What is the motivation for Blockchain-Attached storage?
The Cloud has penetrated our lives in almost every aspect and stores a considerable amount of our data. You may wake up looking at your phone at either email or social media. Practically any app can be delivered from the cloud to your phones, and the content, messages, photos, files, data that you browse are stored in the cloud.
“The cloud is someone else’s data center” – your data is stored in “their”, i.e. cloud provider’s data center. Cloud services are built to be easy to consume, use more of, become habitual, and before you know it, your entire data collection might gravitate to the cloud. For many companies, the cloud has become the first data center or an alternate one. Cloud providers deliver and operate services that take away the burden of running, hosting, and delivering services. They make it turnkey and incentivize you to seed data at very attractive prices. You may use even more cloud services for convenience, speed, operational efficiency, or initial TCO, to “go green” by closing your data centers, or for other reasons. Is there even a downside?
Do you fully own your data?
Software as a service runs on multi-tenant infrastructure, which means your data is processed by the service in the same infrastructure as other tenants. These are tenants you have never met, do not know, or have any control over.
It is like sending packages over a cargo plane that stocks packages from other senders and are headed to the same destination literally through the clouds. This is acceptable until you find out that the cargo plane operator opens your package and that of other senders collects data on what you are sending and to who, how often you send the same thing and other such data. They go one step further to using that data to sell ads to you and to other senders that lets you know that there is a better way to send, say die-cast cars, on Christmas eve, knowing your nephew loves cars and that you send gifts to them every Christmas.
You pay with Cash, Privacy, and Time
Would you feel your privacy is violated if the above happened to you? You are not alone. 81% of US residents say the risks of sharing data with cloud providers outweigh the benefits. An average consumer spends roughly $240 per year just on cloud storage subscriptions. It does not stop there; they are subjected to roughly 5000 ads per day.
The problem in storing data such as photos in the cloud via photo apps or social media is that your privacy is compromised, analytics are run on your data to serve the provider more than it serves you and therefore the incentives are not aligned. Is the convenience and ease of sharing data online via cloud services worth compromising your privacy, time, and attention?
Taking control over your data with Blockchain-Attached Storage (BAS)
We have illustrated the issue with the concentration of data in the hands of a few large companies. These companies put fences around your data, leverage the data for analytics, market intelligence, value-added services, ads, and other revenue streams. They make it harder to ascertain that data is deleted after we unsubscribe, and in general they take control of our data. Blockchain technology has enabled several similar use cases that remove the third party in the middle, e.g. Decentralized Finance (DeFi).
When applied to data storage and sharing, the concept of Blockchain-Attached Storage
- Can ensure that there is a free market of storage providers and consumers
- Box owners become consumers and providers of storage at the same time
- Give owners of data complete control over their data
- Share data with intended recipients without the oversight of any storage provider
- Ensure all data operations are verifiable and fully secure
Further, it should ensure that incentives are aligned for providers and consumers; i.e. providers are incentivized to store data for a committed time, guaranteed retrieval, and copies stored in a distributed manner to ensure recovery. For consumers, this means that data is available for a fraction of the cost they would pay cloud providers without the risks to the privacy of their data.
Blockchain-Attached Storage needs a holistic solution
To realize the true intent of Blockchain-attached Storage as outlined above, an end-to-end solution that enables providers to participate at scale and for consumers to store and share data. Three pillars, hardware, software, and incentives are needed:
- Generic Hardware, aka Box, enables providers to plug and play to provide storage pools. Anyone anywhere should be able to provide storage that joins a pool and stores anyone’s data. No large data centers, this is a big bang that breaks it down into atomic infrastructure that anyone can provide, even from a bedroom of their houses.
- Software that enables consumers to store their data on available infrastructure. Store data in an immutable data store, fully secure and distributed to ensure SLA, RPO, RTO retention, and retrieval.
- Incentives that lure providers to participate and grow infrastructure they provide and guarantee storage and retention of consumer data.
- Incentives based on adoption and usage for open source developers of dApps that help manage data stored on blockchain-attached storage.
We will go into detail on each one of the above aspects in subsequent blogs, but let us for a moment step back and see how Blockchain-attached Storage changes the story we began this post with. Instead of storing files on a cloud service, you would store it on Box provided to you, not by one service, but a group of users could be chosen by you or anonymous. Providers of this service may not know who you are, don’t have access to your complete data set, cannot use your data or peer into that cargo package, and thus cannot use it for any other purpose than to store your bits. All this is available to you for a fraction of the price you would pay cloud providers. A group of people can get together, pool their resources, and offer storage for your files. Pretty liberating, don’t you think?