Sun Microsystems, once a giant on the market of servers and network software solutions, used to advertise itself with a slogan ‘The network is the computer’. Julian Zawistowski, Andrzej Reguski, Piotr Janiuk and Aleksandra Skrzypczak – the founding team of Golem Project are actually making these words a reality again. Their slogan goes ‘Golem: worldwide supercomputer’ , but what they are trying to build isn’t actually a real machine, not in the traditional sense of the word. What they are trying to do is to create a new network protocol, a set of rules that enables machines to exchange the data. Just like they put it on the blog connected to their website: ‘Airbnb for computers’. Rent your unused CPU/GPU cycles and get paid in cryptocurrency. A decentralized network powering true cloud computing.
Andrzej Regulski, Golem Factory COO, likes to explain the concept by the following example: Let’s say you’re a graphic designer and you need to render a short movie, several seconds long, sixty frames per second. You can use your own computer and in the worst case scenario it will take you hours. In best – maybe a quarter . Of course you can do it faster and decide to use one of the cloud computing services, but it’s a rather expensive option. We want to give you another possibility. Thanks to Golem you can compute everything just in a few seconds, and really cheap.
Golem general concept is to create an infrastructure for the computing power market. It’s commonly known that billions of PC-s connected to the Internet, never use their processors resources fully. So, the projects like Folding@Home by Stanford University (where private machines scattered around the globe are making complicated calculations needed to create a model of human proteins folding in the cells) or SETI@Home by Berkeley University (searching for extra-terrestrial intelligence by scanning narrow-bandwidth radio signals coming from the outer space) proved peoples eagerness for sharing their private computing power absolutely for free, when important scientific questions are at stake. What if they could do it for profit? That could be an even stronger incentive than contributing for science improvement, don’t you think? Well, Golem creators would surely agree with that.
To understand it better let’s go back to our graphic designer and their movie. When they start the rendering process on Golem, the system will disseminate the job on many smaller tasks. Each video frame will be sent to a different node and calculated there. The completed task will be re-sent back to the sender and compiled into a final version of the movie, while the system shall automatically transfer the appropriate amount of money to the account of computing power , ‘provider’.
Sounds pretty cool and easy, right? – Well, nothing is easy here – admits Julian Zawistowski, CEO of the Golem Project. – Architecture of decentralized system is challenging enough, while our version should be able to execute very complicated operations. All of that is expected to happen smoothly, quickly and independently as the final version of the Golem is hoped to serve the most compute-intensive processes and programs.
However, that’s the future, for now the team struggles with an endless series of complications, each of them complex enough to became an ambitious doctoral thesis proposal. For instance: how to check if a particular node has calculated everything correctly, before the system rewards a provider? Of course, the client finally going to find the mistakes, then what? No claims department, not even a real office to ask for help. So the system designers definitely should implement the calculations to verify the mechanism, although first it has to be invented.
The role model for Golem is a bitcoin network. With its current exuberant technological backbone, bitcoin proved that something which started on a set of very few laptops can grow into a real monster. All of that would never have happened without the new techno-caste which emerged around the first serious cryptocurrency: the miners. Often considered as greedy fuelled bunch of freaks, the miners are in fact the core of the bitcoin network. Yes, they have made serious profits, yes, they earn bitcoins, but what they really do is to provide the computing power that sustains currency’s accounting system: the blockchain system. Encrypted, open, non-editable, distributed and synchronized ledger is the heart of bitcoin network. Every set of operation, encrypted as another ‘block’ is added to the previous chain automatically, by the software working on miners machines. It’s a serious, cryptographically sophisticated operation, and as such it requires some time and energy, some contribution to the growth of the bitcoin community, and only because of this, it is rewarded by a bitcoin sent to the account of a miner whose machine managed to complete the task properly.For sure, those guys are doing what it takes to make their toys pretty powerful. It is enough to say that in 2013, four years after the bitcoin was released, the connected power of miners machines reached and exceed 1 exaFLOPS ( 1018 operations per second). Sequoia – back then the most powerful supercomputer, was no stronger than 16 pentaFLOPS, about 1,6% of what bitcoin network could do.
Golem counts on a similar effect. The best power providers can expect more money, as contribution for the network infrastructure gets financial incentive. Fully grown Golem creates another level of difficulties: the payroll. How to settle a myriade of small transactions between users?
“If we decided to use traditional systems like Visa or PayPal the overheads would kill the economical sense of entire project” Andrzej Regulski explains. “This is why we decided to use Etherneum platform and create our own token: Golem Network Token (GNT)”.
“We are strongly underlining that from our perspective GNT is not the cryptocurrency”– says Julian Zawistowski.-“ We will not try to make it more popular, we will not try to make it widely accept form of payment. The only thing the GNT will be used for is to settle the operations between users.”
The initial emission of GNT had another, far more important feature. It allowed the team to collect money. In an half of hour after the beginning of crowdfunding event Golem creators had more than 8 milions dollars. Currently their GNTs are worth more than 180 mln dollars, held by more than 37 thousand of people, which makes the Golem project one of the best crowdfunding initative ever.
But will they succeed? For now the very first version of Golem is undergoing tests and modifications. The only thing that Brass Golem; as the creators baptized the first phase of their project; is able to do is… rendering, of course. The final version – Iron Golem – should be activated in four years, and it will do whatever you need its power for, as the creators want to keep their system open for new applications and innovations.
“This is our business model” explains Zawistowski. “Just like many other open-sources technologies we want to earn on certification and integration of our technology, and it’s really difficult to predict who will be our future client. We know one thing for sure the demand for computing power is growing.