Update 4/20/17: The iEx.ec token sale is over. The sale reached its contribution cap of 10,000 BTC in less than three hours. Proceeds were worth about $12,120,000 at the time of the sale’s close.
Update: iEx.ec has rescheduled their token sale for April 19th (7 day delay) to allow for additional bug testing. Zeppelin did publish a security audit and didn’t find any severe problems, though they did have several recommendations. iEx.ec responded to their recommendations here. They have launched a bug bounty for a week.
Note: This report contains multiple lengthy sections. Here is a guide.
What is the project?
iEx.ec is a blockchain-based distributed cloud computing platform built on Ethereum. The technology stack is designed to support live distributed applications. While they are building the infrastructure for desktop grid computing, they initially focus on leveraging an existing distributed cloud network in Stimergy, which installs server racks and energy recycling systems in buildings. iEx.ec will also build functionality for contributing and accessing off-chain resources, including data and services. The go-to-market strategy will focus on a product called E-Fast, a platform for complex financial calculations to support traders. The team includes researchers at institutions focused on large-scale distributed computing.
- Distributed Cloud based on Desktop Grid Software: The team behind iEx.ec have been working on the infrastructure for Desktop Grid software (BOINC). The XtremWeb-HEP software has been developed to perform in a desktop grid environment: thousands of contributors who may be coming on and dropping off and needing to pull and push data at different times.
- Middleware for Dapps accessing off-chain resources: iEx.ec will interface with resource providers, dapp developers, and dapp users to source the right off-chain cloud resource needs.
- Existing proof-of-concept on Ropsten: iEx.ec is live on the Ethereum Ropsten testnet. At time of writing, it does not have users but interested developers can work directly with the team to explore integration. For computation, they are using Stimergy and Amazon and will not need to recruit desktop resource providers.
iEx.ec has a similar vision of a distributed cloud as Golem, but they have a different roadmap and go-to-market strategy, as discussed below.
What is the token being sold?
The RLC token is the sole means of paying for services on the iEx.ec platform, making it a token with Payment and Access rights.
A version of iEx.ec is available on the Ropsten testnet. Any developers interested in experimenting or starting to integrate iEx.ec resources should reach out on slack to get hands-on support from the development team. According to iEx.ec, the testnet runs one worker per core and has access to at least 80,000 cores. Stigmergy will accept the RLC tokens, and while pricing isn’t yet finalized, it will likely be in line with market rates for cloud computing. iEx.ec will subsidize while it’s on the testnet. Those subsidies may continue after the transition to the mainnet.
iEx.ec has a number of initial applications at various stages of integration. These include the following, and the team expects iEx.ec to launch with up to twenty apps in November:
- Efast (not live but github available): eFast is an application that clusters stocks based on sophisticated computational methods with the goal of helping small investors improve trading decisions. eFast would use iEx.ec for accessing market data and running data models.
- VanityGen: a vanity bitcoin address generator that is live now
- Tensorflow: a deep learning algorithm, though S+C is not sure of what their use of iEx.ec will be.
The mainnet is scheduled for launch by Devcon 3 in November. iEx.ec believes it will have 20 dapps before then. After this, they hope to open the market for resource providers.
Who is the team behind the project?
The team includes a number of international researchers steeped in the field of distributed computing and who would be familiar with the technologies that underpin it.
- CEO and Co-founder Gilles Fedak has been a researcher at INRIA (a France-based international research institution) for over ten years. He has authored a number of papers on distributed computing, including this paper on desktop computing in conjunction with IEX.EC co-founder Haiwu He, who is currently based in Beijing.
- Technical Leader Oleg Lodygensky is a CNRS senior research engineer at LAL/CNRS, a technology accelerator located in Pairs. He is also the main developer at XtremWeb-Hep, the open-source software for Desktop Grid computing used in production at Institute for Nuclear and Particle Physics.
- Business Developer Miceau Moca has also worked with Gilles at INRIA and actually wrote about E-Fast several years ago.
- Blockchain development expertise appears to come from Hamid Ben and Mehdi Amari. Both are involved in a French accelerator La Javaness.
iEx.ec v. Golem
The closest clear competitor for iEx.ec is Golem. At first glance, these projects are nearly identical: creating a market for distributed computing enabled by a blockchain payment and routing layer. The value of their token will come as the primary means of payment on the system.
However, there are two primary areas where they diverge.
First, they have different go-to-market strategies. Golem is first focusing on the market for resource providers: they aim to migrate an existing market for image rendering onto a new distributed cloud of computation providers. iEx.ec’s approach is to use an existing market for computing resources for a new market of distributed applications. Golem aims to let anyone use spare computation cycles for discrete computing tasks. iEx.ec will launch with a restricted set of computation providers and aim to start serving dapps. In some ways, this distinction is ironic. The iEx team is the one behind many core technologies of desktop grid computing–farming out small discrete tasks to millions of untrusted computers–but iEx is actually launching with trusted computation in the form of Stigmergy, some Amazon servers, and possibly some mining hardware.
