Ordinary people can now rent out part of their unused hard drive space and earn money for doing so. The ability to leverage excess storage capacity has become a reality thanks to the incentives being offered by various companies that are seeking to expand their decentralized networks.
Considering that the cloud storage market is expected to grow to $88.91 billion by 2022, according to PR Newswire, the decentralized storage industry is rapidly turning into a hot space with huge demand, and blockchain will be critical to its success.
Let’s have a dive into how companies are attacking this problem. Distributed storage technologies fall under two categories: marketplaces or infrastructure.
Storage marketplaces make disk space a commodity. They are the middle-man between those who are looking to store data and providers willing to store the data for them. This works essentially by sharing a file across a peer-to-peer network — think Napster. You would have to encrypt the file and then it gets sent to individual computers in the network. Behind the scenes, of course, the data is broken up into shards. When you want to retrieve your data, will retrieve all the individual pieces from different nodes in the network and decrypt it.
That brings us to storage infrastructure. Typical blockchains have well-known problems in regards to data storage. These problems require new third-party protocols to be integrated on top of existing blockchains. Fees are too high for on-chain storage to be feasible.
One company working on this problem is Arweave and they have quite a novel approach as they store data on-chain. It’s a new data storage blockchain protocol based on a novel proof of access consensus mechanism. This consensus mechanism allows for truly permanent data storage for the first time. Now data is finally permanent, low-cost, and truly censorship free.
When speaking with the CEO of Arweave, Sam Williams, he says, “We’ve developed a new blockchain like infrastructure called the blockweave. It’s a platform designed to provide scalable on-chain storage in a cost-efficient manner.” Arweave is built on four core technologies that enable 5,000 TPS (transactions per second).
Blockweave is a data structure resembling a blockchain. It enables low cost on-chain storage. As the amount of data stored increases in the network, the amount of hashing needed for consensus decreases. This reduces the cost of data storage. Thus, users of Arweave pay once to store their data forever.
Proof of Access (PoA) is a new consensus mechanism. Miners compete on who can replicate the most data. With massive amounts of data being replicated, electricity used while mining will decrease over time. Miners provide as many replications of the Blockweave as possible.
Blockshadows enables long-term on-chain data storage. Miners don’t distribute the entire block. They broadcast a “shadow” that is a small size. It allows other nodes in the network to reconstruct the block from scratch. Because we’re storing data on-chain, the network has to support unlimited sized blocks. Only important information of the block is moved around the network versus the entire block.
Wildfire is an incentive mechanism that is a self-organized reputation system. Slow and unresponsive miners will have a low reputation. Fast data storage that is shared with miners in the network will give you a positive reputation.
Now we see why the storage infrastructure is important for low-cost and scale-able storage. It provides the foundation for the entire decentralized storage industry. By creating the protocol layer, Arweave is prime to be the industry leader that provides decentralized apps with an immutable, censorship-resistant backend. Permanent data storage is now truly available for the first time ever.
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