All about the Concept of Sharding

Sharding

Sharding is a database partitioning technique that involves horizontally dividing a large database into smaller, more manageable pieces called shards. Each shard is a self-contained subset of the data and can be stored on a separate server, allowing for improved performance and scalability. The process of sharding is used to address the limitations of a single, monolithic database, which can become slow and unwieldy as the amount of data grows. With sharding, the data is spread across multiple servers, reducing the load on any one server and allowing for more efficient data retrieval and processing.

Blockchain Sharding

Blockchain sharding is a technique used to improve the performance and scalability of blockchain networks. In traditional blockchain systems, all nodes in the network validate and store all the transactions and blocks, which can lead to slow transaction processing times and high storage requirements for the nodes.

In blockchain sharding, the network is divided into smaller groups of nodes, called shards. Each shard processes and stores a subset of the transactions, rather than the entire network’s transactions. This allows for the parallel processing of transactions, which increases the overall throughput and reduces the load on individual nodes.

There are different approaches for implementing blockchain sharding, such as state sharding and transaction sharding. State sharding focuses on partitioning the blockchain’s state, while transaction sharding focuses on partitioning the blockchain’s transactions.

Blockchain sharding is a relatively new concept and is still in development, but it holds the potential to solve the scalability issue that has been a bottleneck for blockchain technology to be adopted in the mainstream.

Working of sharding

Sharding works by dividing a large database into smaller, more manageable pieces called shards. Each shard is a self-contained subset of the data and can be stored on a separate server. The process of sharding is typically done using a shard key, which is a unique identifier that is used to determine which shard a particular piece of data belongs to.

When a new piece of data is added to the database, the shard key is used to determine which shard the data should be stored in. When a query is made, the shard key is also used to determine which shard the requested data is stored in, so that the query can be directed to the appropriate shard.

There are different methods for determining the shard key, such as:

  • Hash-based sharding: Uses a hash function to map the data to a specific shard based on the shard key.
  • Range-based sharding: Uses a range of values for the shard key to determining which shard the data belongs to.
  • Directory-based sharding: Uses a lookup table or directory to map the shard key to a specific shard.

Sharding allows for improved performance and scalability by reducing the load on any one server and allowing for more efficient data retrieval and processing. With sharding, the data is spread across multiple servers, and it can be easily scaled by adding or removing shards as needed.

How Are Nodes Relevant to Sharding?

In a blockchain network, nodes are the devices or entities that participate in the network by maintaining a copy of the blockchain and validating transactions. Nodes are an essential part of the network and play a critical role in maintaining the integrity and security of the blockchain.

In the context of sharding, nodes are grouped into shards, where each shard contains a subset of the nodes in the network. Each shard is responsible for processing and storing a subset of the transactions, rather than the entire network’s transactions. This allows for the parallel processing of transactions, which increases the overall throughput and reduces the load on individual nodes.

Each shard maintains its independent state, and the interactions between different shards are limited, this way the network can scale horizontally.

When a transaction is broadcasted to the network, it is directed to the appropriate shard based on the shard key, where it is validated and processed by the nodes in that shard. Once a block is mined, it is broadcasted to the network and added to the blockchain on all the nodes, including those outside of the shard that mined the block.

In summary, nodes are critical in sharding as they are responsible for processing, validating, and storing a subset of the network’s transactions, and also for maintaining the state of their shard, this way the network can scale horizontally and handle a large number of transactions.

Horizontal Partitioning

Horizontal partitioning, also known as sharding, is a database management technique that involves dividing a large table into smaller, more manageable pieces called shards. Each shard is a self-contained subset of the data and can be stored on a separate server.

The process of horizontal partitioning is done using a shard key, which is a unique identifier that is used to determine which shard a particular piece of data belongs to. The shard key is used to divide the data horizontally, meaning that each shard contains a subset of the rows from the original table.

For example, if a table contains a large number of customer records, the shard key might be the customer’s ID number. All records with ID numbers between 1 and 1000 would be stored in one shard, while all records with ID numbers between 1001 and 2000 would be stored in another shard.

The main advantage of horizontal partitioning is that it allows for improved performance and scalability by reducing the load on any one server and allowing for more efficient data retrieval and processing. With horizontal partitioning, the data is spread across multiple servers, and it can be easily scaled by adding or removing shards as needed.