This has a couple implications.
- Price: iEx is not claiming to make computation cheaper but instead just make it available for dapps. Golem has explicitly stated it hopes to drive the cost of computation down. It is too early for an actual market to emerge on either platform, but the rough price floor for iEx should be the price of Stigmergy computation or Amazon web services.
- Payment scheme: Golem will be doing more work early in their development cycle on payment routing among multiple resource providers. iEx.ec will instead focus on building a community of developers and figuring out the nuts and bolts of payment later. This is good if they have flexible resource providers who see the long-term potential of growing the market and don’t let pricing stifle demand now. It might be a challenge if they fall behind on efficient pricing mechanisms, since being able to monetize both computation and data are a critical need going forward.
- Development community: iEx.ec should be able to recruit developers more quickly if they are providing reliable computing resources. iEx.ec is reserving a portion of its tokens to subsidize initial development.
Teams: Research v. Entrepreneurship
Second, the two projects have very different teams. iEx.ec’s command of desktop computing is difficult to rival. Their research has contributed to some of the core technologies used in scientific computing around the world. Golem’s team doesn’t have the academic and research background, but they do have a track record of entrepreneurship. Julian Zawistowski has been a founder and CEO before at imapp and coinstorm. They also have experience in the image rendering industry and should have connections they can leverage in recruiting application users.
The state of their respective technologies are similar, bearing in mind that their go-to-market strategies differ. Golem launched its alpha version on MacOS at the end of March. iEx.ec claims to have a working testnet now on Ropsten, and will transition to a live mainnet by November 2017.
In practice, it is likely that these two projects will learn from each other and be able to benefit from developments. Both project founders are contributing members of the community, communicative and open about their projects, and a pleasure to speak with. There has been room in the cloud computing market for multiple ecosystems of providers; Golem and iEx.ec could be carving out two competing communities in the emerging distributed web.
In some ways, iEx.ec will face similar competitors to Golem inside and outside the cryptocurrency industry: mainstream cloud providers, existing computation farms, potential open-source distributed computing projects, and SuchFLEX. However, the focus on dapps makes their short-term competitive landscape a bit different, because these do not yet have support for dapps.
One project that is supporting dapps is Oraclize, which provides off-chain data for dapps. Currently, however, they focus on supplying discrete pieces of off-chain information, such as whether flights have been delayed for purposes of insurance payouts (Etherisc), whether a user who claims they tweeted about something actually did (Iudex), and truly random numbers (vDice). This is different than providing large-scale searchable and dynamic datasets or computation.
Existing storage distributed providers, such as MAID, IPFS, or Storj, should be complementary rather than competitive. iEx.ec is not necessarily trying to introduce new sources of distributed storage but rather the integrate live applications with whatever is stored there. There will be some complexity with handling two separate token payment systems, but both sets of solutions can mature together.
- Technical background of the team: The two co-founders have collectively published over 150 papers–16 together–on various topics in distributed computing. Gilles Fedak actually authored a paper covering his contributions to and commentary on desktop grid computing. It’s a team familiar with high-performance distributed computing at scale.
- Working testnet with available resource providers: iEx.ec is running on Ropsten and the team is actively soliciting developers. Users can interact with their demo, a Bitcoin vanity address generator. Their go-to-market strategy means their next challenge is recruiting dapps.
- Targeting a severely underserved market–dapps needing to access off-chain resources. Currently, there are few ways for decentralized applications to use off-chain data or computation–they either need to develop custom solutions and host their own servers, prepare for a network layer of trusted servers on top of the blockchain, or restrict their off-chain uses to Oraclize. Their long-term vision is not only migrating cloud computing capabilities to the blockchain industry but helping monetize data and even solving some challenges in the current cloud paradigm.
- Using existing computation providers means it will be difficult to compete on price. Golem–iEx.ec’s primary blockchain competitor–is focusing on building the market for resource providers and hopefully driving the cost of computation down. It is too early to tell what pricing will look like in the early.
- The team’s background is heavy on research, light on commercial product development. Collectively, the team has experience that stretches to many corners of the distributed computing research space. Their work has predominantly been in universities and research groups. They have developed and launched working technologies before in the desktop grid industry–and have a working testnet of iEx.ec–but building a commercial product will be relatively new territory.
|Role of token:||Sole means of payment|
|Token supply:||87 million RLC|
|Distributed in ICO:||60 million|
|Emission rate:||No new coins created|
|Sale period:||April 12th, 2017 to May 12th, 2017|
|Token distribution date:||Immediately distributed|
|Minimum investment goal:||2,000 BTC|
|Maximum investment cap:||10,000 BTC|
|How are funds held:||Held in an Ethereum smart contract address|
|Mainnet release date:||6 months after crowdsale (Devcon 3)|
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