Explainer: "Airbnb for Servers"

Antonio "pelle" Pellegrino

Antonio "pelle" Pellegrino

You’ve heard us describe Mutable as the “Airbnb for Servers”, but how exactly do we apply the sharing-economy model to compute? Let’s rewind a bit.

At the cusp of the 4th Industrial Revolution, the makers of the next-generation of applications require low-latency and secure compute resources. While there is hardly any shortage of resources, compute access needs to be ubiquitous for this new Revolution to take hold. 

Just like how Amazon discovered that they could share their underutilized compute with third party users by creating a cloud, AWS, Mutable is doing the same  for everyone else. While AWS uses its own data centers, Mutable doesn’t own any of the compute. Instead, Mutable helps resource owners share their excess capacity with those who need it most, in a safe and seamless way. Thus, we turned to an obvious business model:

Why Airbnb?

We’re willing to bet that anyone reading this today is at least familiar with Airbnb, and most readers have likely stayed in one at some point in their lives.

The concept is pretty simple. An online platform essentially creates its own market by allowing landlords to monetize extra properties by putting them in touch with travellers looking for alternative lodging options. 

Now swap “landlord” for “server operator”  and  “traveller” for “developer” and you’ll start to see what we mean. 

The Sharing Economy for Servers

The Demand

We are on the cusp of witnessing the long-awaited arrival of the next generation of applications! AR/VR, IoT, drone technology, autonomous vehicles and cloud gaming are forever changing the way we communicate, work, heal, move, and play. 

But the promise of the data-driven 4th Industrial Revolution relies on the assurance of constant access to low latency, high throughput bandwidth networks, and secure systems. 

These requirements can no longer be fulfilled by traditional data centers. As a matter of fact, these massive energy-devouring server farms necessitate access to a cheap power source, and room to grow. This automatically precludes the placement of computing power anywhere near cities––where the developers of these applications are likely to be––and thus negates any latency adanvage, since data is forced to travel hundreds of miles both ways.

But there is a way to access the kind of compute that these next-gen applications crave without compromising on latency, security or bandwidth: 

moving it to the edge.

The Supply

The compute that these next-gen application developers require does exist in close proximity. As it turns out, many enterprise companies––and internet service providers in particular––have invested in massive server capacity in the hopes of accommodating maximum traffic on their networks. While peak network use rarely occurs (typically around major events), mostrack capacity remains underutilized on any given day, due to a redundancy factor. 

Since these privately-owned servers are typically located in or close to the end users, wherever they may be, they’re often within range to provide the low-latency and bandwidth requirements required to power the development of next-gen applications. This means that 80 or 90 percent extra compute in servers well positioned at less than 25 miles (a few milliseconds) away from their customers rather than the hundreds of miles ( 60 plus milliseconds) for a typical cloud deployed on a datacenter. 

Win times

Just like Airbnb doesn’t own its properties, Mutable does not own any datacenter or equipment. It simply shares revenue from ‘rented’ compute with server owners, suppliers. By deploying the Mutable OS on their bare metal servers, our partners can instantly transform their server rooms into micro-data centers accessible on the Public Edge Cloud. 

The Mutable OS instantly transforms servers into multi-tenant clouds whose owners’ operations continue to run virtually disruption-less on the Public Edge Cloud. Mutable seamlessly shifts workloads away to other Mutable powered clouds when a server owner needs to regain compute.

A Networked Edge Community Built on Trust

Aside from providing inspiration for Mutable’s sharing-economy-for-servers business model, Airbnb also shows how trust enables innovation to create new markets when supply and demand don’t find each other. 

It’s odd to think that a mere decade ago, the notion that one would open their homes to complete strangers (and on the flipside, forgoing a night in a comfy reputable hotel for a room or a coach found on the internet) was so controversial, when we wouldn't even give it a second thought today. Airbnb, acutely aware of the natural human suspicion for strangers, designed their community around trust. Building on the research of political scientist Russell Hardin, they understood that the basis for interpersonal trust was “encapsulated interest”, meaning that to trust someone was to expect them to share your self-interest.

The same is true for computing resources. Innovation is built on cooperation, and cooperation, in turn is built on trust. Mutable makes sharing resources safe and seamless, while making ubiquitous compute available to the makers of the next generation of applications powering the 4th Industrial revolution. 

Investments that keep on Returning

Much has been said about Airbnb’s disruption of the hospitality industry, but one aspect that may interest the server industry is the value of infrastructural investments. 

Hotels are built for a single purpose: to welcome guests. As such, the entirety of the upfront investments poured into building them must be recuperated by renting out rooms, banquet halls and so on. Most Airbnb rentals have been typically built with another purpose in mind, and, by being listed, gain a second purpose which the owners hadn’t initially anticipated in their original investment. 

Mutable works in much the same way for servers. Companies which pour large initial sums of capital into building their own private cloud networks, as well all the continuing costs of maintenance, don’t initially anticipate that their expensive infrastructure can actually be an investment. Mutable offers these infrastructure investments an extra purpose which continue to make them profitable to their owners long after their initial cost has been recuperating them, by turning these private clouds into a Public Edge Cloud.       

This runs especially true in places where there isn’t enough demand to justify a single-purpose investment, like say, building a massive hotel in a remote Alaskan town. However, building a home for one’s own use, and then creating an extra revenue stream by renting it out when the annual carnival is in town does make sense. Thus, just like Airbnb can literally be anywhere by repurposing lodging infrastructure in a way that hotels can’t, Mutable can provide access to low latency compute to anywhere  in a way that big data-centers could never be expected to.

And that’s exactly why Mutable’s Airbnb model can provide developers with the compute they need with the resources available, and still make it an attractive proposition to those servers’ owners.