Shardeum is a Layer 1 EVM compatible, sharded blockchain with solid security, low fees, and linear scalability. Scalable Layer 1 blockchains are difficult to build as they support an ever growing ecosystem of DApps: Web 3.0 applications that span from DeFi and SocialFi to Metaverse and NFT marketplaces.
But aren’t the existing Layer 1 networks already crowded? Well, Ethereum, the mother of smart contract ecosystems, is crowded with more DApps than it can currently handle. Further, Ethereum supports a priority fee model for transactions and so the users have been paying exorbitantly high gas fees in exchange for service. Transaction confirmations take anywhere between 5 minutes to hours depending on network congestion. This isn’t ideal for practical use cases where transactions require fast confirmation and finality.
There are several alternate Layer 1 networks that claim to solve this problem but have met with resistance from the Scalability Trilemma. It refers to the situation in which an open network can only possess two of the following three core tenets at any given time: Scalability, Decentralization, and Security. Scalable and secure networks sacrifice decentralization to some degree and become centralized over time. Decentralized and secure networks lack scalability.
State Sharding: Answer to Scalability Trilemma
Ethereum proposed to solve the scalability trilemma by transitioning from a Proof of Work to a Proof of Stake consensus model and sharding (splitting). It proposed splitting up the network into 64 different shards in addition to the Beacon chain. Sharding the blockchain theoretically enables Ethereum with more processing power resulting in high transaction throughput and efficient storage. The idea is that transactions can be processed by the shard chains (or committees) simultaneously and relayed to the Beacon chain which coordinates these committees.
It is important to note that Ethereum 2.0 doesn’t propose to shard the state of the chain but only the storage as of this writing. Though sharding may allow Ethereum to scale up several times than that of its current throughput, it is being debated within the Ethereum community whether the computing power of the chain should be sharded or not since it enables sharded committees to compute smart contracts. Even after The Merge and pivot to PoS, Ethereum shards still have to commit entire blocks. That essentially means, network will only be as fast as the node with the lowest bandwidth that is able to validate the block. As Ethereum’s cofounder Vitalik outlines, there are limits to blockchain scalability, however, sharding is the only solution that attempts to scale decentralized networks.
Shardeum will use a multi-dimensional sharding architecture from its underlying protocol, Shardus. It will spread the network’s load in terms of bandwidth, storage, and computation across the shards. It’s dynamic state sharding will enable smart contract execution on sharded chains. The overall network will have a very high throughput, low latency, and instant finality. It can further auto scale in such a way that TPS proportionally increases with adoption.
Unique Consensus Model
Shardeum uses a Proof of Stake + Proof of Quorum consensus model. Shardeum nodes do not verify blocks but rather the individual transactions with near-instant confirmation and finality before broadcasting them to the consensus group of shards. These transactions are then clubbed into a block and get added to the blockchain.
When a transaction occurs between two different nodes, the responsibility of verifying the transaction is assigned to the shards to which the nodes belong. These shards then form a consensus group to validate the transaction. This is based upon a novel cross-shard communication model that Shardeum is developing. To efficiently scale the network, nodes in Shardeum are classified into 3 types based on initial plan which is subject to change.
Types of Shardeum Nodes Proposed
Archive Nodes : Archive nodes are nodes that provide storage to the Shardeum network. Archive nodes would require greater storage capacity than the validator nodes. Validator nodes can leverage the storage of these nodes to offload data. This allows the validator nodes to process transactions faster while maintaining security by communicating with the archive nodes to verify the chain history when needed.
Standby Nodes : The Standby node, as the name suggests, ‘stands by’ and waits for its turn to participate in the validation process on the network. They are reserve nodes that come to aid when the load across the network increases. This means that, as more and more users begin to use Shardeum, or even if there’s a sudden spike in transaction volume, the network will scale proportionately. The throughput (TPS) will increase to match the demand. This effectively means horizontal scaling where new nodes add to the network’s processing power.
Validator Nodes : The Validator nodes do the heavy lifting. They verify a transaction as soon as it is received. Verified transactions are gossiped to all nodes in a consensus group consisting of two or more shards, or specifically, the shards with the nodes that are involved in a particular transaction. This is then followed by a quorum (receipts). A successful quorum requires more than 50% of receipt of validity/votes received from the nodes in the consensus group to confirm the transaction on the network. The transaction then gets passed on to archive nodes.
$SHM, Shardeum’s native crypto will be used as fees for transactions to prevent spam and botnet attacks. Nodes are required to lock in minimum collateral before they’re added to the network. Like most peer-to-peer networks, Shardeum keeps malicious nodes in check by slashing the collateral of the bad actors. This ensures that participating nodes are honest and do not act to undermine the network. Transactions are always validated by more than 50% of the nodes in a consensus group which prevents double-spending.
Can a shard be taken over if a bad actor injects over 51% of malicious nodes onto the said shard? Theoretically yes. But that won’t be the case with Shardeum. Nodes are randomly sampled and rotated in and out of a shard. So, at any given time, it would be impossible for the attacker to predict which nodes belong to a particular shard.
Onboarding DApps & Industries at Global Scale
Shardeum is inclusive and flexible to build with. The founders of Shardeum chose it to be EVM compatible to allow easy interoperability of DApps running on various blockchain networks. For example, any application supported by Ethereum, such as Aave, MakerDAO, and Yearn Finance can easily transact with Shardeum in a seamless way.
The real goal of Shardeum, though, is to get everyone on-boarded into the Web3 train including centralized entities like banks. The enterprises of today that rely on centralized systems do so because there’s no secure alternative that is also scalable. Shardeum envisions a future where it can be used by any business, enterprise, or individual from any part of the world in a trustless, borderless, and permissionless way. Simply put, Shardeum is a blockchain for billions of people!
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Opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author(s). They do not necessarily purport to reflect the opinions or views of Shardeum foundation.
About the Author : Shriraam Sekar is a crypto writer/marketer involved in the space since 2019. He covers Layer 1s, DeFi, NFTs, Metaverse, GameFi, SocialFi, and crypto regulations. Follow him on Twitter for collaboration related to crypto/Web 3.0