Cloud computing is operated by an anti-competitive oligopoly, says Osuri

Akash acts as an open and transparent marketplace for computing power, Osuri says

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Alan Poulson Photography/Shutterstock modified by Blockworks

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The cloud.

It’s a fabric that connects people in ways that were impossible just a few years ago — and we all pay for it.

“All of us pay a ‘cloud tax,’” Greg Osuri says. “We just don’t realize it.” According to Osuri, 50% of online subscription fees, for example, end up in the pockets of cloud providers.

On the 0xResearch podcast (Spotify/Apple), the founder and CEO of Overclock Labs and core contributor to Akash says that the cloud “keeps a modern society together.”

Cloud technology brings incredible value by enabling “amazing services for us and storing our data” but users have little to no control over this “invisible layer” of society, he says.

Osuri explains that this lack of individual control results in “uncontrollable costs, selective innovation, sometimes extremely anti-competitive practices and essentially, an oligopoly” that persists behind the scenes.

“That’s the current state of the cloud — an extremely important layer that is extremely opaque.”

A computing power marketplace

The goal of Akash, a decentralized computing network built on Cosmos, is to “reverse that opacity,” Osuri says. It seeks to create an “open, transparent, permissionless layer [so] that all of us have a degree of ownership and a degree of sovereignty.”

Akash acts as a marketplace that matches users with providers who might otherwise be sitting on idle computing power. Osuri explains that, at its core, it is a “super cloud,” that aggregates computing resources across a range of public and private providers and offers “a federated access point.”

Users get access to providers by leasing services in an “open setting,” he says, typically using a reverse auction mechanism. “You specify your needs and you specify what you’re willing to pay and providers bid on it.”

One key advantage of Akash, Osuri points out, is that “you have a degree of concentration of computational power where [it] has been traditionally hyper-fragmented.”

As of now, Akash is experiencing “near 100% utilization for high density GPUs,” Osuri says, “and about 50% utilization cumulative for all resources, all types of GPUs, including the low end GPUs.” 

That’s quite a bit higher utilization than pretty much anything else out there in crypto, Osuri says. “Traditionally, crypto has been good at oversupply and less demand. Here, we have the opposite problem: high demand and less supply, or supply that’s not yet on the market.”

Most demand for computing power right now is for high-end H100 chips and “data center grade homogenous hardware,” Osuri says — equipment that powers AI apps like ChatGPT. 

“Every time you hit a prompt in ChatGPT, the time it takes to come back, it requires one H100 per concurrent user for that time,” Osuri explains. “Now, do the math. 100 million users. All of them at the same time.”

“That’s impossible,” he says. “They have to prioritize the H100 time based on how many concurrent users they want to support and that dictates how fast the application works.”

“More users, less chips means slower. More chips, less users means faster.”

Mixing things up

Osuri mentions one team that is working with a broader mix of chipsets for “heterogeneous” computing power. “You can train on a 4090 and H100 at the same time, leveraging the compute power from each of those chips,” he says.

“There are lots of teams working on it,” he says, adding that at some point in time in the near future, idle home gaming PCs and consoles might even be able to provide computing power to the marketplace.

As of now, Osuri says that most demand for the Akash service comes from machine learning developers looking for on-demand A100, H100 or A6000 chipsets. 

“There is no place right now on the cloud where you can get on-demand access to 100’s,” he says. “Amazon, Google, Microsoft do not have A100s or H100s.”

Read more: Don’t give your life to Big Tech for free

Osuri reiterates that the Akash marketplace operates as a free market, with low demand resources costing around 80% less than they would via traditional services like AWS. On the flip side, high demand services like H100s are more expensive than what one would normally expect to pay.

“We don’t have any control over price,” he says. “It is a free market that sets the price.” 

Osuri explains that Overclock Labs might provide guidance regarding pricing, “but we don’t dictate what the price should be. And we never will. And that’s critical for the protocol to function.”

“We need to learn how to deploy these models on a decentralized network versus a centralized network,” he says. “It’s always been centralized because that was the only option.”

“For the first time, we actually have a viable decentralized option.”


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