What is Sharding?

There are quite a few interesting aspects of the Ethereum ecosystem most people are still confused about. The Ethereum developers have been talking about “sharding” for quite some time now, yet few people even know what this means. Now is a good time to look into this matter and try to make sense of the concept of sharding. It is quite an interesting way to go about validation portions of the Ethereum blockchain, to say the least.

Sharding Will Change The Way The Blockchain is Validated

Before we can explain what sharding is, one needs to know how the Ethereum blockchain is validated right now. In the current form, all nodes on the network store and process all transactions taking place on the network. This is quite a labor-intensive way of going about things, even though it adds additional security to the ecosystem as well.

In terms of scaling, this way of validating the Ethereum blockchain leaves much to be desired, though. To combat this problem, the developers have come up with a way to alleviate these problems through an alternative form of validation. Referred to as sharding, a small subset of network nodes will validate every single transaction.

This means the Ethereum blockchain will remain secure as it has always been, yet it will allow for better scaling. There are quite a few different sharding proposals as well, although it is difficult to find one that checks all of the right boxes. To be more specific, sharding as part of the Ethereum ecosystem is designed to process thousands of transactions every second without forcing all nodes to store terabytes of state data.

Achieving this goal is not easy by any means. After all, the developers want to make sure people can use both cheap and expensive hardware to validate transactions as node operators. By introducing shards, a randomly chosen set of network nodes can be used to validate transactions pertaining to a specific wallet prefix.

It is not hard to see how this concept poses a lot of new challenges waiting to be tackled. Cross-shard communication on the Ethereum blockchain is quite challenging. Additionally, there needs to be a way to detect fraud in case certain nodes make an invalid verification of transactions. It is certainly possible an attacker took over the majority of nodes validating a single shard. Luckily, the Ethereum developers are introducing different security models to prevent this from happening, as outlined on the Wiki.

There are still some things to work out, though, including whether or not shard validators should receive a reward of some sort. Sharding will eventually be introduced into Ethereum, although it is still unclear when this will happen exactly. It is quite a novel way of validating transactions, to say the least. Moreover, it will allow Ethereum to scale beyond what is currently possible.

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