost at least 10 times cheaper than on services such as Amazon S3 or Microsoft Azure.
Instead of a conclusion
At the moment, distributed data storage, along with distributed computing, is one of the main trends in the blockchain economy. Many projects are still at an early stage of development and testing hypotheses, respectively, it is too early to talk about real competition with centralized storage services. But if the growth dynamics of the blockchain market continue, soon distributed storage on the blockchain will compete with each other. And the main parameters of competition will be speed, scalability, security and low cost of services.