Examples of Sharding

Sharding is a method of horizontal partitioning in databases, where data is split across multiple servers or shards. Here are a few examples of sharding:

  1. A social media platform may use sharding to divide its user data across multiple servers, based on geographic location or alphabetical range of user names.
  2. An e-commerce website may use sharding to split its product data across multiple servers, based on product categories.
  3. A gaming company may use sharding to split its player data across multiple servers, based on the specific game or region.
  4. A big data analytics company may use sharding to split its data across multiple servers based on time series or type of data
  5. A cryptocurrency like Bitcoin uses sharding to split the blockchain data across multiple full nodes.

These are some common examples of how sharding can be used to improve the scalability and performance of a system.

NEAR Sharding

NEAR is a blockchain platform that uses sharding to improve the scalability of its network. In NEAR, the blockchain is split into multiple shards, each of which is responsible for processing a specific subset of transactions. This allows the network to process a large number of transactions in parallel, increasing the overall throughput of the system.

NEAR’s sharding is implemented using a technique called “adaptive sharding,” which automatically adjusts the number of shards based on network usage. This helps to ensure that the network remains efficient and responsive, even as the number of users and transactions increases.

NEAR also implements “cross-shard communication” which allows for transactions to occur between different shards, allowing for more complex smart contract deployment and interactions.

NEAR’s sharding approach aims to provide a balance between scalability and security, while also allowing for more complex smart contract deployment and interactions.

Ethereum Beacon Chain

The Ethereum Beacon Chain is a critical component of Ethereum 2.0, which is a major upgrade to the Ethereum network. The Beacon Chain acts as the backbone of Ethereum 2.0, providing the infrastructure for shard chains, which are responsible for processing transactions.

The Beacon Chain uses a consensus mechanism called Proof-of-Stake (PoS) to validate blocks, which is different from the current Proof-of-Work (PoW) mechanism used by Ethereum 1.0. In PoS, validators put up a stake of Ether (ETH) as collateral, and are then randomly selected to validate new blocks. This process is more energy-efficient than PoW, which requires a significant amount of computational power to solve complex mathematical problems.

The Beacon Chain also manages the validator registry, which is a list of all validators and their stakes. It also manages the crosslinks between the shard chains and the Beacon Chain, which enables cross-shard communication.

The Ethereum Beacon Chain is designed to provide a more scalable and sustainable infrastructure for the Ethereum network. With its introduction, Ethereum 2.0 aims to process thousands of transactions per second, compared to the current 15 transactions per second on Ethereum 1.0. This will enable the creation of more complex dapps and enable the network to handle a much higher volume of transactions.

Polkadot Parachain

Polkadot is a blockchain protocol that uses a novel approach to sharding called “parachains.” A parachain is a separate blockchain that is connected to the Polkadot network and can process its transactions in parallel to the other chains. Each parachain has its native token and can be tailored to specific use cases.

Parachains are connected to the Polkadot network through “relay chains” which act as a hub for the parachains, allowing them to communicate and transfer assets between each other. This allows for interoperability between different blockchain networks and enables a wide range of new use cases.

Polkadot uses a consensus mechanism called “Nominated Proof-of-Stake (NPoS)” which allows token holders to vote for “validators” who are responsible for validating new blocks on the relay chain. Validators are chosen based on their reputation and stake in the network.

The Polkadot network also has a built-in governance system that allows token holders to vote on protocol upgrades and changes.The parachain model of Polkadot allows for more scalability and flexibility compared to traditional sharding approaches. It allows for multiple specialized chains to work together and interact with each other, creating a more diverse and robust ecosystem.

Bottom Line

In summary, sharding is a method of horizontal partitioning in databases or blockchain networks, where data is split across multiple servers or shards. This improves the scalability and performance of the system by allowing it to process a large number of transactions in parallel.

NEAR is a blockchain platform that uses sharding to improve the scalability of its network. It uses a technique called “adaptive sharding,” which automatically adjusts the number of shards based on network usage and allows for cross-shard communication.

Ethereum 2.0, also known as Ethereum beacon chain, is a major upgrade to the Ethereum network that uses sharding to improve scalability. It uses Proof-of-stake(PoS) mechanism for validation of blocks and manages the validator registry and the crosslinks between the shard chains and the Beacon Chain.

Polkadot is a blockchain protocol that uses a novel approach to sharding called “parachains.” A parachain is a separate blockchain that is connected to the Polkadot network and can process its own transactions in parallel to the other chains. It uses a consensus mechanism called “Nominated Proof-of-Stake (NPoS)” and has a built-in governance system that allows token holders to vote on protocol upgrades and changes.

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Author's Bio

Naveen C

Co- founder at Ecosleek Tech Research and Branding at MythX. Talks about #gaming, #metaverse, #blockchain, and #softwaredevelopment

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All about the Concept of Sharding

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