Billions of dollars are spent each and every year on tech infrastructure and the trend has been growing exponentially for the last five years. Cloud computing services like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Ali Cloud, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud are used on a daily basis by thousands of organizations, companies & individuals all over the world that fulfill their hosting, content distribution, database and security requirements through these platforms. If we just consider the earnings reported by AWS last quarter and the financial impact it has on other company verticals (ecommerce, advertising, tech development, research, etc.), Amazon as we know it today, just wouldn´t be possible. This is obviously, a multi-billion dollar business.
So how could blockchain technology improve the tech infrastructure ecosystem? Is there any room for improvements in the current status quo? Let´s analyze a couple of situations where blockchain tech could disrupt the landscape.
1 – Service Outages, Centralization & Geographical Regulations
According to SimilarTech, almost 400,000 websites depend on AWS for their hosting needs. If we consider that one of the most shocking outages during 2017 was so bad that even Amazon couldn´t warn their customers, this triggered a huge alarm for many companies. Companies, just can´t afford downtimes. They need their websites, contents, apps and databases running smoothly 24-7 and the idea of depending on a single centralized service doesn´t leave them much room for improvement.
The whole concept of cloud computing is based on providing multiple servers located around the world in order to mitigate the risks of web serving centralization. But is it really possible to establish a cloud computing business without some level of centralization? You can indeed have thousands of servers in the most remote areas of the planet but they will always respond to a single company, which controls them. Additionally, cloud computing companies always need to comply with local law and regulations and this situation may not always be optimal for companies looking for flexibility.
This represents a huge opportunity for blockchain-based tech infrastructure projects. By using the server & disk space and resources of millions of people all over the world, we could think about this situation in terms of cloud computing on steroids. Just to give you an example, projects like Substratum, Stratis and Storj (among others) have made it literally possible for anyone in the world to share its disk space and uptime with anyone requiring web hosting. You´d be basically renting your disk space and getting rewarded for this service with a token.
Many companies have started to experiment with the benefits of decentralized tech infrastructure at a small scale. This is a relatively new area that requires a lot of testing but companies with high tech requirements can obviously see the potential of risk mitigation in terms of hardware resources.
2 – Content Delivery Networks
The blockchain can entirely disrupt the tech infrastructure industry with decentralized Content Delivery Networks (CDNs). Let´s go over an example to illustrate its direct impact.
At present time, content creators (shows, series, etc.) are required to establish business deals with content networks like Netflix, Prime Video & cable operators. Once an agreement is reached, services like Amazon CloudFront and Akamai are usually used to properly distribute those contents to end-users. This model is completely centralized as what content gets distributed, when, where and at what price is solely decided by the content networks.
Based on blockchain technology, services like LivePeer & Viuly could completely decentralize content distribution channels. By generating a CDN where thousands or millions of computers provide the required computational resources, content creators would neither require centralized content distributors nor centralized tech resources to get millions of customers to watch their shows.
Using decentralized apps, thousands of computers around the world could act as broadcasters without the need to establish deals with third parties or spend lots of money on tech infrastructure. A CDN based on a decentralized platform would also enable high speed streaming based on geo-proximity. If this idea scales, it will definitely be an inflection point with direct implications on the entertainment industry. Many industry experts believe that decentralized CDNs could literally destroy content networks. However, if you have in mind that these companies allocate lots of money and resources to produce premium content on a regular basis, the likelihood seems very low. The blockchain will provide benefits for both: small and big content creators but in different ways.
Now, that was a good example for video content distribution. Extrapolate the same idea to other forms of content and you have something really powerful here. This is one of the many applications provided by blockchain technology that deserves a lot of attention in the upcoming months.
3 – Restricted Content
In many countries, there are many regulations when it comes to web browsing. On this aspect, the blockchain can also be a game changer. Countries like China, Russia, etc., prevent their citizens from accessing multiple websites. This is achieved controlling the access to the Internet through the ISPs. Customers always had the option to pay for a good VPN service but many people don’t have the technical knowledge, money or time to learn how to use one. Moreover, governments have been cracking down on VPN services and severe measures were taken to prevent users from accessing websites if there´s any trace of anonymity or false geo-location.
As we’ve previously discussed, by using third parties resources, websites´ owners can simply host their domains on other people´s computers distributed all over the world and store all their information with encryption. The ISP wouldn´t have direct control on these cases because a different DNS protocol would be used on the process to overcome censorship. Anyone willing to rent their server and disk space can earn tokens while helping others to avoid local restrictions and get decentralized web hosting at affordable prices. The system is algorithmically designed to scan all the contents in order to prevent third parties from storing nasty, illegal or undesired content while using other people computers.
This represents another great use case for the blockchain. Companies willing to avoid local restrictions could set up their websites, services, apps, databases, etc. using decentralized third party resources. It´s too early to know if decentralized hosting will actually work for big companies requiring high levels of security. Time will tell.
4 – Net Neutrality
It’s also worth mentioning that if we have in mind the recent changes regarding net neutrality, blockchain technology could be a blessing for users in the near future. Though this change is supposed to directly affect end-users rather than companies, the possibility of having ISPs adjusting prices discretionally could have direct implications on subscription-based business models. No surprise here, Netflix and many others have immediately shown their concerns. On this context, blockchain technology could also help many content companies and distributors in the near future by decentralizing content delivery without the need to depend on ISPs rules. A decentralized CDN would allow companies to cut down on tech infrastructure costs and forget about ISPs price schemes.
Amazon, Microsoft and all the big actors in the tech infrastructure are aware of the short and long term potential of blockchain technology and they definitely don’t want to miss the boat. Though it’s hard to imagine at present time hundreds of blue chips transitioning their entire infrastructure requirements to a decentralized option, this is one area where companies will definitely want to experiment. Exciting times ahead for sure for blockchain technology.