Sharding Blockchain Technology Could Process Transactions Faster

November 21, 2017

6:30 pm

Zilliqa is a new blockchain platform successfully deployed their platform on internal Amazon Web Services nodes as a test reaching transaction speeds meant to rival major payment processors Visa and Mastercard. Using its new sharding technology, Zillqa takes blockchain and the distributed ledger technology to new levels of performance.

The Zilliqa blockchain platform was developed by researchers at the National University of Singapore led by Xinshu Dong based off of a Secure Sharding protocol originally proposed by their research team that included Loi Luu and Prateek Saxena back in 2015. Zilliqa proposes a new blockchain based on a sharding protocol that allows for a high-throughput platform designed to securely scale in an open, permission-less distributed network.

Fixing The Real Problem

Zilliqa’s technology addresses the biggest pain point facing public blockchain platforms: Scalability. The ability to handle a larger number of transactions per second as a blockchain network grows is the biggest problems facing existing platforms. These real-world examples often cited are the 7–10 transactions/second (TX/s) available in Bitcoin and Ethereum today. The issue is these numbers fall short of centralized payment processors like VISA, which processes roughly 8,000 TX/s on average. Zilliqa has proposed a new blockchain platform that solves these issues using sharding.

What Is Sharding?

Sharding is a concept that the Zilliqa team proposed in a paper back in 2015, but hasn’t yet been deployed as an open and permission-less blockchain at scale until now.  The idea is to automatically split up a large network of machines processing transactions into parallel sub-committees or “shards.” Each shard processes its own microblock in parallel with other shards, and resulting micro-blocks are merged into one last one. Although the high-level idea of sharding appears not difficult to understand, ensuring a secure and unbiased process of sharding is highly challenging. Zilliqa develops a mechanism to dynamically pick and update a special committee of machines to ensure such properties.

Using this approach with a network size of 10,000 nodes (less than half of Ethereum), Zilliqa would enable a throughput which matches that of VISA and MasterCard, with lower fees for merchants.

Why Sharding?

In its current state, today’s mainstream public blockchains aren’t suitable for running computation-intensive tasks. This is because any of the computation tasks would have to be repeated at all full nodes on the blockchain for validation. Although they are secure, such a fully redundant programming model is prohibitively expensive for running large-scale computations.

Zilliqa proposed a new ‘scalability-driven’ smart contract language that is not Turing-complete, but rather scales better for a multitude of applications that range from automated auctions, shared economy to financial modelling. The smart contract language in Zilliqa follows a dataflow programming style, where the program can be a directed graph, and nodes in the graph represent computations, while arcs represent input/output.

Real World Results

After months of development (and years of theoretical work) Zilliqa has created an initial technology platform based upon their proposals that deployed on an internal testnet of Amazon Web Services EC2 instances, and the results were astounding.  When Zilliqa deployed on 2,400 nodes with 4 shards, the blockchain network achieved a throughput of 1,389 transactions per second. As of October 12, version 0.5 tested performance six shards and 3,600 nodes. The peak throughput reached 2.488 transactions per second.

Zilliqa plans to release their source code and a public testnet in December 2017. The public release of the Zilliqa source code and protocol planned for December 2017 enables the public to take part and test functionality and performance.

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Photo via BTC Chain / Creative Commons / Flickr

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I am a technology start up writer. I love to explore the people and stories behind the new ideas changing the world. The best part of the discovery is the preparation which goes into the project. I believe context is important for ALL questions. The most important question you will ever ask and answer is why.

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