Zilliqa, a new blockchain platform that has the potential to achieve transaction rates that rival VISA and MasterCard, has announced they have successfully deployed their platform on an internal testnet of Amazon Web Services nodes and the company is on track to release their public testnet and source code for developers within months.
The Zilliqa blockchain platform is being developed by researchers at the National University of Singapore led by Xinshu Dong and is based on a Secure Sharding protocol originally proposed by their research team that included Loi Luu and Prateek Saxena back in 2015. Zilliqa proposes a new blockchain based on a sharding protocol that allows for a high-throughput platform designed to securely scale in an open, permission-less distributed network.
The Scalability Bottleneck for Public Blockchains
Zilliqa addresses one of the most pressing problems facing public blockchain platforms: Scalability. The ability to handle a larger number of transactions per second as a blockchain network grows has been recognized as one of the biggest problems facing existing blockchain platforms, as evidenced by the often cited example of only 7–10 transactions/second (TX/s) available in Bitcoin and Ethereum today. The issue is that these numbers are way short of centralized payment processors like VISA, which processes roughly 8,000 TX/s on average. Zilliqa has proposed a new blockchain platform that solves these issues using sharding.
Sharding is a concept that the Zilliqa team proposed in a paperback in 2015, but hasn’t yet been deployed as an open and permission-less blockchain at scale until now. The idea is to automatically split up a large network of machines processing transactions into parallel sub-committees or “shards”. Each shard processes its own microblock in parallel with other shards, and resulting micro-blocks are merged into one final one. Although the high-level idea of sharding appears not difficult to understand, ensuring a secure and unbiased process of sharding is highly challenging. Zilliqa develops a mechanism to dynamically select and update a special committee of machines to ensure such properties.
Using this approach with a network size of 10,000 nodes (less than half of Ethereum), Zilliqa would enable a throughput which matches that of VISA and MasterCard, with much lower fees for merchants.
Zilliqa Sharding-Friendly Smart Contracts
In their current state, today’s mainstream public blockchains are not suitable for running computation-intensive tasks. This is because any of the computation tasks would have to be repeated at all full nodes on the blockchain for validation. Although they are secure, such a fully redundant programming model is prohibitively expensive for running large-scale computations.
Zilliqa proposes a new ‘scalability-driven’ smart contract language that is not Turing-complete but rather scales much better for a multitude of applications that range from automated auctions, shared economy to financial modeling. The smart contract language in Zilliqa follows a dataflow programming style, where the program can be seen as a directed graph, and nodes in the graph represent computations, while arcs represent input/output.
After months of development (and years of theoretical work) Zilliqa has created an initial technology platform based upon their proposals that have been deployed on an internal testnet of Amazon Web Services EC2 instances, and the results were astounding. When Zilliqa was deployed on 2,400 nodes with 4 shards, the blockchain network achieved a throughput of 1,389 TX/s.
In perspective, this trial of their technology produced a transaction rate that was over 100 times faster than today’s blockchains.
The company has noted that this is just the beginning and there are many developmental milestones ahead that will enable further scalability and add many features to Zilliqa.
Zilliqa does not rely on Proof-of-Work (PoW) for consensus and only leverages it to establish mining identities. PoW is performed only at larger intervals, not by every miner on every block. Thus, it has a much smaller energy footprint.
The public release of the Zilliqa protocol next month will enable the public to participate in the Zilliqa protocol to test its functionality, performance, and robustness