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Solana: Blockchain’s Newest Archive-Friendly Scaling Solution

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Blockchain

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay. https://pixabay.com/illustrations/blockchain-data-records-system-3513216/)

6 May 2022. The Solana Blockchain was designed from scratch with a new consensus protocol that allows it to operate at high speeds. It uses two layers: a Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus mechanism at its core layer; and an application layer that supports smart contracts in the form of WebAssembly (WASM).

Now you must be wondering what SOL or Solana is? Solana is an open-source project written in Rust. According to the company, Solana’s blockchain can handle 65,000 transactions per second (TPS) on a single cluster.

The project aims to “reduce the friction between blockchain and traditional enterprise infrastructure by offering negligible transaction fees, simplified deployment and maintenance, higher throughput through sharding and parallelization of workloads within nodes, and support for multiple languages for smart contracts.”

‘Layer 0’ Solution

Solana is a “layer 0” solution, meaning that it’s a foundational layer for the blockchain. It sits directly below the protocol layer in a blockchain stack, typically consisting of layers 0 through 2. Layer 0 is the architecture on which everything else is built; it’s the actual hardware and software that enable the network to exist and perform its functions.

Layer 1 is responsible for protocol rules and functionalities—the basic elements of any blockchain project (such as consensus mechanisms, cryptographic security, etc.). Finally, layer 2 handles application-specific functions; it implements things like smart contracts, dApps (decentralized applications), etc.

Layer 0 has a special position in blockchains because of its nature: it’s relatively stable compared to other layers because it doesn’t change often or quickly. As such, when designing blockchains at this level, there are more options available than with higher-level layers, like layer 1 or 2 (which may require frequent updates and changes).

A Consensus-Based Ledger That Makes Use of Proof of History (PoH)

Solana is a consensus-based ledger that makes use of Proof of History (PoH). This is an alternative to proof-of-work systems, and it offers some significant improvements.

Proof-of-Work systems like Bitcoin have existed since the introduction of cryptocurrency, but they are difficult to scale because they require an enormous amount of computing power. To ensure transactions are valid, each computer on the network has to solve puzzles using computing power.

When a computer solves the puzzle, all computers in the network can add a new block of transactions to the chain. The process repeats itself with each new block so that every 10 minutes or so, on average, there’s a new block on the chain!

This concept works well for Bitcoin, which only needs about 6 blocks per hour, but this scaling issue becomes more apparent as you try to increase blockchain throughput even slightly above Bitcoin’s level. In Solana’s case, we want hundreds of thousands or even millions of transactions processed per second!

Proof-of-History helps solve this problem by reducing the amount of work required to verify a transaction in each round instead of doing it all at once with PoW systems like bitcoin and Ethereum, where you need one large burst computation at time zero before anything else can happen.

The goal is efficiency: if there are fewer steps required during verification, then it will take less time overall for miners/users to complete their tasks successfully without sacrificing security because they did not have enough resources available earlier when they were needed most urgently?.

The Blockchain Can Handle 50,000 Transactions per Second

With a maximum throughput of 50,000 transactions per second, the Solana blockchain is certainly not the fastest. In comparison, Visa is able to process 24,000 transactions per second on average. At the same time, it’s still quite impressive as most other blockchain networks are much slower. The Bitcoin network can handle only seven transactions per second, while Ethereum’s current limit is roughly 15 transactions per second.

The team has a simple but ambitious goal: Solana is working to become the blockchain that can scale to millions of transactions per second. If they succeed, then dApps will be able to provide their services at a much higher level than ever before.

To do this, Solana uses three layers: a network layer, a storage layer, and an application execution layer. The idea is that each component needs to be able to scale together. To demonstrate how this works in practice, let’s look at the example of the storage layer because it’s the most interesting component here and illustrates how Solana has innovated on the traditional approach used by blockchains like Ethereum.

Transactions Are Validated in Parallel

While parallel validation and execution are the defining characteristics of Solana, these two properties are not exclusive to Solana. Many blockchains can be validated in parallel, the most well-known being Bitcoin’s Lightning Network. The problem is that a blockchain’s throughput and latency can only scale linearly through parallelization if it exploits this property to the fullest extent possible.

In a nutshell, this means that the entire blockchain must be structured such that every transaction can be validated in parallel with every other transaction.

Transactions Are Executed With a One-Pass Pipeline

If you’ve ever used a computer, chances are you’ve run into a one-pass pipeline. A one-pass pipeline is a way of executing and managing the sequence of instructions that make up any computational task. It’s easiest to understand when broken down into its core components:

  • fetch
  • decode
  • execute
  • memory access
  • write back

The Architecture Ensures the Linear Performance of Transactions Never Degrades

The architecture of Solana was designed to ensure the linear performance of transactions never degrades, regardless of the scale of throughput. This means that the amount of data that needs to be processed does not affect performance. The architecture is built around these three principles: maximum scalability, maximum throughput, and maximum performance.

The first step toward achieving scalability is to move away from the blockchain paradigm of serialization and toward a parallelization solution. If you aren’t familiar with serialization, you can think of it as similar to the way browsers render web pages—one character at a time.

Solana operates differently: by allowing data to be processed in parallel, the network is able to achieve a much higher capacity for transactions per second (TPS), even with limited hardware resources. In other words, parallelizing the data allows for greater processing power overall.

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