ThunderCore : scalability in practice

Thanks to its original approach to the scalability problem, ThunderCore gives us today a first idea of scalable smart contract platforms in practice.

A first glimpse of practical scalability

Since 2015 and the day the Ethereum mainnet went live, the world has enjoyed the first smart contract platform and witnessed the rise of decentralized applications. Since that day, the world has also been waiting for scalability on this platform, unsatisfied with the limit of 25 transactions per second the network can support. While Ethereum 2.0 plans to overcome this cutoff through sharding in the years to come, other initiatives like Cosmos or Zilliqa may also reach this goal and receive the attention they deserve.

Since May 1st, 2019, another project is live that meets some of these objectives but receives far less coverage : ThunderCore. That is the blockchain that we, at Blockchain Partner, chose to deploy our new product on. Tim, our corporate solution aiming to help business transformation through the exchange of tokens, could only be brought to life with the support of a blockchain which would fulfill a few requirements. All of them were satisfied to some degree by ThunderCore :

  • Fast confirmation.
  • High throughput.
  • Low gas costs.
  • Compatibility with the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM).
  • A public and secure ledger.
  • Available today.

A singular effort

ThunderCore tackles the problem of scalability with an original approach, orthogonal to most other initiatives, and endorsed by serious research on asynchronous networks.

With classical Byzantine Fault Tolerant consensus models, scalability comes to the price of safety. More liveness implies less time to aggregate validator signatures, which in the end results in a higher probability of forking. Thunderella, the scheme at the heart of the new blockchain, introduces an asynchronous fast path inheriting its robustness from the existence of a fall-back slow path, a role played by the Ethereum mainnet itself. Thunderella replaces traditional and complex asynchronous recovery paths with the Nakamoto-style chain which has proven its safety and now brings robustness and finality to the fast path. The latter, basically made of a single accelerator and a proof-of-stake committee, ensures liveness under optimistic conditions.

Of course, with a blockchain only ranked in the 300s by market capitalization and requiring a supermajority of players acting honestly, the level of security provided is questionable. It may still be sufficient for many applications and it nevertheless offers today a first glimpse of practical scalability on a public decentralized ledger.

Building on ThunderCore

ThunderCore natively supports EVM-compatible smart contracts and the promise of easy and fast operation is totally fulfilled for any developer with little knowledge of Ethereum. From our experience, the core team and community reachable on their Discord server has also shown to be very capable, reactive and helpful.

We would like to point out two specifics that, even if correctly indicated in official resources, may be good to mention for newcomers :

  • To the date of writing, the latest supported version of the EVM is only two-year-old Byzantium. While this prevents accessing features from more recent updates, high-level developer tools like abigen also often require to edit their sources in order to use older EVM versions.
  • To interact with the network, chain details should be provided but are only rarely integrated in typical tools and libraries. When using ethereumjs-common for instance, you should configure a custom chain with the following parameters : {baseChain: "mainnet", customChainParams: {name: "ThunderCore Mainnet", networkId: 108, chainId: 108}, hardfork: "byzantium"}.

Building and deploying a project on this blockchain is thus overall an easy process. Other awaited features like developer funded gas and a native random number generator may also increase its usability. ThunderCore may thus seem very promising, but just as importantly, it is as of today one of the first practical scalable smart contract platforms available.



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