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Blockchain Infrastructure: Identifying Infrastructure Applications

Introduction

All the systems and processes require appropriate infrastructure to function. For instance, trains run on railway tracks but require stations, yards, and other infrastructural facilities to function. This infrastructure can be in the form of an underlying framework and resources such as blockchain infrastructure used to deploy blockchain technology in existing and new processes and systems.

Today the best blockchain applications in business processes and complex systems in finance, banking, cloud storage, payments, cryptocurrency, supply chain, retail, etc. These sectors deploy blockchain infrastructure to decentralize, secure and increase the efficiency and transparency of their operations. Blockchain as infrastructure is also comprised of several key elements such as nodes, clusters, etc. Let’s uncover the role of blockchain applications and their key elements and blockchain infrastructure platform-as-a-service.  

What is Blockchain Infrastructure?

What is Blockchain Infrastructure
Source: iMi Blockchain| Key Elements of blockchain infrastructure

While blockchain became popular as an infrastructure underlying cryptocurrencies with the advent of Bitcoin, the concept of blockchain dates back to as far as 1991. When a group of researchers got together to create a tool for timestamping documents to store them immutably, we got our first blockchain ecosystem. This blockchain infrastructure was adopted and adapted by Satoshi Nakamoto for Bitcoin. 

Blockchain infrastructure refers to the systems or facilities that come together for the successful implementation of blockchain technology. Blockchain doesn’t just comprise elements such as nodes and clusters; it also consists of multiple hardware units like GPUs, CPUs, etc., and software such as Solidity, Mist, Testnet, etc. In order to pilot your blockchain applications, your infrastructure resources must aptly support those initial pilots and scaling, if required, in the future.  

What are the Key Elements of Blockchain Infrastructure?

1. Nodes 

A node can be defined as the core component of a blockchain infrastructure which carries out certain key functions such as validating transactions and storing, sharing, and transferring blockchain data and records. In a Proof-of-Stake blockchain, nodes perform the additional function of submitting governance votes on a proposal. How these key functions are performed is dictated by the client. 

For the uninitiated, a decentralized network, aka blockchain infrastructure, can support numerous software implementations and clients. All this depends on the design of the blockchain network. These clients can then be built ot leverage several programming languages and can exist in multiple implementations.  

Types of Nodes: 

1. Participation Nodes

These nodes form the building blocks of proof of stake blockchains. These nodes perform the task of validating transactions, creating blocks, and in return, earning block rewards. In order to participate actively as a validator, these nodes need to lock or ‘stake’ a set amount of tokens. 

2. Read/write Nodes

Read/write nodes perform the fundamental tasks of verifying transactions, and besides that, they obtain information about them via queries, write transfer data, or smart contract interactions to the chain. 

3. Sentry Nodes

Also known as proxy nodes, these node act as a communication link between a participation node and the blockchain. It allows the participation node to perform its function while it remains hidden from the public internet. Sentry nodes act as an additional barrier to protect the participation nodes from attacks.  

4. Relay Nodes 

Relay nodes function as hubs for a blockchain network’s peer-to-peer communication channels. They do so by connecting to a participation node and many other nodes to reduce the time taken for transmission via open and efficient communication channels. 

2. Clusters 

A cluster can be defined as a network-specific node or a collection of nodes together with load balancing tools, alerting, and monitoring services as its supporting infrastructure. Nodes and clusters form a crucial part of blockchain infrastructure. Clusters help blockchain applications to eliminate system crashes or loss of connectivity due to individual participants suffering if their node stops working. A cluster does so by running multiple nodes simultaneously and forming clusters on separate systems with separate network connections.  

Types of Clusters

1. Load Balancers 

These kinds of clusters serve the function of distributing traffic across many servers, thereby improving the responsiveness of an individual node in the blockchain infrastructure.  True to their name, these clusters balance the load such that none of the individual nodes bears the excessive load. 

2. Failover Protection

This type of cluster saves the node from experiencing excessive downtime if ever the system stops functioning. The kind of failover protection that these nodes can afford to other nodes depends on whether the node is cloud-based or hardware-based. 

3. Monitoring and Alerting Services

These services monitor the activity of the nodes and ensure that they are healthy and contribute optimally to the network. They do so via monitoring several parameters, such as monitoring a node’s CPU use. This helps the cluster determine whether the requests are processed effectively. If the cluster witnesses an abnormal increase in CPU usage, it could be marked as a sign of an attack. These clusters also monitor the uptime of all nodes to ensure they are up and functioning. 

4. Container Services 

These allow mass action within the cluster. Container services are used to maintain multiple clusters and support blockchain client APIs. These services bring together applications and their packages into a form that can be controlled as a version. 

3. Security Infrastructure 

The security aspect of blockchain infrastructure is covered via certain technical elements such as network firewalls, key management, auditing, and other such security considerations. 

How does the blockchain infrastructure ensure its security is well-maintained? It does so by deploying patches and updates to the code implementations. These code implementations power the blockchain infrastructure.  Security maintenance helps the blockchain application keep itself up to date with the latest updates and releases. This ultimately helps to protect the users from vulnerabilities, if any, found by protocol teams. 

What does Blockchain Infrastructure as a PaaS Provider Offer? 

The task of a blockchain infrastructure platform-as-a-service (PaaS) provider involves coordinating and maintaining access to amenities such as security features, data centers, and servers. 

 Blockchain infrastructure platform-as-a-service (PaaS) providers also develop the code to build on these amenities and also the platform to access them. Besides these, a PaaS provider handles development tools, analytics and metrics, container services, and community support. By combining these amenities, the providers allow users a simple way to deploy and manage blockchain infrastructure. 

What is the Optimized Participation for Hardware, Nodes, and Solutions?

Blockchain Infrastructure as a PaaS solution enables people to participate in the network without having to build and maintain hardware, code bases, and other resources. People can become a part of such blockchain networks without doing so. To understand this better, let’s take an example. The electricity grid and power plants allow factories and households to use electricity without setting up individual units that would produce electricity for them. Similarly, blockchain’s role as a PaaS enables blockchain infrastructure to be programmed as per customer specifications. This helps in saving customers’ time and resources involved in executing code needs, setting up the infrastructure, pool fees, etc. 

Conclusion

Blockchain infrastructure and its key elements perform and automate processes and updates to code implementations, thereby helping users to get the best use out of the network nodes, hardware, and applications. Once the updates and patches get deployed in a timely fashion, the downtime is reduced, leading to better efficiency, reduced risks of hacks, and faster transactions. 

To summarize, blockchain infrastructure is crucial in the smooth implementation and operation of blockchain technology. Blockchain is also the underlying force behind crypto infrastructure. A blockchain PaaS provider develops API solutions via which customers can integrate blockchain into their existing products and resources. 

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