The Need for Decentralized Cloud Computing

On an early August morning, users of Amazon Web Services (AWS) woke up to some rather startling and frightening news. Error messages indicated that services were down both for the Simple Storage Service (S3) and Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) solutions that Amazon provides. This severe outage lasted well into the afternoon and early evening before Amazon finally notified its customers that the problems had been corrected and services restored. While the outage lasted less than a day, it sparked a new discussion about what caused it and, just as important, how to prevent such outages from occurring in the future. For some, the solution to the problem was clear: decentralized cloud computing. While some have rejected this idea, proponents say the benefits of a decentralized cloud network are worth pursuing, especially when it comes to future outages.

When people ask questions like, “what is cloud computing?” they are usually speaking of the more traditional model that’s been in use for many years now. Centralized cloud computing is the method favored by the most prominent cloud providers in the world. Amazon Web Services obviously subscribes to it, as does Microsoft Azure, Dropbox, Google Drive, and many more. The simple fact that the cloud has taken off so quickly is testament enough to its usefulness. The cloud grows every single year, and customers keep hopping on board, ready to take advantage of the many benefits cloud computing provides. But what if there were a better way?

Supporters of decentralized cloud computing believe their method solves many of the most common problems the centralized model encounters. Take the outages problem that was illustrated above. Part of the reason so many of Amazon’s cloud services were affected was that AWS has a central point of failure. If that central point goes down or is compromised, other services connected to it feel the impact. Every area relies on each other whether they be used for computational power, storage space, or other services. As can be seen in the massive Amazon outage, even if the problem is localized, it can quickly spread, corrupting the whole system and creating an enormous inconvenience for customers.

The decentralized cloud can prevent these types of outages in the future. In fact, supporters say the very possibility of a massive outage like the one Amazon experienced is an impossibility because there is no central point of failure. If one node were to go down for any reason, that wouldn’t bring down the whole system. Instead, other nodes quickly kick in to ensure no services are lost. That means no costly downtime, and considering the damage that can be caused from an extended outage, many businesses may soon start to consider decentralized cloud computing as a viable alternative.

Decentralized cloud computing can also contribute to greater security and more privacy. This is achieved in part because the decentralized model creates a mesh network -- a peer-to-peer community where information is stored in multiple locations, not just on one server. The only way to access certain information is to have the correct encryption key, which would only be possessed by the original owner of the data. This is the same technique seen with some decentralized cloud network providers like Storj. If a cyber attacker were to infiltrate part of the network, the data would be useless and incomplete.

The decentralized option is essentially like a community shared cloud, where different nodes and access points work together for storage, computations, processing power, and more. This “shared burden” approach can also make using the cloud even cheaper. Considering that a lower cost is one of the reasons organizations have been so quick to embrace the cloud, the cheaper option provided by decentralized cloud computing is one that businesses will likely think about in the near future.

While decentralized cloud computing remains a niche market, the common problems seen with the centralized cloud may result in the decentralized option growing in strength and market share. The decentralized cloud can solve the issue of massive outages, while also improving security, lowering costs, and increasing processing speeds. As the cloud continues to mature and companies become more familiar with it, they’ll likely entertain alternative solutions, ensuring their businesses can grow and achieve new levels of success.