The scalability debate is all across the cryptocurrency community. With major occurrences such as the CryptoKitties debacle clogging up the entire Ethereum network over the span of a few days, it is well-known that the biggest, public blockchains in their current state can’t handle excessive transactions, and hence need to scale.
Ethereum’s developers are beginning to notice problems faced on the network, which certainly make it difficult for the network to grow and be used in everyday life. Because of a hard-coded limit on computation per block, the Ethereum blockchain currently supports roughly 15 transactions per second compared to the 45,000 transactions processed by Visa.
But developers of Ethereum have the answer. By the process of “sharding,” which would essentially split the blockchain to make it possible to run on several different services, developers hope to solve the scaling issue.
During a talk in Taipei in November 2017, Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin laid out the company’s intention to reach Visa levels of scalability within the next three to five years, as reported by Trustnodes. Sharding was painted as a crucial part towards accomplishing this goal.
Currently, the roadmap is only in the discussion phase, but developers are itching to work at the blockchain on a fundamental level, by introducing redesigns to the platform if the upgrade is successfully carried out.
The key to this solution also lies in identifying what exactly is traded via Ethereum’s blockchain. Isolation of the network’s various traded elements would help the development team to introduce protocol-level changes. These elements are termed “crypto commodities” by the team and include storage, gas, and transactional data.
Why is Scaling so Difficult?
At the most fundamental level, both Bitcoin and Ethereum use complicated algorithms and mathematical tools to effectively determine owners of a transaction without the help of a centralized server, thus “decentralized.”
A network of “nodes” is what the entire ethereum blockchain is based on. The nodes determine and validate transactions, check account “balances,” store transactional histories, and made possible the “smart-contracts.”
But as the number of users and transactions increase on the platform, the system experiences a number of difficulties in its “nodes” network. Addressing these issues and problems is what would make cryptocurrencies reach the common man, and even to the point of making a coffee purchase fast and simple.
“In this system, certain nodes would process transactions only for certain shards, allowing the throughput of transactions processed in total across all shards to be much higher,” explains blockchain developer Raul Jordan in a blog post.
Simply said, sharding involves splitting the blockchain network into many smaller fragments, called “shards,” that would control and store contracts, transactions, and transfers. Due to this, the shards would be assigned specific transactions, and each relevant shard would work only for that particular transaction.
Sharding would allow the system to increase output greatly, and a collection of shards shall be able to process more transactions than the Ethereum blockchain (as a singular entity).