“Imagine that Ethereum has been split into thousands of islands. Each island can do its own thing. Each of the islands has its own unique features, and everyone belonging on that island, i.e., the accounts, can interact with each other and they can freely indulge in all its features.”
The quote above by Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin explains what Proof-of-Stake sharding is. PoS sharding is one of the main attractions of Ethereum 2.0. There are two major issues that the old Ethereum faces:
- The inability to support a rapid increase in user numbers.
- The inability to maintain decentralization at scale.
And Proof-of-Stake sharding is the solution for both of them. However, what is Proof-of-Stake sharding, exactly? And how does it work? Let’s find out!
What is Proof-of-Stake Sharding (PPOSS)?
Sharding is a technique for horizontally partitioning data in a database, and it is one of the primary factors driving Ethereum’s transition to the Proof-of-Stake consensus model.
Proof-of-Stake sharding is the process of horizontally splitting blocks or databases of a Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus blockchain to increase network scalability and capacity. Under the PoS sharding approach, each participant must stake some coins in order to participate in the block validation process. In Ethereum 2.0, for example, one stake of at least 32 coins corresponds to one vote during a block validation round.
How does Proof-of-Stake Sharding work?
The idea behind sharding is to divide the network’s state and history into multiple partitions or shards. Proof-of-Stake Sharding (PPOSS) is an initiative to address Ethereum’s scalability issues. Each shard processes its own portion of the network’s state, allowing the overall system to process many transactions at once and thus significantly increase throughput.
So far, Ethereum is planned to have 64 shard chains. The network’s PoS sharding mechanism will rely heavily on the beacon chain. The mainchain (Beacon Chain) in the PoS Ethereum will serve as the consensus and coordination layer for the shard chains.
All shard chains are tightly coupled with the main chain, increasing system security. Shard blocks are only valid if they are approved by the main chain. Validators who have not been chosen to create a new shard block will be responsible for attesting another validator’s new block proposal and confirming its validity.
What are the Advantages of Proof-of-Stake Sharding?
The many advantages of PPOSS include:
- PoS-sharded blockchains enable nodes to avoid downloading the entire history of the blockchain or validating every transaction that passes through the network, increasing network efficiency and allowing blockchains to scale efficiently and meet increased user demand.
- Proof-of-stake sharding reduces the hardware requirements for validators, allowing blockchain networks to be run on a personal computer or a smartphone.
- PoS sharding allows for the secure distribution of data storage, lowering the cost for storage layers and roll-ups and making nodes easier to manage.
- It allows layer 2 solutions to offer low transaction fees while leveraging Ethereum’s security.
- Shard chains will enable networks to handle more transactions than a single node.
In the ever-advancing blockchain space, if you want scalability without compromising on decentralization, sharding is a good way to achieve that. The alternative is to increase the size of the existing database, which of course brings its share of inconveniences.
However, while sharding may be a comprehensive scalability solution, it can’t be denied that there is still much work to be done.
For Ethereum 2.0, it is important to note that sharding will only exist at the protocol layer and will not be visible to developers. The logic for keeping shards secure and in sync is built into the Ethereum clients that create the blockchain. Ethereum is expected to be able to solve its scalability issues to a large extent with the help of Proof-of-Stake sharding (PPOSS).
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