Leo Wang is co-founder of China-based Crust, a decentralized storage network within the Web 3.0 ecosystem. He joined host Paul Gordon to discuss the issues facing decentralized storage and how Crust differentiates itself from the other players.
(00:40) Leo has worked in the IT industry for over 15 years and is an alum of Microsoft and Cisco. He came across crypto about five years ago when he was working on manufacturing data and cloud systems. One of the goals of the system was to recall component data out of the production lines in the factories, record it and share it with suppliers globally. That’s the scenario. The data is big and needs to be shared across companies.
(1:54) “That’s when we noticed Ethereum at that time and we launched a prototype project to try and use smart contracts to record all of the key information on the chain. That’s how I got into the crypto world,” said Leo.
Decentralized distributed data, or file storage, is a very big field in the traditional IT world and in the crypto world, especially in the context of Web 3.0. There’s a lot of attention on this area including Ethereum-based solutions and data protocol. That’s why he launched the project.
(3:55) In addition to Leo, the team extends to co-founder Bova Chen, who has a very strong background in traditional finance and crypto. In addition, CTO Zikun Fan was working at Microsoft on cloud computing and is now the leading technologist at Crust. Steve previously worked at Cisco and has now joined Crust’s marketing activities.
(5:32) The Crust team built the tech stack on the same framework that Polkadot uses. The goal is to provide an easy interface of the storage market for users. People just need to put files on IPFs and place a storage order on the chain. Then the file will be stored and distributed across the network. After that, users should be able to access the files from everywhere.
From a resource provider perspective, miners should be able to run across the node programs. The website is open-source. Their servers provide the storage resource. In return, they get something from the storage network. It’s totally decentralized and there are no supernodes.
(7:00) Crust has launched its preview network, called Maxwell. It is an incentivized network. Right now there are more than 1,000 nodes on the network. They have rolled out most of the key features on the preview network, including the decentralized storage market.
Building on Polkadot
(9:14) After the team finished the overall design of the Crust network protocols, they made several technical choices. First, they needed a platform to integrate the protocols. They could have chosen a smart contract platform like Ethereum or decided to build their own chain. They ended up choosing the Polkadot ecosystem because it provides much higher performance and flexibility, which is needed for the complex work that Crust is doing. Polkadot also provides much better interoperability, which is important for Crust because they aim to provide a general storage infrastructure that can be leveraged.
Next, they needed to choose a distributed file system, or data exchange protocol. There are plenty of choices from both the traditional internet and the crypto industry. IPFS is definitely one of the most outstanding ones. Compared to other technologies, it boasts wider adoption, especially in the crypto world.
Architecture of the Network
(12:34) Crust basically works across three core layers:
- Meaningful proof of work, or MPoW
- Guaranteed Proof of Stake, or GPoS
- Decentralized storage market (DSM)
(14:30) MPoW is like a safe box. The biggest component of MPoW is the work inspector. So when a file is stored on the node, the file will be filled and the storage information will be generated and passed to the TE environment and work inspector. In the preview network, this is every half hour. There is a check followed by a work report comprising the files are stored on this node and the files that were lost. The work report is then sent over to the chain to verify the signature of the work inspector.
(17:04) The second layer, GPOS, is basically like an MPoS that Polkadot uses with a staking quota. Each node has its own staking quota, which is decided by the storage resources.
(19:00) Crust built its MPoW layer based on TE technology. From a hardware perspective, if people want to contribute to the network on the PoS level, they should be able to do so with standard servers or PCs as the CPU supports the TE tech, which has wide adoption and supports Intel so far. Once you provide the storage resource, the work will be measured and included in the report and will give you a staking quota.
(20:43) DSM, the third layer, allows users to place storage orders on-chain on Layer 1. The storage fee will be split into two parts. The first is directly paid to the nodes who got the files first. The other part of the storage fee will be added directly to the staking pool. That’s how the payout works. The retrieval is not rewarded cross-network but is awarded by encouraging the nodes to share their files with others.
From the user perspective, there are three steps to follow:
- Upload a file onto a standard public network that is permissionless.
- Get a CID, which is generated, and go to the cross-network and add the storage order including the CID. Wait until the cross nodes pick up the storage file and see that on-chain.
- Access all files.
The cost of retrieval is free to the user and the node operators are incentivized to make sure the location of the files is being shared across the network.
(24:45) Crust has published one application. The wallet is based on Polkadot’s wallet. It’s decentralized and while the user experience is not very good, it’s usable, said Leo. The intention of the first app is to provide a usable interface and to open source so that developers can see the code and build their own apps.
Crust doesn’t want to force everybody to buy tokens, especially the end-user. So that is not the target user of the Crust apps. They have already open-sourced the cross-apps and the first version of the SDK.
(26:57) “We encourage more developers to join and build more user-friendly applications,” said Leo.
(28:06) Right now, Crust is in the open testnet phase. Next, there will be a mainnet launch, which is a big milestone. Ahead of that, there are two milestones that are planned for the next one to two months.
First, they are going to release more detailed documents on the program interface, SDK and use cases for developers. They are going to launch a plan across the grants and want to encourage and incentivize developers to build more apps across the network. They are designing the stack and grant amount now.
Secondly, they are also preparing for a parachain auction. Many Polkadot-ecosystem projects are preparing for that as well. After that, they are going to prepare for the mainnet launch. But it depends on the auction.
(31:50) Even without the parachain mechanism, Crust should be able to launch their network without any problem, Leo said. If they launch the mainnet too soon, there is a potential risk of possibly doing a hard-fork to fit the parachain technical standard. That is the only dependency and is why they are closely following up with parachain’s tech standards. Other than that, the Crust network is settled within itself.
Crypto in China
(32:55) Crypto is pretty well adopted in China, Leo said, adding that it is clear from a number of perspectives. For instance, with mining farms, more than 50% of the BTC mining power comes from China, according to data from 2020. In addition, Chinese companies are developing consortium chains with different use cases.
(34:23) ”Overall I would say it’s pretty positive and adoption is becoming bigger and bigger,” said Leo.
People are keeping an eye on the launch of the digital yuan. The government has not published whether the DCEP has been implemented based on the blockchain or not. It is likely but is not guaranteed, so there is uncertainty surrounding that, explained Leo. But if blockchain isn’t integrated now, it will be later. Also, starting this year, people have been receiving activities and events around the DCEP launch. For example, some government officers have received part of their paycheck using DCEP.
More information at https://crust.network/