TL; DR: Fluence uses peer-to-peer technology to power a permissionless distributed cloud for databases and web applications. The company has already launched an early version of a Tesnet, called the Devnet, and ported SQL (LlamaDB) and NoSQL (Redis) databases to a decentralized environment. This is making it easier than ever for developers to leverage the benefits of decentralization while using familiar tools.
There’s a reason everyone is talking about decentralization these days — and it’s a good one.
Decentralized networks operate on a peer-to-peer basis without the use of an intermediary who has access to the information. By cutting out the middleman, users can save money, enjoy increased privacy, and, most importantly, have the freedom to use the internet without sacrificing personal data.
Today, decentralized applications, or dApps, are becoming increasingly popular, but the blockchain networks that commonly power them, such as Etherum, are plagued with limited scalability, high latency, and costly transaction fees.
Each node in the Ethereum network has to replicate and process the same data, which makes the system secure but far from cost-efficient.
While Ethereum guarantees high security and there are a number of ways to scale the technology (such as through sharding), most modern applications require a certain level of complexity and features that Ethereum was not designed for. That leads to a “hybrid” approach to building dApps: a dApp would consist of a smart contract on a blockchain and a backend running in a traditional centralized cloud.
Fluence was created to enable developers to build modern applications while staying in a decentralized environment.
“Making dApps scalable while remaining decentralized requires decentralized storage, databases, and computation power,” said Evgeny Ponomarev, Co-Founder and COO of Fluence. “We decided to start working on database network technology.”
To do so, Evgeny and Co-Founders Alexander Demidko and Dmitry Kurinskiy leveraged their combined experience in distributed systems engineering and cryptocurrency to begin building on a decentralized data processing network.
Now, almost two years into the project, the company has released a white paper, launched a Devenet, ported a SQL and NoSQL database to Fluence, and completed several core features. Fluence has outlined progress made, as well as future plans, on the Fluence Roadmap.
Ultimately, the permissionless infrastructure will allow developers to aggregate, store, and process data from multiple decentralized sources. It will also form a trustless query layer that will make blockchain data readily discoverable, searchable, and consumable for a variety of applications.
A Permissionless Distributed Cloud
Evgeny said not all dApps are truly decentralized.
“Some people who are now building dApps have a tiny piece of code located on the blockchain on a smart contract, but they have a huge amount of business logic seated on a traditional cloud, such as an Amazon server,” he said. “That makes the app not so decentralized after all.”
Fluence allows users to move all of that business logic to a decentralized type of network and still still allow for scalability without being handcuffed to a hyperscaler like AWS. Doing so, Evgeny said, requires a decentralized computation platform.
“When you think about it, a database is not just about data,” he said. “There are computations that perform functions on top of that data so that we can process it, but you need to do it in an optimal way. That’s why data structures and indexes were invented.”
Essentially, these mechanisms apply code to data in a traditional, centralized network. “If you want to apply code to data on a decentralized network, you need to apply it to a few nodes independently,” Evgeny said. “Those nodes then have to achieve consensus for each operation, and the results of that consensus will go back to the user who entered that query.”
The Fluence network consists of two layers of nodes that provide for low latency and high throughput: a real-time processing layer and a batch validation layer. In a broad sense, the network — which performs computations in response to transactions sent by external clients — acts similarly to blockchain
“It’s still decentralized and requires consensus,” Evgeny said. Unlike blockchains, Fluence is capable of accommodating production-grade applications and databases, which makes development for Web 3 much easier.
“What we are building looks like blockchain and smells like blockchain, but it’s not blockchain,” Evgeny said. “It’s a different decentralized network.”
Current and Emerging Use Cases
The Fluence network will serve two different user types. The first, Evgeny said, are those who are already building decentralized apps. This group may include individual developers or companies that leverage decentralization as a fundamental value proposition.
The company is also targeting individual developers who work on traditional centralized applications. “If they have an application and want to be more independent from particular clouds, servers, or authority, Fluence would be a great solution,” Evgeny said.
No extra work is required on the part of developers, as existing software can be easily ported to Fluence once it is compiled into WebAssembly, a binary instruction format for web applications. The Fluence platform leverages the format to provide fast, deterministic, and verifiable computations, which are vital to its functionality.
Use cases vary. The network can be used to provide decentralized storage for static data, and dynamic client requests are possible through a decentralized database running on top of Fluence.
In addition, a fork of the popular open-source NoSQL database Redis is now available, and all databases can be launched in one click from the Fluence Network Dashboard — making the technology even more approachable for developers.
The company has also hosted successful hackathons in Moscow and Minsk that encouraged developers to build their apps on top of Fluence. These events helped to boost adoption of the technology while proving that it is possible to create an application using the decentralized technology stack only.
The Databases You Know, Now on a Decentralized Network
As far as future plans go, Fluence will keep evolving into a fully fledged permissionless distributed cloud for databases and web applications. After completing the Testnet, the company will start working on models for payments and dispute resolution. The final public launch of the Fluence network is yet to be scheduled.
In the meantime, Evgeny told us that the company recently ported Redis, a well-known open-source NoSQL database, to WebAssembly.
“Now Redis is available on a decentralized network,” he said. “You can still work with your data through a familiar interface, and it will be on a decentralized network.”
The next step in this direction will involve porting the open-source SQL database, SQLite, to WebAssembly. “Developers are already using these traditional databases, and they don’t want to learn new stuff,” Evgeny said. “This way, they can just keep working, and everything is the same, except now it is deployed on a decentralized network.”