By Prof. Aleksandar Kuzmanovic, Co-Founder and Chief Architect
bloXroute solves the scalability bottleneck for all blockchains at its core: the network layer.
In our previous blog post we explained why scalability solutions such as FIBRE and Falcon, Compact and XThin Blocks, and Graphene are insufficient in solving the scalability bottleneck.
- Fibre and Falcon can increase performance of blockchains but at the cost of decentralization, placing power in the network owners
- Compact and Xthin Blocks increase TPS by reducing the amount of data each block contains but initial results in a very small, controlled network show a relatively modest increase
- Graphene reduces block size through a bloom filter and IBLT but bloXroute can outperform by 10–100x
So, what is different with bloXroute?
bloXroute brings two major novelties: provable neutrality and dramatic scalability advances. bloXroute is a provably neutral network. This means that bloXroute by design prevents anyone, including bloXroute administrators, to censor or discriminate against users. In particular, the network is incapable of preventing users from sending either transactions or blocks and discriminating against them using other vectors.
Another major aspect of bloXroute’s uniqueness lies in the way it helps propagate information in a blockchain network. Contrary to first-generation relay networks, bloXroute propagates transactions among blockchain nodes. By propagating transactions on behalf of users, bloXroute manages to effectively index these transactions using much shorter IDs. Thus, when blocks are propagated through the network, bloXroute utilizes such IDs, effectively compressing the amount of data that needs to be carried through the network. Additionally, bloXroute optimally streams data through a well-provisioned dedicated network infrastructure and enables the processing of thousands of on-chain transactions per second.
bloXroute’s architecture is innovative at multiple levels. First, bloXroute transforms the access plane, i.e., the way blockchain nodes access bloXroute — via open source magic gateways. A magic gateway is a piece of open source code deployed at a blockchain node that transmits transactions and blocks to and from nearby bloXroute servers.
To a blockchain node, a magic gateway looks no different than another peer node; yet, it enables access to the bloXroute network. The magic gateway is a process that co-exists on the same machine where the blockchain process resides. This helps with performance, given that a magic gateway significantly shrinks the data transmitted through the access link, using the transaction IDs explained above. A magic gateway is a high-end server that is located close to a blockchain node in the network sense. This is similar to the approach taken by Akamai’s CDN, which deploys edge servers close to millions of end users, thus improving their Web experience.
Next, bloXroute’s architecture brings a novel design that is necessary to enable neutrality. First and foremost, blocks entering the bloXroute network are encrypted. This insures that no one can censor blocks based on their content, which is bloXroute’s first-order design goal. The content of the block is only revealed after the block was propagated, when it’s too late for bloXroute to “take the block back”. Still, one might try to censor against individual nodes or groups of nodes, e.g., from a particular country or a geographic area. This is where a blockchain’s P2P network is necessary to enforce bloXroute’s neutrality. Despite being connected to bloXroute through magic gateways, peers are still connected to each other via a P2P network. Hence, if bloXroute attempts to discriminate against a user — the user has the opportunity to relay its encrypted blocks through peer nodes (TOR-like), making bloXroute powerless to discriminate.
Rather than sending data through internet providers such as Comcast or AT&T, users can utilize the bloXroute BDN as a provably neutral and decentralized router that is optimized for blockchain technology. The protocol runs underneath the blockchain, making it the first layer-0 solution.
Implementation: No protocol changes and gradual deployment
How does a blockchain (or a cryptocurrency) community utilize the opportunity and newfound capacity provided by bloXroute? By simply adjusting the block size and inter-block time interval parameters. bloXroute requires no blockchain protocol change beyond this parameter adjustment to fully utilize bloXroute’s capacity. We will provide guidelines for each individual blockchain. The recommended scaling parameters, i.e., inter-block time and block size, will be based on the experimental results from our global testbed. bloXroute as a transport layer is complementary to the native consensus protocol used, and it is capable of boosting performance, often dramatically, for any blockchain. But again, the protocol itself does not change; the validity requirements remain the same, as is the structure of blocks and transactions, and all the messages among nodes.
Another important question is what fraction of blockchain nodes need to deploy magic gateways at their machines in order for the blockchain community to scale-up the protocol parameters? In short, the more nodes that deploy magic gateways the better but it is not necessary for all the nodes, or even the majority of the nodes, to deploy magic gateways, in order to allow the transition. This is because bloXroute creates value not only for the first individual miner, but for the entire network including those not using the BDN. When a block is mined and sent to the BDN it will reach all miners faster and increase the overall network speed for everyone.
In the same way Akamai helps millions of Web users around the world with their vigorous server deployment at edge networks, bloXroute’s unique architecture can help every individual blockchain community. Whether they consist of hundreds or ten thousands of nodes, they will greatly benefit from dramatic scalability advances and a provably neutral network. In our next post, we will dive deeper into the topic of bloXroute’s network and the advantage of decentralization.
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