Leveraging blockchain technology for decentralized cloud storage could be a new norm - why should corporates give this new approach a serious thought?

By Nitin Narkhede, VP & Head - Service Innovation & Blockchain at Mphasis

Blockchain needs no introduction to explain why it is being tested to transform various business processes across industries worldwide. Going forward, the trustless environment is sure to gain significance over the traditional processes. While organizations are still talking about their inhibitions around moving their applications or data to the cloud, will blockchain be also considered and tested for decentralized cloud computing by corporates ever?

In the current cloud computing model, there are known concerns associated with cloud adoption within areas of security, data migration, compliance, and cost. Possible cloud computing inhibitors and keen blockchain adopters may just be surprised to know how viable blockchain as a technology is, to be adopted for decentralized cloud storage.

Security - Blockchain is a natural security extension to Cloud

There were many instances where data was compromised or hackers spoof into systems and demand ransomware. Cloud providers today mostly rely on PKI (Public Key Infra) cryptography to secure emails, messages, apps, websites or any other form of communication or information. However, most PKI implementations depend on centralized, trusted third-party Certificate Authorities (CA) for issuing, revoking, and storing key pairs for every participant. Hackers can easily break into this centralized information and spoof user identities and access encrypted information.

Whereas, blockchain works on a decentralized framework and does not save keys on a central platform. This eliminates the risk of losing public and private key to hackers. Blockchain provides an auditable PKI that does not have a single point of failure. There are key developments happening around Keyless Signature Structure to replace key based authentication on blockchain. The data or information is checked against the millions of original hashes for any manipulation or unauthorized access. Blockchain works on client side encryption, unlike cloud where encryption happens at cloud service provider end. Blockchain freezes the block compute platform in real time. This eliminates the chances of manipulations or deletions. The complete access to un-encrypted files and encryption keys is only limited to users. With blockchains, one needs to trust just the math and not the entity handling the cloud infrastructure. By that means, blockchain is the right tool to eliminate collusion attacks and avoid blind trust on the data integrity surety given by cloud providers.

Compliance - Blockchain can bring transparency in all actions on the Data Supply Chain

Enterprises can precisely track and audit where all the data has been replicated, who accessed the data, how is a data being retrieved, what is the compute time, how they are being charged, ensure if cloud vendor is meeting SLAs’ and holding each stakeholder responsible for any carelessness. A clear line can be laid down between enterprises and vendors where there are no possibilities of hidden terms and conditions since everything that is done shows. The end-to-end transparency opens new avenues for enterprises like exploring options on different clouds rather being restricted to just one, get competitive rates in an open space, open business systems to stakeholders for accelerated business cycles, remain secure and at the same time address downtimes and latency.

Cost – Blockchain will enable corporates to leverage the concept of marketplace, thereby reducing cost

A distributed architecture will enable the establishment of a market that allows on-demand, negotiated access to most competitive computing infrastructure. The freedom from relying on biggest or anyone cloud providers will bring new possibilities and cost efficiencies into the system. Additional benefits could be in terms of freedom to define the level of resiliency, redundancy and retrieval options, while never getting locked with any one cloud provider.

Significant levers that make blockchain like technology apt to build a decentralized cloud

1. Distributed architecture: No central point of failure and hence no downtime. (Think of recent downtime caused at British Airways datacenters)

2. Distributed cloud: Enables on-demand, low-cost access to the global computing infrastructure.

3. Distributed data: No downtime due to natural disasters (Think cyclone Sandy and the impact it had on business)

4. Resiliency: Data can be broken and distributed with encryption. Redundancy can be custom defined and failure rates can be much reduced besides making your data safer (Think of multiple cases of hacking of customer data from cloud)

5. Creation of a unique marketplace to find and offer computing resources

6. Smart contracts to control the access and permissions for data and payments – not any central authority, who could shut you out of access to your data

7. Superior in-built encryption at the source and federated data storage reduce privacy risks

Blockchain will enable the concept of decentralized apps and decentralized storage, and disrupt the existing storage methodologies. Proprietary centralized apps and services will get replaced by shared, decentralized apps and services; the centralized storage providers will become redundant as the mathematical calculations and the encrypted trustless network takes over as more secured, private, decentralized and cost-effective P2P storage option.

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