Hype in the cryptocurrency world is as common as a shiny, new ICO. All it takes is a few well-placed buzzwords and suddenly a project is on everyone’s radar. It might not stay there long, and it might turn out to be a dud of a concept, but as long as heads were turned for a few minutes, mission accomplished.
There are over-hyped blockchain projects, and then all the way on the opposite end of the spectrum there are projects like SONM. The “Supercomputer Organized by Network Mining,” powered by the Ethereum blockchain, could revolutionize fog computing by allowing miners to “rent out” spare processing power. SONM has even forged partnerships with enterprise-level companies, hired superstar developers, and hit every milestone on their roadmap, right down to launching a minimum viable product in 2017.
Everything is quietly on track for the SONM team, but there’s still one lingering question: why isn’t there a lot of noise being generated around this project?
Supercomputer for Consumers
SONM bills itself as a distributed worldwide system for general-purpose computing implemented as a fog computing structure. That’s quite the mouthful, but a shorter, catchier version might be “a blockchain supercomputer everyone can use.”
Fog computing is similar to cloud computing in concept, only it spreads the workload across a wider range of devices. SONM leverages the distributed nature of blockchain to make that technology accessible and affordable for individuals, not just huge corporations. In fact, if you’ve got spare hardware (any smart device will do, even a PlayStation or smartphone) collecting dust in the corner, you could conceivably run SONM’s software and sell computational power to the fog network.
Some of SONM’s use cases are little bundles of hype in their own right. Animators can use it to render graphics. Content creators can host video streams. Programmers can use it for deep learning and artificial intelligence applications. The dev team even outlined how SONM could run a Quake server.
When they said they were building a supercomputer for everyone, they weren’t kidding.
Roadmap For the People
The SONM team laid out a simple roadmap just before their mid-2017 ICO. The plan covered rough milestones and a few key points of interest like alpha availability and AI integration timelines. All good information, of course, but a bit sparse and uninteresting to non-techies.
A few months after the ICO, SONM released a new roadmap. Often, this can be interpreted as a bad sign, since a lot of projects scale back their ambitions once they realize how much work goes into maintaining a blockchain platform. The dream is dead, right? Nah, not for SONM. Not by a long shot.
The late-2017 roadmap filled in the gaps left by the original and refocused outreach to include SONM’s target audience, i.e., just about everybody. It answered the question, both for suppliers and customers, “What can SONM do for me?” by showing use cases for the immediate future, along with long-term plans for the technology.
This is where SONM found its legs, evolving from an ICO with grandiose promises to a solid project with a real future. This is also where the team structured a full release timeline, building to a commercial project in summer 2018 and extending to v2.0 “Sera” in 2020.
Milestones and Superstars
Nothing sells an idea like associating it with a big name or two. SONM hasn’t resorted to putting Roger Ver photos on its website yet, but it did secure a few partnerships that are just as exciting.
One of the key advisors on SONM’s board is Max Kordek, former Crypti developer and co-founder and president of the Lisk Foundation. He joined early in SONM’s lifespan and injected some star-power into the fledgling project. Kordek’s announcement outlined his impressions of SONM, stating that it was “big, scalable and feasible” and utilized more promising technology than competitors GOLEM and iExec.
Later in 2017, SONM partnered with Selectel, a leading IaaS (infrastructure as a service) provider located in Russia. Selectel intends to use SONM’s decentralized resources to operate its cloud storage solutions, as the company CEO sees it as a better, less expensive option to Amazon AWS. Selectel will be one of SONM’s first big customers when the commercial product launches in Q3 2018. This is great news for the development team, but also a good sign for SONM suppliers who are thinking about income potential.
At the very end of 2017, SONM was invited to join Cloud28+, the Hewlett-Packard-founded cloud computing services marketplace. This brought a boost to the project’s credibility, establishing it as a major player in the distributed computing environment.
December 2017 marked a huge milestone for the SONM team: the launch of a minimal viable product testnet. For the first time, users could describe their own tasks, suggest improvements, report bugs, and interact with the project from the inside.
In early 2018, Eugeny Safronov, former lead developer of Cocaine, the open-source cloud hosting system built by Yandex, joined the SONM team. His experience in the computing industry is substantial, though at the time of writing he’s only had a few weeks to settle into his new role. If Yandex Cocaine is any indication, big things could come to SONM from this partnership.
Roadmap to Success
SONM doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. The team is over a dozen people strong, with members experienced in machine learning, blockchain development, cloud engineering, and neural network organization.
Their social media presence is consistently active with regular status updates and development roundups, as well. All the ingredients are there for a powerful, disruptive piece of technology. Is SONM a powder keg waiting to go off, or is it too niche for anybody to care about?
SONM may not be riding the hype train because it’s difficult to distill into a catchy headline. Mainstream outlets have a tough time selling the idea of a blockchain supercomputer to the general population. It sounds neat in concept, but it has to affect our daily lives before it can grab everyone’s attention.
Potential is the key. SONM is casting a wide net, and when you go fishing you don’t know what you’re going to catch until you pull the net back in. But give SONM time to integrate into the world, and soon enough the hype train will pull up to the station. And with the team’s track record and experience, SONM will be ready to hop aboard.