In order to understand anything well, it’s helpful to become familiar with its foundations. By that principle, in order to understand blockchain, it’s helpful to understand nodes. Any device that is connected to the internet and that can put 2 and 2 together can be a node. A computer, a mobile phone, or even an oven. Every blockchain relies on its nodes for the necessary computing power required to carry out its operations. These operations and their complexity can vary, and each node is assigned the responsibility of taking care of one of these operations.
Nodes are structured in the form of specific data structures. Each blockchain dictates the data structure its nodes are stored in. The job of a node is to support the blockchain by carrying out any role that the blockchain assigns to it. Sometimes this role can be maintaining a copy of the blockchain, processing transactions, or acting as a communication hub. However, regardless of the job assigned to any node, all nodes are considered equal in the blockchain.
Here are the different types of nodes in a typical blockchain:
· Root node: This is the highest node in a tree also known as the first node
· Parent node: A node that has other nodes extending from it
· Child node: A node that is a child of another node or extending from it
· Leaf node: A node that has no children or is not a parent node
· Sibling nodes: Nodes that are connected to the same parent
These different types of nodes collectively make a blockchain, stemming from the root node. Each cryptocurrency has its own nodes for the underlying blockchain. These nodes maintain the transaction records of the particular token. Processing these transactions requires a great amount of computing power that an average personal computer cannot manage.
In order to process transactions, a device needs processing units. CPUs (Central Processing Units) or GPUs (Graphics Processing Units) are two such processing units. However, a GPU is better equipped to handle the type of processing that a typical blockchain requires. This is why when building a node, high power GPUs are added into the system to increase its power to process transactions. The owner of the nodes contributes their device’s computing power to the blockchain. This effort is rewarded by the blockchain with tokens of that particular cryptocurrency. This is commonly referred to as mining.
Nodes are further classified as “full nodes” or “light nodes.” A full node has a complete list of all the transactions that have been carried out on that blockchain. A light node only has a partial list of those transactions. Light nodes keep their data accurate by keeping a connection to one of the full nodes. Running a full node does not necessarily equate to better mining. Full nodes are run by enthusiasts or cryptocurrency stakeholders in order to support the blockchain.
Miners do something similar, however, with an expectation of some kind of reward. Miners use their nodes to validate the transactions and receive rewards for their service. However, running a node for mining is only profitable if the rewards exceed the cost. Miners have to consider the cost of power, cooling, and maintenance of their devices. This is why miners base their operations in areas where the weather is naturally colder and power is cheaper in order to help reduce their costs.