Solana: Exploring the Blockchain
Are you a developer looking for the next best blockchain to host your project? are you a cryptocurrency trader that wants to try other Blockchains? Or are you a trader or investor in cryptocurrency but the gas fee is not friendly to you? whatever your interest is or wherever your interest lies, this article will present the Solana Blockchain, one of the most exciting Blockchain that answers most of your questions.
What Is Solana Blockchain?
Solana is a decentralized Blockchain that is fast, secure, scalable. It is a platform where anyone can build a decentralized app. It is essential to know that the Solana blockchain can run around 50,000 transactions per second (TPS) and have a block time of approximately 40ms. Astonishing, isn't it?
In 2017, Anatoly Yakovenco created the Solana blockchain. He and his team created the blockchain to make transactions fully trustless and solve scalability problems.
Yakovenco did not just build Solana from the blues; he had a lot of experience while working with Dropbox as a software engineer and lastly Qualcomm before making the Solana blockchain.
Today, top organizations such as Qualcomm, Microsoft, Apple, and Google support the project from their wealth of experience.
How Does Solana Work?
You may be wondering about how Solana could achieve scalability with running 50,000 transactions in a second. If you have been wondering about it, wonder no more as the reason for this stunning performance is tied to the working principle of Solana.
To ensure all these work together for good, Solana developed eight important innovations by which it operates. The eight innovations are discussed below.
- Proof of history
- Tower Practical Byzantine Fault Toleration ( Tower PBFT)
- Gulf stream
- Sea level
Proof Of History
Solana uses a proof of stake consensus that works perfectly with proof of history to determine the transaction time in the protocol.
The proof of history is a record that verifies that an event happened within a specific time frame and keeps track of it. This approach assigns a timestamp for any transaction carried out on the blockchain. It also disallows any involvement either by bots or miners in deciding the order in which blockchain records its transactions. It is different from other blockchains in that it does not wait for other validators to confirm a transaction before it is accepted. Solana allows all validators on its platform to confirm transactions immediately without waiting for another. It can achieve this by making use of SHA-256 - it enables hashing a verifiable delay function sequentially (VDF).
Byzantine fault tolerance is an agreement that tolerates failure and defends the computing system against corrupt data and malicious attacks. As a result, all the nodes in the system get the same authentic data all the time.
The tower's practical byzantine fault tolerance ensures that all transactions in the system are verified with the lowest processing power possible. It can do this because it uses the proof of history as a clock - a record of the timestamp of past transactions - before achieving consensus. Hence, Solana becomes faster and more efficient than other blockchains.
It is a block propagation protocol that makes transmission to the blockchain node easy.
Validators on Solana can now execute transactions faster and reduce confirmation time. All thanks to the gulf stream. The transactions are always at the forefront of the system for execution.
Gulfstream is the mempool-less transaction platform. We must understand what a mempool is to grasp what the Gulfstream entails fully.
What Is A Mempool?
A mempool contains all transactions that are submitted on the blockchain but has not been processed. What these mean is that a mempool is a transaction awaiting confirmation on the blockchain. With this understanding now, we can safely say a Gulfstream is a platform that does not allow delay in a transaction before it's been processed. Interesting right? We will delve into how the gulf stream works and how it helps the Solana network to make faster transactions.
How Does Gulf Stream Work?
In Solana, there is a concept of leader which is the role of a validator when it is appending entries to the ledger. Validators can easily execute a transaction before the set time, reducing the transaction time. This is possible because all validators are aware of the order of upcoming leaders, so they send the transactions to the expected leader before the set time so the leader can process the transactions.
A block occurs on the Solana platform approximately every 800 milliseconds, and it becomes more time-consuming to unfold as they increase. In a worst-case scenario, a fully confirmed block-hashes contains about 32 blocks. A client signs a transaction that points to a recent block-hash that the network has confirmed. The signed transaction is sent to the validators which immediately forward it to the most senior leader in the network. The client knows that the network confirms a transaction and that the block-hash has an expiry time, so the client signs a transaction knowing that it can execute or fail. Immediately the network is ahead of the rollback point, the referenced block-hash expires, and the client knows that the transactions become invalid, never to be executed on the chain.
The sea level is a parallel smart contract runtime. The sea level helps Solana protocol scale across GPUs and SSDs, enabling efficient runtime. In addition, the sea level gives all Solana transactions the ability to run concurrently on the blockchain.
The pipeline mechanism is a processing unit that enables all transactions to be quickly validated, optimized and recurrent across all the nodes in the Solana network. The pipeline follows the outline below to carry out its function.
