Blockchain scalability is the capacity of blockchain networks to sustain both a load of transactions and the growing number of network nodes. A blockchain network doesn’t make enough effort to adapt the system to handle the growing amount of data, workload, and resources. This indicates that the blockchain network is neither highly scalable nor capable of handling massive amounts of data.
The public blockchain’s inability to grow is preventing businesses and sectors from getting the best solutions available. Blockchain scalability is a crucial factor in blockchain networks and is essential for the further development of the technology. The performance of a fully scalable blockchain cannot be hampered by the growth in use cases and acceptance of the technology. Blockchains may not be scalable if their performance declines as a result of growing usage.
Additionally, according to the blockchain trilemma paradox, achieving greater scalability would mean sacrificing decentralisation and security. At the same time, it is crucial to keep in mind that blockchain networks can only successfully compete with established, centralised platforms if they are scalable.
Three Key Properties of Blockchain Scalability
Execution, storage, and consensus are the three broad areas into which blockchain scalability may be divided. In reality, scaling one property frequently necessitates or leads to scaling one or more additional properties.
1. Blockchain Execution
The computing necessary to carry out transactions and make state changes on a blockchain is known as an execution. The process of processing a transaction entails determining its legitimacy (by, for example, validating token balances and signatures) and carrying out the on-chain logic required to compute state changes. When new token transfers, smart contract code modifications, and data storage occur, full nodes modify their copy of the ledger to reflect these events.
It is usual to think of the blockchain scalability execution in terms of transactions per second (TPS), but on a more basic level, it entails the number of calculations per second because transactions might differ in cost and complexity. There are more computations that need to be performed at any one time the more transactions that are flowing across a network.
The fundamental challenge in expanding the execution layer is to increase calculations per second without significantly raising the hardware requirements for individual full nodes that verify blocks.
2. Blockchain Storage
The term “blockchain storage” describes the space needs of complete nodes, which save and store a copy of the ledger. The two main types of storage used by blockchains are block data and historical data, which includes all of the individual transactions. Each transaction’s signature, amount sent, and origin and destination addresses are all included in the transaction data. Block data consists of a list of transactions and associated metadata, such as a block’s Merkle root, nonce, preceding block hash, etc. For historical data to be available for download, there just has to be one trustworthy source, as immediate access is often not necessary.
Global state is an image of all the data that smart contracts may read from or write to, including account balances and the variables included in every smart contract. The global state of a blockchain, which is necessary to verify incoming transactions, may be conceptualised as its database. State is frequently kept in tree structures (such as Merkle trees) where entire nodes may access it and make changes fast and simply.
When syncing to the blockchain for the first time, full nodes require access to history data as well as global state in order to validate fresh blocks and carry out fresh state changes. Because more nodes are needed to read from and write to state, state computation becomes slower and more costly as the ledger and related storage expand. A node will need to use disc space storage if its memory runs out, which will slow down computation since nodes will need to switch between storage environments while it is being executed.
Blockchains with rising storage needs frequently face state bloat, which makes it more difficult for full nodes to keep synced to the most recent version of the ledger (i.e., the chain tip) and for users to sync up new full nodes without hardware upgrades. The historical length of the ledger, the frequency of new block additions, the maximum size per block, and the quantity of data required to be maintained on-chain to execute state changes are some variables that may influence whether a blockchain develops state bloat.
Read more: Blockchain Layer 1 vs Layer 2
3. Blockchain Consensus
Blockchain consensus is the process through which nodes in a decentralised network come to an understanding on the state of the blockchain at any given time. The main goals of consensus are to attain finality—that is, transactions are correctly completed and exceedingly unlikely to ever be reversed—and to secure an honest majority in the face of a certain number of malevolent actors. Blockchain consensus is often built with a focus on reducing communication costs in order to raise the decentralisation upper bound for higher Byzantine fault tolerance and decrease the time to finality for quicker settlement.
The primary issue to be resolved while expanding the consensus layer is how to achieve finality more quickly, inexpensively, and with more trust minimization—all in a predictable, stable, and accurate manner.
As seen by the vast number of solutions being developed, tested, and put into use in production, blockchain scalability is at an exciting stage in its evolution. Blockchains are ready to establish themselves as the preferred backend for a broad range of sectors and use cases thanks to a significant focus on scaling while maintaining trust reduction.
Blockchains are being made more scalable over time by using skilled engineers, evolutionary ideas like DAGs (Directed Acrylic Graphs), and other additions, but each approach has drawbacks. However, the debate about scalability is far from done, and in the near future, OptimusFox will continue to run across newer ideas and pertinent crypto initiatives.