Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin recently took to Twitter to announce that an implementation of so-called Sharding is seemingly evident. Sharding represents a new technology which holds great potential for improving Ethereum scaling, something which is desperately needed if Ethereum is to support a variety of decentralized apps that could house potentially millions of users. If implemented successfully, Sharding would go a long way towards achieving this.
Buterin tweeted the brief message ”Sharding is coming”, together with a link to a GitHub page, containing a working proof-of-concept of Sharding. At the moment, the Ethereum blockchain network can only support a maximum of around 15 transactions per second. Furthermore, every single transaction needs to be processed by all the nodes in the network. This presents an obvious problem if the technology and blockchain are to gain more widespread traction and adoption, and needs to be solved. Sharding promises to do just that, through making the verification process for smart contracts and transactions more direct and streamlined.
Essentially, this is achieved through partitioning the relevant blockchain network into a multitude of parts, referred to as ”shards”. More specifically, Sharding allows for some specific nodes to be coupled with some specific shards, meaning that all nodes do not need to run through the Ethereum network’s whole transaction history. This substantially increases the number of different transactions able to be processed by a blockchain network. As several different computers on the network can cooperate and divvy up transaction processing amongst the group of network computers, more transactions can be processed at the same time.
Buterin went on to delve further into his thoughts on Sharding in a series of tweets. He noted that the GitHub content contained a ”bag of ideas” for how Sharding should work, however it should be stressed that the ultimate specifications have not yet been finalized. The overarching goal is to ”get maximally close to equivalent properties to a single chain”. Moreover, the use of Sharding has reportedly allowed a proof-of-stake beacon chain to issue new blocks in the blockchain every 2 – 8 seconds – representing a significant gain over current proof-of-work chains such as that of Bitcoin, which averages a block issuance time of around 10 minutes.
Sharding is, however, not the only on-chain scaling improvement being explored by Ethereum developers. Plasma is another project for improving the future scalability of Ethereum-based smart contracts, as is that of Casper. Such upgrades and improvements represent crucial steps towards allowing the blockchain to continue to grow and facilitate the building of decentralized applications on top of it.
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