By Brooke Walter and Nissa Szabo
Since bloXroute is a company founded by PhDs and Professors, we thought it would be fun to turn the tables on our CTO, Soumya Basu, and give him a pop quiz on our tech. Earlier this month, Soumya took to our recently launched Telegram channel to host an AMA and answer questions collected from our Telegram and Reddit communities. There were many great questions so we wanted to share some of his answers with our medium community as well! In the conversation, Soumya speaks on our vision, the problem with current blockchain networks, and new scalability opportunities. Also, a big thank you to our amazing community members for their continued support and engagement.
Q: Hi Soumya, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. My understanding is that anyone can run a bloXroute node on their mining software, is that correct?
A: No problem, I love answering questions and explaining what we’re doing! Yes, we are building the bloXroute nodes so that the blockchain node (think bitcoind or geth) just sees bloXroute as another peer that speaks the protocol. Under the hood, we will convert the protocol into our own messages to allow for the compression and security checks.
Q: Are there any minimum system requirements for running the bloXroute process?
A: We want to make the bloXroute process as light as possible. For right now, any system that can run python should be able to run the bloXroute process.
Q: So, could bloXroute work with different consensus mechanisms or just PoW?
A: Yes, it does! If you think about *any* consensus algorithm, the point is to agree on something. Before you agree on that thing, you have to tell everyone what it is! bloXroute optimizes the latter part since that’s common to all protocols. How the agreement happens can be different depending on what trust assumptions you want to have.
Q: Is there any security issues with all bloXroute nodes being run by a company?
A: No, this is the purpose of our provably neutral API — to remove the trust in bloXroute’s BDN. This is also why cryptocurrencies cannot simply use something like Amazon AWS to scale: they are not provably neutral.
Q: Will all the bloXroute nodes be located in the United States?
A: Of course not! We are a worldwide block distribution network and will have nodes all over the world in order to ferry blocks and transactions quickly and efficiently.
Q: What is the incentive for someone to run a node?
A: They get blocks and transactions more quickly than everyone else.
Q: Okay, hypothetical situation: Let’s say that Ethereum forks to make the parameters of their blockchain fit bloXroute perfectly so they can do +10,000 TPS. If bloXroute completely shuts off, for whatever reason, can these new parameters make Ethereum unuseable?
A: No. This is the purpose of the backup network. If bloXroute shuts off suddenly with no warning, the backup network should kick in and prevent Ethereum from becoming unusable. If the backup network isn’t as efficient as bloXroute’s BDN, there may be some small slowdown but it won’t be unusable.
Q: Regarding the onboarding process, it seems the only thing we need to do is install the bloXroute gateway process. Is there anything bloXroute needs to do? I am wondering whether miners can take it upon themselves to use bloXroute as a way to improve their chances for rewards.
A: bloXroute needs to convert from the blockchain to bloXroute’s protocol. This needs to happen on a per-blockchain basis, but this should be a simple API to implement. But the goal is for deployment to be as easy as possible for the end user/miner.
Q: This suggests that you need the BDN network to be as close to the miners/nodes as possible. How big is the BDN network? Are there any countries bloXroute is not available in?
A: The BDN will be available everywhere on day one. We’re not going to reject connections from any geographic regions. However, as we grow and expand and improve our service, the performance that is seen by each end node will improve.
Q: Will I receive and send blocks faster than peer nodes when using the BDN on the ETH network?
A: Nodes will run gateways, which connect to the BDN to propagate blocks faster. To your ETH node, the gateway looks like a regular ETH node except it gets blocks faster and transmits blocks faster (to the entire network, not just nodes that you’re connected to).
Q: How is the development for the API going?
A: It’s going pretty well! We’re adding Ethereum support, so the API is being actively developed now. I’m sure we’ll hit some snags, but our developers are really great so it won’t be anything that our team can’t handle. (Shameless plug: if you or anyone else you know is interested, please consider joining our team- they’re pretty great.)
Q: Which protocol is the API going to be available in?
A: The API will be protocol agnostic, so any blockchain protocol can implement the API and use bloXroute. We really want to speed up *all* blockchains!
Q: Is the entire system operated by bloXroute?
A: So, there are two pieces of the bloXroute system. The first part is the BDN, which is run entirely by us to provide blazing fast block delivery. The second part is the peer network (which consist of the gateways we were talking about before). This network is run by every full node on every blockchain that is using bloXroute. The purpose of the peer network is to make sure that we’re operating the BDN honestly, which is just as (if not more) important than the performance benefits the BDN provides.
Q: With the way different blockchains are implemented and the neutral way bloXroute core relay network works, how does the bloXroute platform differentiate TPS of one blockchain over the other so it can begin charging the optional fees?
A: Great question! bloXroute does not charge any fees. If it could, then bloXroute could start to quietly censor blocks for other reasons. bloXroute instead relies on the blockchain using it (specifically, the miners) to enforce the fee rules that it imposes.
Q: Do we need any bloXroute tokens to run bloXroute gateway?
A: No, bloXroute users and the corresponding blockchains do not need to hold any BLXR to use bloXroute. BLXR is just a token that is backed by the BLXR reserve, which consist of 50% of the fees that are paid to bloXroute. BLXR’s sole purpose is to share the fees paid to bloXroute with the community.
Q: What has been some of the challenges that you have faced as the CTO of bloXroute and how have you overcome these problems?
A: Most of my technical background is as a researcher, both in undergrad and in grad school. I have done some software engineering internships before, but this is the first time I had to think hard about good engineering practices. I know how to scale a system to 1000s of transactions, but it was important to be able to have that system be maintained by many engineers as well which I had no clue about. So, this was (and still is) my biggest challenge as the CTO of bloXroute.
I handle this problem the way I handle almost every problem: learn from people that are way smarter than me. Our development team has a few decades of software engineering experience between them and our COO Eyal is the best of the best. If there’s any confusion about why something was done a certain way, I never hesitate to ask until I understand why.
Q: Do you know if development progress will be shared from time to time and if so, through which social medium?
A: Yes, we actually just shared our development progress less than a week ago on Medium! The best place to see announcements and such is on our twitter feed, so please follow us if you want the most up to date information!
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We’re always looking for good people!
If you’re equally excited to solve the scalability bottleneck for all blockchains, consider joining our team! We are always looking for passionate partners to help us on this important journey. Check out our available positions to work with us in our Chicago offices.