Introducing Elph: Highly Scalable Blockchain Infrastructure

Today, we’re excited to announce the testnet launch of Elph! At Elph, we’re building critical infrastructure to solve the blockchain scalability problem.

Blockchain applications have been touted to replace the existing financial system with an open, efficient, and decentralized version. But we are far from that reality, with blockchains processing just 6–15 transactions per second, compared to major credit card processors such as Visa, which can process more than 24,000 transactions per second.

This is where Elph comes in. As a team with expertise in distributed systems research and extensive experience in building companies, we’re thrilled to embark on a journey to make large-scale blockchain applications a reality.

What is Elph?

Elph is a decentralized network of scalable, highly secure Plasma sidechains (Plasma Chains) that achieve high transaction throughput on top of Ethereum.

There are several key features that make Elph a powerful choice as a blockchain platform to build on:

Scalable: Elph Plasma Chains are able to reliably process over 6,000 transactions per second, with many more improvements yet to come.

Ethereum-compatible: Today, Elph Plasma Chains support value transfer transactions, which allow the movement of all Ethereum-based digital assets (ETH, ERC20 tokens, and ERC721 NFTs) and soon will support smart contract transactions, which allow the execution of EVM bytecode to store state and process logic. This means that all existing Ethereum-based assets and smart contracts can be used on an Elph Plasma Chain, right out of the box.

Secured via Plasma: Elph Plasma Chains are backed by the security of Ethereum through Plasma architecture. This means that each chain conforms to a specific protocol that communicates with Ethereum to provide succinct, verifiable proofs of transaction execution that can be validated on Ethereum. By architecting the system using Plasma constructs, all digital assets on an Elph Plasma Chain are secure and can always be withdrawn back to Ethereum at any time and cannot be stolen or maliciously taken away by any one party. True scalability without compromising security.

Configurable: The Elph Network is comprised of multiple Elph Plasma Chains with varying configurations (number of validators, consensus algorithm, transaction throughput, etc.) This allows each application to have its own sidechain and operate in parallel with other applications. It’s like picking the appropriate compute machine configuration on Amazon Web Services and considering the tradeoffs between CPU, GPU, bandwidth, and price.

Why is Elph Needed?

Elph — built on top of Ethereum — features orders of magnitudes improvement in both transaction throughput and fees while retaining the security guarantees provided by the underlying blockchain.

Layer 1 vs Layer 2

Traditional “layer-1” blockchain networks (e.g., Ethereum) have proliferated the market with a variety of different approaches. These blockchains are necessary for building an open, decentralized Internet as they provide a stable and secure trust network. However, the very nature of their job (providing decentrally trusted execution) means that they must remain highly decentralized, which makes them unscalable for most real-world use cases.

Ethereum, the market-leading smart contract blockchain platform is well-known to suffer from three big problems for its applications:

  1. Low transaction throughput (6–15 tx/sec)
  2. Slow transaction times (15 sec/block)
  3. High, volatile fees (sometimes $40+/tx)

All three of these are a deterrent to widespread adoption both for businesses and consumers.

But it does one thing very well: provide decentrally trusted execution of smart contract code (albeit very slowly). Today, there are over 13,000 nodes on the Ethereum network, all of which have to execute every transaction that gets included in each block.

By creating “layer-2” blockchain networks (what we’re doing at Elph), we can leave layer-1 networks as-is and use them as a secure and robust justice system that backs the layer-2 blockchain. This allows layer-2 chains to focus on all the things that layer-1 chains neglect with respect to scalability, while falling back to layer-1 chains for dispute resolution. This is exactly the notion that our Plasma Chains operate on. 99+% of the time, transactions get executed blazing fast, and in the very rare case of dispute, the layer-1 chain can step in to settle them via the Plasma primitives.

This Is Huge

We’re finally getting closer to the vision we — and the community — started with: make blockchain technology usable by the masses.

Using Elph, we can allow users to instantly and trustlessly exchange cryptocurrencies, interact in real-time with decentralized apps, and execute smart contracts at scale without paying high fees or running into network congestion issues.

Try It Out!

We’re live on the Rinkeby testnet! There’s a number of things you can check out to get a glimpse of how all this works:

Interactive Demo: Tired of paying ridiculous fees and waiting forever on Ethereum, Alice has been unsuccessful in going on a crazy shopping spree for her birthday! Head on over to the interactive demo to help Alice make her shopping spree a success on the Elph Plasma Chain.

Block Explorer: See a visual representation of the transactions being executed and the blocks being mined in the Elph Plasma Chain running on the Rinkeby testnet. We’ve also made it dead simple to compare the transaction speed against Ethereum (spoiler: there’s literally a side-by-side comparison in the explorer) so you can see the power of Plasma with your own eyes.

Javascript SDK: If you’re ready to dive in deeper, scan through our Javascript SDK to get a feel for how to interact with the Elph Plasma Chain as a developer. We’re constantly updating our SDK and other open source repositories, with more documentation and examples coming soon.

Plasma Smart Contracts: Go one level deeper and read the raw smart contract code that handles all the Plasma guarantees the Elph Plasma Chains rely on.

What’s Next?

We’re just getting started and are excited to continue sharing updates with you. If you’re interested in receiving email updates on our progress, sign up on our website.

If you’re a developer interested in using Elph, send us an email at developers@elph.com or reach out to us directly on Telegram.

Finally, join us across our various channels to engage with us directly:

Telegram: https://t.me/ElphNetwork
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ElphNetwork
Medium: https://medium.com/Elph
Github: https://github.com/ElphNetwork

’Til next time,
Team Elph