Substrate blockchain development core concepts
Building a blockchain platform from scratch is undoubtedly an extremely difficult task. This requires a lot of complexity, from writing consensus code to implementing low-level network protocols. Substrate greatly simplifies all of this by providing consensus, networking and a cross-platform file storage abstraction. It can even run in a browser. The Substrate is built upon Polkadot and is a heterogeneous multichain. Its interchange and translation architecture allows customized side chains connecting to public blockchains.
So, Substrate is a blockchain framework that enables developers to easily build future-proof blockchains in the fastest and most optimized way for any use case. Substrate leverages developers with open-source software built by Substrate’s ecosystem, so developers don’t need to start from zero. The Substrate is designed to be a modular framework that is highly customizable and flexible. Its code is field-tested and academically researched, which helps developers to build blockchains quickly.
In a nutshell, Substrate is:
The Substrate isn’t a perfect fit for every blockchain project. However, Substrate might be a perfect choice if you want to build a blockchain that is:
- tailored to a specific use case
- able to connect and communicate with other blockchains
- able to evolve and change with upgrades over time
- customizable with predefined composable modular components
Built-in features of Substrate
Substrate comes with many features you can incorporate into your application:
- A validator voting system, working consensus mechanism and block finalizing algorithm.
- The layer of peer-to-peer connectivity, message sending and data replication.
- Full-node templates and the ability for them to be run in a web browser.
- Database abstraction allows nearly any type of custom data to be stored on-chain and used.
- Wasm allows for quick and easy client updates. There are no hard forks.
- Once fully released, the ability to migrate to Polkadot.
- You can use many modules to create various functionalities.
- API allows you to communicate with your blockchain in order to create dApps.
- Apps built on your blockchain can have predefined interfaces or a common UI.
- Rust development allows you to use all the features of a programming language.
Benefits of Substrate
- Easy-to-use storage
- Safe and speedy
- Forkless upgrades
- Decentralized network environment
- Custom message
- Light client support
- Open to defining your own custom consensus algorithm
How does Substrate work?
To start a new Substrate project, there are three options to choose from, as mentioned below:
The Substrate node is the top level that we can start from. It provides the most functionality along with the most technical freedom. It is fully runnable and comes with default implementations for all components, such as privilege access, account management, and consensus. To get started, we can modify the genesis block of the chain. Once we are ready to build our own blockchain, we would be better off going one level lower to use FRAME.
This is one of the Substrate’s most powerful tools and contains a variety of modules and support libraries that simplify runtime development. These modules, also known as Substrate palettes, are customizable business logic that can be used for specific use cases like staking, governance and consensus. Developers can also use the system, support and executive pallets to offer a wide range of services in the runtime environment. Although it is possible to build a Substrate-based blockchain without using FRAME, the various pallets and libraries allow developers to create a custom runtime logic using its predefined components.
Substrate core means that runtime implementation can be done the way we like, provided it must target WebAssembly. Also, it must adhere to the basic rules of Substate’s block creation. This allows us to use the runtime and execute it within Substrate.
Core concepts of Substrate blockchain development
The Substrate blockchain development stands on the core concepts of the framework, which revolves around the following:
- Extrinsic and transactions
Substrate-based apps’ runtime is what makes the project work. It describes the state of the blockchain and the logic that guides it. The Substrate’s runtime is also known as the state transition function. The whole blockchain can be viewed as a state machine. The runtime defines the rules that govern the transition from one state to another. The runtime is central to your Substrate blockchain implementation. While there are certain interfaces that any runtime must be compatible with, other than that, you have complete technical and creative freedom. As mentioned, FRAME can also be used to create existing modules (pallets). This includes the 50+ pallets that Substrate ships with and those provided by third-party programmers to build your runtime.
Blockchain systems are peer-to-peer and consist of multiple nodes that maintain no hierarchy between them. This creates the problem of agreeing on the correct status. Multiple participants trying to change the state might make the transactions invalid and order differently depending on where they are located in the network. This can cause conflicts between the different parts of the network and need to be resolved quickly so the network can continue functioning.
Consensus engines are used to implement blockchain systems. These engines create rules that determine how state transition should occur as well as how to resolve conflicts. This includes block creation, finality, and fork choice or conflict resolution among competing states. Substrate already provides a few consensuses, but you can also roll your own, depending upon your specific needs or mix, match and extend existing solutions.
Extrinsic and transactions
There are intrinsic and extrinsic in a blockchain. These are the things that occur inside of the chain and those that happen outside of the chain. For interacting from the outside with the state blockchain, extrinsic is necessary. This can be used to add information to the state of the chain or make changes. A Substrate block contains a header as well as an array of extrinsic. This information is important for the internal workings of Substrate and all blockchains.
Steps to create your first blockchain on Substrate
- The process starts with building a node in a development environment and then simulating a two-node network to confirm if all interactions between them are taking place as desired.
- Once completed, developers can then proceed to start a small network of validators by upgrading the runtime code for a node before expanding to a large scale.
- Using the Substrate Playground, developers can skip the preliminary Substrate node setup and directly transition to a cloud-based sandbox environment where they can select between a node template or a front-end template.
- Using the node template, developers can work with a “skeleton blockchain “and build upon essential capabilities using P2P networking, consensus, finality, account, transaction, and governance modules.
- On the other hand, the front-end template is a modular UI that contains all components necessary to interact with the node template’s runtime while acting as a front-end to the Substrate node template.
The Substrate is a long-standing project and has grown innovatively. It provides all the necessary support, from installation to running your custom blockchain. It doesn’t have its own crypto token, but the Polkadot token (DOT) is the most popular. This is because it can be used with all other parachains within the Substrate or Polkadot ecosystems, which reflects its emphasis on interoperability and scalability. Using the Substrate, you can develop a custom blockchain in the fastest way.