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Scaling ETH 2.0 With bloXroute

By Brooke Walter, bloXroute Labs Marketing & PR

TL;DR

Ethereum 2.0 uses sharding — 64 mini-blockchains — and PoS validators which will rotate among the different shards. bloXroute scales each shard individually, allowing each to process higher volumes of transactions, and is completely compatible (and its effect multiplicative) with ETH 2.0. bloXroute also allows ETH 2.0 to increase its number of shards by boosting the communication speed of the Beacon Chain, to which the shards are all committed.

ETH 2.0 Overview

Within the next year, Ethereum plans to upgrade their network to transition to ETH 2.0, a new network architecture that employs a proof of stake (PoS) consensus mechanism and a sharding scalability solution. Eight different development teams (ChainSafe Systems, iPegaSys, Harmony, Trinity, Status, Sigma Prime, Prysmatic Labs, and Parity Technologies) have been working on various parts of ETH 2.0 since 2019 and plan to release the first phase later this year.

ETH is transitioning primarily because of concerns with the large amount of energy consumption used in PoW frameworks and because of the current network’s scalability limits, which makes usage costly. As of September 2019, the average Ethereum transaction fee was just under $0.39, according to Bitinfocharts. The Cryptokitties Congestion Crisis of 2017 showed that even just a few thousand users can completely clog the ETH network making it unusable, so how can we expect to use ETH for mainstream applications that have millions, or tens of millions, of users? To dramatically reduce the fees that users pay, greater scalability on Ethereum is essential.

What is ETH 2.0

The core components of the ETH 2.0 architecture include validators, stakes, the Beacon Chain, and shards.

Ethereum 2.0 diagram. Source: Hsiao-Wei Wan

Validators

Validators will replace the role of miners in the current proof of work (PoW) framework. Validators will propose new blocks on shards, participate in committees by signing attestations on blocks proposed by other validators, broadcast attestations to the Beacon Chain, and periodically sync shard data through a process called staking.

Staking

Staking works by allowing validators to risk a deposit of ETH to prove they are honest so they can earn ETH rewards. Validators are rewarded by earning annualized interest on their locked-in staked ether. ETH 2.0 employs a “dynamic rewards scheme” that adjusts the annualized reward for validators based on the overall amount staked and the percentage of validators online. It requires 32 ETH to become a validator.

Beacon Chain

The Beacon Chain is the PoS backbone of ETH 2.0 that maintains a registry of validators, randomly assigns validators to shards, and syncs data from shards. The Beacon Chain will run parallel to Ethereum’s main chain, which will eventually be merged to ETH 2.0, possibly as its own shard.

Shards

Sharding is supposed to help ETH 2.0 scale by partitioning ETH into smaller pieces of “mini blockchains” that run parallel to each other. While the original design suggested hundreds or thousands of shards, recent updates have indicated there will be 64 shards. Since data is partitioned, each shard will have more throughput. The shards will periodically update their data to the central data command center of ETH, the Beacon Chain. Each shard has its own set of validators which work only on that shard exclusively, and the validators are periodically rotated among these shards.

How bloXroute Will Scale ETH 2.0

bloXroute can help with even the biggest changes in ETH 2.0 because at its core, scalability is a networking problem. bloXroute is a layer-0 (network layer) solution that works to optimize blockchains at the networking layer. bloXroute was designed to be compatible with all consensus mechanisms and its networking techniques such as transaction caching, cut-through routing, optimized topology, and dynamic route selection to optimally broadcast blocks and transactions is fully compatible with ETH 2.0. To see why, let’s examine the different components.

bloXroute Can Optimize ETH 2.0’s Inefficient Communication Structure

ETH 2.0 is a dynamic network that has many elements in it’s communication hierarchy: validators form a committee who work together to stake ETH, attest to correct blocks, confirm block validity, and ultimately propose new blocks. Each of these steps require effectively broadcasting data among nodes and leads to multiple communication bottlenecks. These nodes are randomly assigned for security purposes and are likely to be geographically dispersed to maintain decentralization: this is suboptimal for quickly exchanging data.

bloXroute’s BDN lies underneath all of this complicated communication and uses an optimized topology and dynamic route selection to determine which message should be delivered to whom in the best way.

bloXroute relays information along strategically placed worldwide servers that will send ETH 2.0 data as direct and efficiently as possible. First, bloXroute Gateways can learn about ETH 2.0’s mapping by passively listening to the beacon chain. Once there is a change in the assignment (of shards) for a particular validator, the information is picked up by the bloXroute network and the routing tables for a shard can be changed accordingly. If a particular path is slow, bloXroute’s continuous monitoring flags it and dynamically adjusts to create more communication routes. For example, if sending data from A to B is slow, bloXroute will add routes ACB and ADB and send the data along both routes concurrently. In this way, ETH 2.0 data can be quickly broadcasted among all network participants effectively while maintaining the security and decentralization of their network.

Fix Each Shard’s Individual Bottleneck

ETH 2.0 will attempt to address scalability concerns by employing sharding. Sharding can achieve some scale from a multiplication effect, but despite this the problem isn’t solved, it’s duplicated. Each shard has its own block validation process that requires interconnected communication and thus individual shards still suffer from the original problem of slow block propagation. In fact, the problem intensifies compared to PoW, since the set of validators who must quickly communicate changes keeps on changing. Using bloXroute’s advanced networking techniques mentioned above, the BDN can allow ETH 2.0 validators and committee members to optimally broadcast data amongst each other to remove the bottleneck for each individual shard. In this way, bloXroute can work in tandem with sharding to bring a multiplied scalability improvement: If shards increase ETH 2.0 scalability by x, and bloXroute by y, then the total scalability improvement will be x*y.

Enable Bigger Blocks

Last but not least, bloXroute’s BDN will allow validators to send larger blocks, without compromising speed or network performance through the use of transaction caching and quickly communicating the latest state of the network. First, the BDN ensures all nodes are kept in sync and have a consistent view of all the transactions waiting in the mempool to be included in a block. Once an ETH node sends a block to a BDN Gateway, the Gateway replaces each transaction with a 4-byte internal ID to effectively compress the block size by more than 100x. Next, the block is propagated through the network and reconstructed after it’s received by the receiving Gateways. In this way, bloXroute reduces network redundancy to allow larger blocks to be more quickly propagated in ETH 2.0. Ethereum has stated that ETH 2.0 will have a target block size of 128 kB, but it is truly up to the Ethereum community on how they would like to adjust system parameters to best leverage the BDN.

Conclusion

ETH 2.0 aims to improve the Ethereum network and enhance scalability by restructuring to a new architecture that divides the main chain into individual shards and employs a PoS consensus mechanism. However, ETH 2.0 will continue to suffer from a scalability bottleneck since it does not address the underlying networking layer. bloXroute addresses this layer, layer-0, to help ETH 2.0 truly achieve an optimized network infrastructure and achieve maximum scalability enhancements. bloXroute has already built the first layer-0 scalability solution integrated with Ethereum mainnet, and we will continue to stay committed to helping the Ethereum community further scale as it transitions to ETH 2.0.

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