Is this Kubernetes-based supercloud the future of open source?

  • Akash Network is what is known as a supercloud — a cloud comprised of spare compute assets from a range of providers

  • Buyers can log in to the Akash portal and lease compute power.

  • Golem Network, Render and RunPod provide similar services 

Talking about Akash Network feels a bit like playing buzzword bingo. It’s a decentralized open-source (B) supercloud (I) that provides GPU capacity (N), relies on blockchain (G) and uses crypto (O!) tokens for payments. But founder Greg Osuri argued there is actual substance behind the descriptors. And Akash Network, he said, provides a new business model for sustainable open-source innovation.

Perhaps the easiest way to understand Akash Network is to think of it sort of as Airbnb but for compute power.

Akash Network is built on Kubernetes-based software. Those who want to participate in the marketplace install the Akash software on their servers and voila. They're in as providers. Buyers looking for cheap compute power can then log on to the Akash portal and hunt down the exact kind of resources (coughGPUscough) they're looking for and ink a lease deal with the provider of their choice. 

AvidThink founder Roy Chua said the idea behind Akash Network isn’t entirely original. A few years back (now Mutable Public Edge Cloud) tried to get telcos to lease out their spare compute, Chua said. RunPod and Render are among a number of other companies that provide GPU rental services. Then there’s Golem Network, which is doing the same with its open source platform.

Chua said the difference when it comes to Akash is execution. While many of these companies built on trendy tech don’t last long, Chua noted Akash has some staying power. He added it also has proven out a key use case – renting out GPU capacity for artificial intelligence (AI) training – via a collaboration with

“It seems like the mechanism is holding together for the time being, and they’ve been able to create a use case that – I don’t know if it’s sustainable or not – but at least it has some uptake,” Chua said.

Behind the curtain

But what is the mechanism, exactly? Osuri said open source is a key element for Akash, especially given its position as a potential hub for AI training.

“Any sufficiently important technology, in order for it to reach its maximum potential, needs to be open source,” he said. “We saw that with operating systems, we saw that with infrastructure software, we saw that with internet. And the world is going toward a closed-source world which is very dangerous” especially when it comes to technologies like AI.

Importantly, though, Akash Network has created a self-sustaining ecosystem, which Osuri said has thus far allowed it to overcome a huge hurdle that open-source innovation usually faces: cash flow.

“I think sustainability for open-source software is a big challenge. We saw what happened with Docker,” he said, referring to the downfall of the open-source container company. “Sadly, the biggest and most successful business model we have for open source right now is commercial open source software, which is not truly open source.”

He continued: “The older model of [raising] millions of dollars fails. It’s impossible to get funded for open source software, unless it’s open-source AI, but that’s dying out too because people are figuring out there’s no business models here. If it’s open-source software and everything’s free, how do you make money?”

There’s also the issue of what happens to open source projects when their contributor bases dry up. As Kubernetes co-founder Craig McLuckie recently told Silverlinings, dwindling contributor bases can pose a cybersecurity threat for open source assets.

Osuri said Akash tackles both of these challenges with a disruptive approach.

Basically, anyone can propose a new feature for the network and apply for funding. Token holders (i.e. users of the Akash system) vote on whether or not to fund the contribution. Contributors are paid in tokens and the incentive to hold on to those tokens is that token holders are paid dividends from the revenue generated by Akash’s hosting fees. That means contributors are also incentivized to recruit more providers and users to the network.

In effect, Akash has created a self-sustaining ecosystem.

“Everyone wins,” Osuri said.

What’s next

Right now, Akash Network comprises about 65 compute providers, including Foundry, hosting providers and – interestingly – former crypto miners with a ton of GPUs that have been sitting idle since the crypto crash in 2022.

In the short term, Osuri said Akash will focus on adding more features to its network, including automation and observability capabilities. Longer term, the goal is for Akash to reach parity with big cloud providers. To do that, it’ll need about 1,500 providers on its network, he said.

Osuri said the company believes it will take about 18 months for it to hit the 1,000 provider mark and a little over 24 months to get to 1,500. He added Akash is preparing to launch a pilot incentive program, which will offer providers cash upfront to list their spare compute resources on the marketplace rather than only paying them when those resources are leased.

According to Chua, Akash should have an easy time of it luring in more crypto miners. That’s because folks in that arena will already understand what the company is trying to do. Ditto with traditional hosting providers, who are already experienced in running third-party workloads and have the legal framework for doing so. Getting enterprises and telcos on board will be a different story, he added.

“To unlock this next set of resources that are hidden behind enterprises and service providers will be a little harder,” he said. “Until that whole trust and safety and compliance framework is put in, they’re going to be very unwilling to sign up to something like this.”