DFINITY is building a new kind of public decentralized cloud computing resource. This rests upon a new blockchain computer that is similar in concept to Ethereum but has vastly improved performance and, ultimately, unlimited capacity. Business applications running on this computer will be unstoppable and won't need to involve complex components such as databases, backup and restore systems or Amazon Web Services, allowing costs to be cut by 90% or more by reducing the supporting human capital required. Of course, such a powerful public resource requires governance.
The DFINITY project was formed to research ways of enabling public decentralized networks to host a virtual computer of potentially unlimited capacity. The starting requirement was that the systems developed should be useful in joining 1 million or more mining clients. We also sought vastly superior performance than is available today.
Our core approach is counterintuitive and ironically - for such a feat of organization - involves random numbers. A DFINITY network involves a top-level Threshold Relay chain that produces randomness and progresses with minimal "reorganizations" while addressing many of the technical vulnerabilities that have bedevilled the industry such as "selfish mining" or "nothing at stake". The random heartbeat produced by the chain drives other crypto:3 systems the network depends upon, while recording a single root hash that anchors all the data stored in the virtual computer, no matter how large it gets
Threshold Relay generates randomness by applying the BLS cryptography scheme from Stanford University in a new way.
A key challenge for decentralized cloud networks is finalizing computational transactions quickly. Currently, computations only become final after some minutes, and developers of applications such as decentralized financial exchanges struggle to communicate this to their users and provide an acceptable user experience. DFINITY uses Threshold Relay chains to address current limitations.
|Bitcoin||6||60 min||Very High|
|NETWORK||GAS AVAILABLE FOR COMPUTATION / BLOCK|
DFINITY is designed to scale-out to handle unlimited computation, but even in the initial Copper release the network will provide dramatic gains without implementing the crypto:3 scale-out systems scheduled to start appearing in Tungsten. This is because Threshold Relay chains do not involve the "Poisson process" of Proof-of-Work systems and miners can spend known periods of time validating transactions without suffering commercial disadvantage.
DFINITY is a different kind of decentralized world compute platform. It is a platform managed by a decentralized intelligence integrated into its systems that can make arbitrary changes. This acts to mitigate misuse, protect users, fix problems, optimize network configuration and seamlessly upgrade its protocols.
For more information on the workings of the Blockchain Nervous System see this post or our FAQ. The system depends upon human-controlled "neurons" operated by special client software. These follow each other and cascade to decisions. Neurons are created by depositing dfinities and earn rewards for performance of voting services. While the expertise within the crowd is leveraged, follow relationships exist at the edges of the network making the decision process unknowable, protecting participants.
In DFINITY the "Code is Law" is contingent upon the decisions of the nervous system. As we have seen, with the recent Bitfinex theft and hack of The DAO, hackers steal keys and can sometimes break smart contract systems with design flaws. A key purpose of the BNS is to return funds where possible, and reverse the damage of hacks. The BNS can also fix systems that have simply failed due to engineering errors, such as a complex autonomous system that has deadlocked.
This increases comfort for consumers and businesses alike, many of whom will be unable to adopt decentralized systems without such protection and recourse.
In systems such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, upgrades to the protocol occur as a result of contentious and disruptive "hard forks". In DFINITY there is no equivalent notion and the BNS upgrades the protocol transparently on a regular basis, quickly introducing fixes and optimizations and driving network evolution forward as quickly as possible.
The Blockchain Nervous System also dynamically manages economic parameters. This can be to optimize network economics, for example by increasing the cost of connecting new mining resources to prevent overcapacity, or protect security, for example by increasing the deposit of dfinities needed to create a "mining identity" because the value of dfinities has fallen on the markets.
We have become accustomed to the Internet model, where services on private local area networks (LANs) can connect out into public services on the wider Internet. For example, people share access to services such as Gmail, Facebook or a financial exchange. But today, no equivalent system exists in decentralized cloud computing. A private cloud network created using Ethereum technology is isolated and the smart contract software it hosts cannot call into systems hosted on the public network. DFINITY changes this.
The crypto:3 underpinnings of DFINITY unlock new functionality. The ZINC release of DFINITY will allow software methods called at the highest level on private systems to be "decorated" with a single call to a system installed on the public DFINITY network. The system then ensures that either both the private and public method are executed, or neither is executed (the technical term is that code execution is "atomic"). Now a single call to software can result in computation taking place on otherwise separate decentralized networks!
DFINITY provides network effects for its users. For example, one network could push a carbon credit to a public exchange, and another could consume it.
While many private networks will be run by corporations, adding some services will be beyond their practical budgets and expertise. For example, a supply chain system designed to connect suppliers and help them raise trade financing against invoices might usefully incorporate stable currency, identity, arbitration and haulage market functionality. DFINITY allows open versions of such services to be created on its public chain, and then incorporated by private networks in the form of building blocks.