bloXroute’s mission is to be a reliable, high performance network for all cryptocurrencies and blockchains. This results in a very direct benefit to cryptocurrencies: immediate scalability to thousands of transactions per second. However, there are many secondary benefits to bloXroute as well. In this blog post we explore one of those benefits: lowering the barrier to entry for miners.
Mining Communication: No Simple Task
Being a miner is no simple feat and one of the biggest difficulties is overcoming suboptimal communication channels where each miner needs to figure out how to connect to other miners through a messy and unorganized peer-to-peer (P2P) network. For example, today in Bitcoin and Ethereum, miners solve a complicated “crypto-puzzle” in order to validate new transactions. Before reaching consensus, all parties must receive the same data transaction and block information in order to agree on it. Thus, the choice of communication channel for miners is crucial in order to achieve high performance.
Typically, protocols communicate point to point over TCP/IP between peers in a P2P network. However this works against the goal of a high throughput, low latency communication channels in three key ways.
- Every node in a cryptocurrency peer to peer network is mistrustful of every other node, which means that the information being propagated must be validated at *every* hop in the network. This typically involves some kind of cryptographic operation at each hop, which adds a huge amount of latency and hurts throughput.
- Nodes in a peer to peer network have very different performance properties, which means that a single slow node on the critical path can kill the propagation time.
- Nodes are not organized for optimal propagation. This means that data travels through sub-optimal paths in the network.
Miners needing to solve this communication problem is a huge barrier to entry. In recent years this, among other factors, has caused tremendous centralization pressure and resulted in Bitcoin and Ethereum being fully controlled by fewer than twenty mining pools .
Bringing Order To The Network
Bitcoin has tried to combat these issues through the use of relay networks, such as Falcon and FIBRE. These relay networks provide some much needed order to the peer-to-peer network and provide a low latency broadcast primitive. This broadcast primitive is much more useful for all consensus protocols, including Bitcoin’s. While these solutions seem sufficient at first glance, a miner that relies on this relay network to get its blocks out is entirely beholden to its whims. If the relay network decides to misbehave, the miner has no idea that this is happening and no recourse to fix it. This negates the most appealing attributes of blockchain technology — the capacity to be both trustless and secure. We talked more about the problems with FIBRE and Falcon in our previous blog post here.
Other solutions to optimize communication channels include newer cryptocurrencies that are introducing the next generation of consensus algorithms, such as Ethereum’s Casper. While the details of these algorithms differ greatly, they all have one goal in common: to get a large number of geo-distributed peers to reach consensus.
Fortunately, the bloXroute BDN solves this network communication problem in a novel way that optimizes communication between nodes and is simple for miners to use. Before, a node would send the block/transaction to its peers and hope it propagates quickly through the peer to peer network, which we have seen is very inefficient. However, if you send a block to the bloXroute gateway — a piece of open source code deployed at a blockchain node that transmits transactions and blocks to and from nearby bloXroute servers — it sends it into the bloXroute network which is well provisioned, high performance and is located strategically to optimize information propagation. (For more about bloXroute’s architecture, check out our previous blog post here.)
bloXroute provides this organization to the peer-to-peer network while maintaining decentralization by being provably neutral. Provable neutrality means that bloXroute cannot censor blocks because it doesn’t know who is using the network or what is being sent over it. This preserves the trustless nature of the network while providing the benefit of a fast interconnect between all peers.
This simple idea is powerful for decentralization. Today, miners need to worry about maintaining connections to other major miners and ensuring that they are receiving blocks/transactions quickly in order to maintain their competitive advantage. This creates a barrier to entry for smaller miners other than simple economies of scale, and thus puts centralization pressures on the network. bloXroute makes it easy for miners to connect to the entire network by abstracting away the complications of maintaining connections to other miners. The result allows the network to scale to many more miners because the barriers to entry are lower for smaller miners. This in turn will support blockchain decentralization.
bloXroute serves as a partner to the mining community in addition to its other benefits, by providing nodes a faster, simpler, and provably neutral communication option.
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