While they are sometimes mentioned in the same breath, SAFE farming and Bitcoin mining have only one thing in common: they both create new coins. Farming is the storage workhorse of the SAFE network whereas Bitcoin mining is about validating transactions. We get a lot of questions about farming so here is an attempt to answer a few of them. Thanks for the contributions and clarifications @neo. A number of these key facts are pulled from a SAFE Network Primer to be released shortly.
Running a vault in the SAFE network is called farming because the vault looks after the data it is given rather like a farmer looks after the livestock in his/her care. When farmers provide the data as requested they are able to earn Safecoin as a reward. Farming is data husbandry and Safecoin is the farmers reward. Other analogies are also available…
You don’t have to be a farmer to use the SAFE Network, just as you don’t need to run a web server to surf the web. However, if you want to store information on the Network you will need a certain amount of Safecoin in your account. The amount of data that you can store depends on your Safecoin balance. Safecoin will be available to purchase on exchanges for those who do not earn it by farming.
As a farmer, from time to time the network will supply a chunk of encrypted data for your vault to store. The vault stores the chunk and retrieves it when requested by the network. The chunk is the basic storage element and multiple vaults will be storing a copy of each chunk.
When a user requests a data chunk (e.g. downloads a file) there is a competition between the vaults that store copies of that chunk to be first to deliver it to the network. The winner of that competition will have a chance to earn a Safecoin which is referred to as a ‘farming attempt’. Various parameters will determine if the attempt is successful or not, including ‘
farming_rate’ and ‘
farming_rateis a variable used to attract or discourage farmers in order to maintain a certain level of free space (about 30 per cent of the total capacity). If the proportion of free space drops below this figure the
farming_ratewill increase, more farming attempts will succeed, and farmers will make more money. Conversely, when there is too much free space the
farming_ratewill go down. This happens automatically. The effect of this is to create an incentive for farmers to provide storage when the overall spare capacity is low, and a disincentive when the amount of free space is high.
This balancing mechanism is completely independent of the price of Safecoin. By adjusting the
farming_rateaccording to the amount of free available space on the network users storing data are charged at the optimum rate. While the storing rate is high (available free space is lower) users are discouraged from storing thus helping to free up more space. This dynamic pricing should translate into very competitive prices for data storage.
Vaults need to pass Proof of Resource tests to ensure they can contribute sufficient bandwidth and CPU before they are allowed to join the network.
Everyone, including server farms, is welcome to farm and thereby contribute to the network. To minimise the risk of centralisation, the use of one huge farming rig will be economically disadvantageous compared to running multiple smaller nodes. (See https://safenetwork.wiki/en/FAQ#Farming)
As far as hardware is concerned at this stage the best setup is not known conclusively, although some are looking to small energy efficient single board computers such as a Raspberry PI or Odroids. (See Best farming hardware)
While it cannot be 100% guaranteed, all indications are that bandwidth and storage capacity will continue to increase rapidly for the next decade or two. This will mean that data will never have to be deleted and the knowledge of mankind can be safely stored on the SAFE Network.
Glossary of terms
Farmer: person who runs a vault on the SAFE network.
Data chunks: encrypted file fragments or mutable data entities, maximum size 1 MB.
Immutable data: encrypted data that cannot be changed once stored and is multiple chunks in size.
Mutable data: data that can be changed and is one chunk in size.
Chunk copies: copies of a particular chunk that are stored in several vaults across the world
Farming attempt: farmer asks the network for a reward after successfully delivering a chunk
Farming reward: one Safecoin given as reward for farming (successfully delivering a chunk to the network)
Farming_rate: dynamically determined rate of success of farming attempts
Coin_scarcity: as increasing numbers of Safecoins exist a smaller number of farming attempts will succeed in earning coin.
Network: for this 10 key facts ‘network’ typically refers to the section of the network around the vault.