Solana ICO Review — A New High Performance Blockchain Challenger
We are entering a new blockchain era in 2018 with a lot of infrastructure projects proposing new scalability solutions to solve the problem that Bitcoin and Ethereum currently have. Solana is a new challenger in this space. Unlike some projects which propose completely new consensus algorithm, Solana still uses Proof of Stake (PoS) as its consensus algorithm, while introducing Proof of History (PoH) + Proof of Replication (PoRep) in its architecture to improve efficiency and scalability. Solana aims to achieve up to 710k transactions/second on a 1gb network without data partitioning, and recently it has already achieved a throughput of 250k transactions/second on a single-node testnet with a peak at 400k.
We can say Proof of History (PoH) is what defines Solana. But what is Proof of History? History refers to the timing of events, but how can we trust the time is the right one? Imagine when we can be certain what time a particular transaction occurs and thus the ordering of events, we can be much more efficient in validating transactions (i.e. reaching consensus) — this is what Solana strives to achieve.
PoH encodes a trustworthy ‘clock’ into the blockchain by running a hash function (SHA256) continuously and the output of the function becomes the input of the next function operation to form a hash chain. The number of times the function is called is recorded and a timestamp is created by appending the state, index and data. As the hash function is collision resistant and we cannot predict the what hash value at index x will be without running the function x times (given the fact that the previous output is inserted as next input), we can infer that real time has passed and the clock is trustworthy.
The cool advantage of PoH is that it adds valuable data before consensus to help optimize read consistency as the order and timing of events can be validated without witnessing them directly and talking to each and every node. It is also capable of horizontal scaling with multiple PoH generators synchronizing among one another.
Proof of Replication (PoRep) is a concept inspired by Filecoin which determines if data has been replicated to unique storage (for details please refer to Filecoin’s technical paper https://filecoin.io/proof-of-replication.pdf). Solana’s PoRep is designed to increase storage availability without the need to store the entire ledger. PoRep has to work in parallel with PoH, as storage will become expensive without PoH — PoH creates reliable timestamps so PoRep is no longer required to reorder blocks and verification can be streamed.
Anatoly, the CEO of Solana wrote a nice article to explain PoH in depth — https://medium.com/solana-labs/proof-of-history-a-clock-for-blockchain-cf47a61a9274
For more details and to read the technical whitepaper please visit the project website https://solana.io/
Project Scope & Roadmap
A brief roadmap is available on Solana’s website. The team already has a testnet in place and the second version of testnet (multi-noded) will be released in June. Public beta will be available in Sep 2019 and mainnet launch is scheduled in Q4 2018.
The project is still at a very early stage. We understand that in addition to smart contract functionalities, cross chain atomic swap and high speed decentralized exchange may also be planned in the pipeline. However, since the team is focusing on building the multi-noded testnet, these potential development have not been officially documented into the whitepaper and website. We have to wait till the team releases more details.
Team & Advisors
The team currently has 6 members with very strong background from the commercial world:
Anatoly Yakovenko, CEO — 15+ years of software engineering experience (operating system development, distributed systems, compression) with Qualcomm, Mesosphere and Dropbox. Holder of 2 patents for high performance Operating Systems protocols
Greg Fitzgerald, CTO — 15+ years of software engineering experience mainly with Qualcomm (former Office of Chief Scientist, involved in BREW operating system and LLVM compiler development). He will be the chief architect of Solana
Raj Gokal, COO — 10+ years of experience in product management and finance within the healthcare industry. Former venture investor at General Catalyst. Graduated from Wharton Business School of University of Pennsylvania. He will lead operations, finance and business development of Solana
Eric Williams, Data Science, Token economics — Eric studied particle physics at University of California, Berkeley and received his PhD from Columbia University. He will be the chief data scientist and heads token economics
Alan Yu, Strategy, BD, Marketing — 10+ years of Sales and Marketing experience in Google. Alan will be the lead of partnership and community
Stephen Akridge, Engineering — 10+ years of software engineering experience in Intel, Qualcomm and Salesforce. An expert in critical GPU optimization.
The team have not yet announced any official advisors, but they have few experts giving technical feedback behind the scene.
Despite at a very early development stage, Solana has managed to form partnership with two projects — GlobalID (https://www.globalid.net/) and Yaka Labs (https://hardyaka.com/). The projects aim to deliver portable, private, secure identity for individual and group interactions and deliver payments at scale.
The team has not yet announced token metrics and token sale dates. The only thing we know is that token will be released in Q1 2019, after mainnet launches
- All star team with strong academic & technical background and prior commercial experience in the world’s most prestigious tech giants (Qualcomm, Dropbox, Intel, Salesforce, etc)
- With prior Silicon Valley background, the team is working in a startup friendly ecosystem which is beneficial for more potential collaboration/partnership with other startups (e.g. the team recently has a event with Dfinity, Kadena, TrueBit with a focus on scalability, moderated by Sam Lessin, former VP Product at Facebook)
- PoH is an innovative and inexpensive way to achieve scalability
- Project is getting more hyped with strong community interest
- The infrastructure space is getting more crowded and very competitive, Solana is relatively late in the game with quite a few projects launching their mainnets in the next few months
- Lack of business substance (e.g. potential use cases) and a clear list of features in the current whitepaper (will update when team releases further info)
- Tokens will be distributed in Q1 2019, which means investors’ funds will be locked for quite a while (However, if Solana can achieve its vision, implements and executes well it can also generate huge rewards for their long term supporters)
There can be more than one way to achieve scalability in a blockchain network. The solution Solana proposes (PoH + PoRep) is definitely another innovative, intuitive and low cost way to tackle this issue. However, in the time with a lot of projects stating 1M transactions/second can be achieved with their technology, we should ask if the throughput speed is the sole determinant whether a project will succeed? At the end of the day do we really need a blockchain that can operate at the speed of light?
No matter how disruptive a technology is, people have to use them for the technology to realize its value (i.e. mass adoption). That’s why Bitcoin and Ethereum are still the most popular Blockchain networks even though they have a low throughout. Despite the intense competition, Solana’s unique advantage is the team’s sillicon valley and startup experience which allows them to collaborate with other startups in an ecosystem which is almost in-existent in other parts of the globe to influence and make a strong impact on the Blockchain revolution. We are optimistic that Solana can gain a foothold in this competitive space.
*We will give our final verdict after Solana releases their token metrics
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