From SONM Investor to SONM IT & Strategy Adviser
I would like to start with a disclosure. I’m an investor in SONM, my acquaintances and I have invested hundreds of thousands dollars in this project. Even though each of us has made his own investment decision separately I’m in a way responsible for bringing others in because they trust my opinion. The main reason I’ve invested is that I fundamentally believe in the feasibility of what SONM is doing and more importantly in the ability of the team to execute the plan. I believe that as a person that had spent at least two thirds of his career in IT (you can see the link to my linkedin profile at the bottom of the article) I was able to make a proper assessment after reading the whitepaper and meeting with the team.
Since SONM is a pretty young company and all the people behind the project are also very young they have made few mistakes during the ICO and as result the company received some bad publicity that it doesn’t deserve in my humble opinion. I know everybody personally so I decided to get involved. After few conversations with the founders and CTO I received an offer to become an advisor which I accepted without hesitation. Throughout my life and career I gathered so much experience in business, technology and finance that I think it would be a crime not to share it.
In my early days after graduating from Bar Ilan University in Israel with a diploma in Computer Science I was lucky to write code in few prominent Israeli startups one of which actually created DSL technology. I graduated in ’96 and the first and biggest IT boom in history was unfolding right in front of my eyes.
Later I spent 12 years in Canada, most of which were dedicated to consulting major banks and corporations. I got to see how financial and corporate monsters function from inside, what challenges they face and what are the typical solutions to those challenges. Towards the end of my stay in Canada the silent conversion from IT to finance was happening to me which resulted in my return to Russia with an ambitious goal to take one Russian company public on Moscow Stock Exchange.
Parallelly I was actively investing and sometimes writing articles on gurufocus.com. My experience in Russian investment banking world deserves a separate book. Life is funny, universe has sense of humor and years later I find myself doing very similar things. Only one letter has changed though, IPO had changed to an ICO.
So I arrived at SONM for my first meeting with Sergey Ponamarev — SONM CEO and Igor Lebedev — SONM CTO. It is needless to talk about Sergey credentials without which he wouldn’t be able to lead this project, but Igor just joined the company recently.
We spoke with Igor about various challenges in distributed computing like getting the most out of miner’s hardware resources, dealing with large amounts of data in ML algorithms, secure storage of data in trustless environment, possible various attacks and discussed in depth technologies used in SONM. Distributed computing isn’t new, what is new is trustless environment in which it has to operate reliably. Distribution of resources itself literally across the globe is also one of the challenges. In order to tackle these challenges its very important to understand first of all existing technologies which always form the basis of something new. In the process of our conversation I was really impressed by depth and breadth of Igor’s knowledge in hardware, software, various protocol stacks and cryptography. As a real time systems programmer that started his career programming in assembly and C on the lowest possible level I came across many people that knew well some high level programming languages and possibly few frameworks and dev tools, but lacked the deep understanding of the entire software and protocols stack running on top of hardware that is getting more and more powerful. Creating world supercomputer requires exactly such level of understanding. Igor impressed me so much with his knowledge that I couldn’t stop thinking that SONM couldn’t have found a better person for the job. So I said to the rest of the team that with Igor as CTO I have no doubts that the mission will be accomplished. Then we went through the best practices for SDLC, highlighted all the processes that we have to put in place to quickly move from being a startup to a world class mature enterprise level software development company. In my previous consulting engagements I always placed special attention to proper documentation. Good software starts with well documented requirements, followed by the long list of other documents. There are also various tools to make sure that best practices for design, development, testing and deployment are followed. Igor already had templates for all the key documents and we reviewed them as well. We went through a list of the best QA tools on the market.
I also emphasized the well known but frequently forgotten truth that best companies are built by the best people and we made a plan on how to attract the best of the best. We discussed employee motivation which by the way are frequently overlooked in Russia. On the technology side the company is constantly in talks with both potential users of future product (for example companies that need distributed rendering) and miners that are going to provide the infrastructure. We also spoke about architecture approaches that would maximize the performance of everything that is going to run on top of SONM.
I know that this is the subject that most of you would like to hear about and I promise to keep writing about it and answering your questions until everything is absolutely clear. Right now we are working on the best visual way to present all interdependencies so that you could understand the entire path to the product and have clear vision for the coming releases. The road map had already been presented few times in Sergey’s interviews but like I mentioned to the team it wasn’t done in very clear way. The main components of SONM solution are: Dapp (token wallet, registration, marketplace interface), Marketplace (backend for processing and matching orders), Ethereum smart contracts (factory, whitelist, registries, DAO, autoexchange etc), p2p protocols (whisper, discovery, contracts, ratings, getwork, workinfo, storage, SSL-miner), Hub, Miner, PaaS API and disputes solving system (oracles, KYC-on-demand and scoring).
The difficulty in presenting good visual roadmap is related to the fact that there are lots of dependencies between system modules and many things have to be done in parallel. While we are working on good presentation let me do a quick overview of each component and its readiness:
(1) Dapp (token wallet, registration, exchange interface, work progress info) — we hope to have beta version this autumn (towards the winter).
(2) Marketplace (exchange services, match orders, store and finalize on blockchain) — we hope to have it by spring but that doesn’t stop us of doing a release without it earlier (with static prices for testing).
(3) Ethereum smart contracts (factory, whitelist, registries, DAO, autoexchange). 3 out of 5 components are already done and working.
Those are: Whitelist (a list of all good hubs in the network), Registries (IDs of all network participants, their minimal information), factory (this is a technical entity for development and maintain — a contract, that can deploy and update other contracts).
The remaining are: DAO (SONM feature voting and profit management), autoexchange (internal cryptocurrency exchange with Ether and possibly other ERC20).
(4) p2p (whisper, discovery, getwork, nodes communication, operative messages) — already tested and working.
Hub (public IP, aggregator, balancing/scheduling and much more) — this is one of the most important modules in the system and functionality will be added gradually. As of right now the following is ready: hub configuration, discovery and getwork protocols, the versions however will be updated once a month. Implementation of “contract” protocol getting tasks from agreements on the blockchain — should be ready by the end of october. Other components are scheduled for later.
Please ask me questions, I will accumulate them and respond to the best of them at once. Also please give me feedback on what I succeeded to cover in this blog post and what you would like me to expand on more next time. We encourage all our investors to stay with us for the long term as we firmly believe that only this approach guarantees getting the most from your investment. Jumping from token to token doesn’t make sense. It is better to stick to tokens those product and team you know and understand well. On my side I promise to make sure that you understanding only grows with each blog post.
Ilia Frankstein (linkedin: https://linkedin.com/in/iliaf)