Is there more to distributed computing than blockchain? | Pocket

Emma Raz and Matthew Paletta are NumberEight’s Chief Commercial Officer and iOS Engineer, respectively.

It has been estimated that computers, data centers and networks collectively consume about 10% of the world’s electricity, and many argue that technological innovations such as blockchain will dramatically increase this number if widely adopted: crypto -currency Ethereum is perhaps the most notorious example of the environmental risk posed by these technologies.

Unfortunately, this has given distributed computing a bad reputation when it comes to sustainability. In order to understand why blockchain is accused of having a negative impact on sustainability, there are two terms we need to consider: distributed computing and decentralized control.

Decentralized computing is computation performed on multiple devices instead of one and centralized.

Decentralized control therefore means that there is no single system or device that sends commands and controls the process.

Blockchain has given distributed computing a bad name in terms of sustainability

Blockchain uses decentralized computing and decentralized control to increase data security. Decentralized control is used to prevent a single opposing party from easily taking control of the network. This is particularly relevant when it comes to financial transactions, as in the case of Bitcoin or Ethereum.

The computation occurs simultaneously on thousands of devices, while each device has an identical copy of the data. In this system, all devices must verify the data recorded in their ledger and confirm that they got exactly the same result, before a transaction can be permanently added to the public ledger. Naturally, this amount of duplicate calculations can be considered a “useless” waste of energy: the same calculation is executed thousands of times, for each transaction.

Beyond the Block

However, distributed computing is not just about blockchain technology, like edge computing. This method of data analysis and management is used as an alternative to cloud computing, which has become increasingly popular over the past decade, or even more traditional on-premises data centers.

The main difference between the technology used for blockchain and edge computing is that while blockchain technology decentralizes computing and control, edge computing technology decentralizes computing but maintains centralized control.

What does this mean exactly? In cloud computing, all data is shipped from its original source to a single extended database, to be computed together. Edge computing relies on end devices, such as a user’s phone, to perform the calculations locally and only shares a portion of the results across its network.

Instead of duplicating the exact calculation across all devices, each device calculates a small portion of the data it has. Essentially, the overall system trusts the accuracy of the data available for each device.

Superior durability

So, is edge computing better for the environment than cloud computing? One might be tempted to conclude that cloud computing must be more efficient since you can install more efficient heat dissipation mechanisms when computing data. However, this is not the case.

Assessing the true sustainability impact of the three calculation methods can be difficult

Cloud computing environments tend to encourage people to use more complex designs which, first, are easier to design and, second, maximize more powerful hardware capabilities. However, since they are complex, they also consume more energy. Additionally, risk management leads to duplication of data within a single data center as well as across multiple data centers, which again comes at an energy cost. Finally, there is the cost of sending the data. Each time information is sent; there is an energy payment attached. Cloud computing relies on constant transfers, both to primary storage and to duplicate data centers.

Edge computing tends to be more energy efficient because most data never leaves the device, minimizing “shipping costs”. In addition, computer models must be extremely energy efficient, as the impact on the device’s battery life must be kept to a minimum.

These are some of the reasons NumberEight chose to rely on edge computing for our platform. Additionally, we were also able to improve computational sustainability by using models that continuously assess the amount of data needed and only collect, process, and store the minimum amount of data required, thereby reducing computational “waste”. .

Assessing the true impact on sustainability of the three calculation methods can be difficult as there are many variables to consider. However, there are two principles to keep in mind: the first is that sending data is expensive in energy, because the wifi and/or cellular antenna of the device must be activated, which consumes a lot of ‘energy. The second is the complexity of the model in question: the more complex the model, the more energy it consumes. One of the benefits of edge computing is that its technical limitations force us to be more efficient, which leads to more sustainable computing.

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