Understanding Google Cloud’s infrastructure provider role on Flare

On 15 January 2024, we announced that Google Cloud has been onboarded as an infrastructure provider on Flare. This novel role doesn’t exist on other blockchain platforms, and is required for Flare to fulfill its mission as the Blockchain For Data.

What does the Flare infrastructure provider role entail?

An infrastructure provider on Flare has two key responsibilities:

  • Supporting network security as a validator for Flare’s proof of stake consensus mechanism, proposing and validating new blocks on the Flare blockchain.
  • Contributing to Flare’s native oracle, the Flare Time Series Oracle, as a data provider. The FTSO is an oracle system enshrined within the Flare smart contract platform. It delivers decentralized price and data feeds (for example cryptocurrency or stock prices) to dapps on the network without relying on centralized providers. As a data provider for the FTSO, Google is responsible for retrieving off-chain time series data and supplying it to the FTSO smart contract at regular intervals. When combined with the submissions from all of the other data providers, this submission enables a decentralized median value to be calculated and made available to all dapps on the network.

The Flare infrastructure provider role elevates the importance of data within the network. A validator is only eligible to receive rewards if they also successfully submit prices to the Flare Time Series Oracle.

How is this different to how Google Cloud supports other blockchains?

The important difference can be found in the second part of the infrastructure provider role. We believe this is the first time that Google Cloud has participated in a decentralized oracle system, either natively on a blockchain (as with Flare), or with an off-chain system such as Chainlink. This demonstrates strategic alignment on the importance of providing decentralized data at scale for the future of the blockchain industry.

Why is the infrastructure role so important?

Enshrining decentralized data provision in a dual role with network validation is what makes Flare the Blockchain For Data. It enables Flare to offer developers the broadest range of off-chain data, provided in a decentralized manner, at scale, low latency and minimal cost.

Our belief is that blockchain industry utility and growth has been constrained by a lack of sufficient access to decentralized data from other chains and the internet, which has limited the kind of dapps that could be built. Although existing utility in the space comes from the combination of decentralized computation and external data, today’s oracle systems suffer from meaningful drawbacks that hinder this process: they are often hard to decentralize, expensive, slow, not scalable, and it is difficult to add new data types.

These issues are being amplified by the growth of sophisticated use cases with high data demands, such as real world asset tokenization and machine learning / AI. Builders are realizing that current oracle systems are not able to handle sufficient data in a secure & decentralized fashion – and are being drawn to platforms with well considered, native, decentralized data acquisition architecture, like Flare.

Using the decentralized infrastructure of the network, the validators, to also feed the network with a large volume and variety of data removes the data bottleneck. This enables Flare to support the development of these exciting next generation dapps, from AI and RWA to social and gaming.

Who are the other infrastructure providers on Flare?

There are currently 87 infrastructure providers on Flare. They comprise two main types, both of which have exactly the same role and responsibilities for the network.

Google Cloud falls in the first group. They are a professional validator already providing validation services to other blockchains, which has now pivoted their business model to also contribute to the FTSO as a data provider. On Flare, Google Cloud joins other professional organizations around the globe including Ankr, Into the Block, Sensei Nodes, Kiln and Luganodes.

The second group is predominantly made up of experienced FTSO data providers and longtime community contributors that now also offer validation services to the network. Several of these have been feeding the Flare networks with decentralized data for 2+ years, starting with the Flare’s canary network, called Songbird. They are deeply embedded in the Flare ecosystem and often also run dapps on the network or provide additional services to users. For example, FTSO AU runs the Flare Metrics network analytics website, Bifrost runs the Bifrost Wallet and Sparkles runs the Sparkles NFT marketplace.

Can I delegate to the Google Cloud validator and data provider.

Yes, it is possible to both delegate to the Google Cloud data provider and stake to the Google Cloud validator. They are available on the Flare Portal and FlareStake staking tool, BiFrost Wallet and the Solidifi mobile app.