- Data fetching
- Signature verification
Cloudbreak allows the Solana network to achieve a high level of scalability. Before defining Cloudbreak, let's understand the Solana blockchain scalability.
Cloudbreak And How It Achieves Scalability
Scalability can be achieved without sharding, but more is needed than scaling computations alone because the memory used to monitor accounts can easily be overwhelmed, affecting the size and speed of the network. The network used to achieve scalability must take advantage of the account's concurrent read and write access. RAM and SSDs can be used to achieve scalability without sharding, but they come with a huge disadvantage. To solve the challenges posed by using RAM or SSDs for scalability purposes, Solana designed software that allows 100% utilization without involving the hardware. It does not use a traditional database to address scalability but uses different combinations to provide solutions. The mechanisms are highlighted and discussed below.
How Solana Achieves Scalability
a) Memory-mapped file leverage: a file that has its byte mapped in a process's address (virtual) space. The kernel may or may not store the cached memory in the RAM. Although the RAM does not limit the amount of physical memory, the size of the disk can. The disk performance determines the reads and writes.
b) Faster sequential transactions: Sequential transactions are faster than random operations across all the virtual memory stacks.
The accounts data structure of faster sequential operations are:
i) The RAM stores all index of accounts and fork.
ii) About 4MB of memory-mapped files stores all the account.
iii) A memory map stores an account from a proposed fork.
Random distribution of maps across numerous SSDs.
iv) Semantics (copy-on-write) are used.
v) Writes are assigned randomly to a memory map for the same fork.
vi) After each writes, the index is updated.
Solana gets the privilege to write and scale concurrent transactions sequentially and horizontally across many SSDs because the account updates are copy-on-write and assigned to a random SSD. It is not only the writes that are horizontally scaled but read. Read achieves this because forks states updates occur across numerous SSDs.
c) Garbage collections: As accounts get updated, and forks are finalized after rollback, every old account is collected as garbage and freed from the memory.
d) State updates for fork: horizontally scaled sequential reads that happen across all SSDs help with computing Merkle root of the state updates for a fork.
With Cloud break, Solana achieves scalability without sharding and also scales much more than computations. You can look at it as an optimal data structure for concurrent reads and writes across the network.
As the name implies, the archiver in the Solana network is the node for storing data from validators. Therefore, many checks go on in the background to ensure that only valid data are stored on the archivers.
The Solana Ecosystem
Solana has been attracting many projects that build its tech stack due to its fantastic advantage in the current cryptocurrency world. Today there are more than 200 projects built on the Solana protocol. Some of the projects are highlighted below.
- Cryptocurrency.ai: this is a cryptocurrency exchange platform that supports the trading of spots and futures.
- Crowny: It is a platform where consumers can interact with their chosen brands and get discounts, rewards, and loyalties. CRWNY is the token of the crowny project.
- Solarians: these are Non-fungible tokens (NFT) operating on the Solana blockchain
- Raydium: it is the first automated market maker (AMM) built on the Solana blockchain.
- Tether: it is a stable coin and has a high use case in the decentralized finance sector. USDT has announced it would be migrating to the Solana blockchain.
- Cope: This project uses an index known as "cope score" to allow traders to score their trading outcomes and access other people's trading outcomes.
- Audius is a music streaming platform where content creators can upload their work while consumers stream it.
- Senswap: this is the first AMM built on Solana and serum platform
- Hydraswap: this is a decentralized trading platform with lots of centralized trading experiences for Its users.
- Solyard finance: this is a yield farming aggregator built on the Solana blockchain
- Orca: this is a decentralized cryptocurrency exchange built on the Solana network.
The Solana ecosystem is growing very fast, with about two hundred and eighteen (218) projects built. The project cuts across various categories such as Defi, AMM, Stablecoins, Governance, Dex, and NFTs.
SOL is the native token that is used on the Solana protocol. The Sol token has two crucial use cases, which are:
- It is used to cater for transaction fees and smart contract operations on the protocol.
- You can also stake the Sol token to earn a profit on the Solana protocol.
To stake sol token, you should follow the steps below:
- Get a wallet such as SolFlare and Exodus that supports Sol staking
- Create your staking account by following the instructions on the wallet.
- Follow the instructions on the wallet to choose a validator .
- Delegate your stake to your chosen validator.
According to coingecko, Sol has a current circulating supply of 272 million out of its maximum store of 488 million. It had an all-time high of $149.91 in September 2021 and currently trades at a value of $142 per Sol token. The current market cap of Sol is around $41,499,887,443.
The Solana blockchain achieves the fastest cryptocurrency transaction per second compared to Ethereum which takes about 15 seconds per block, and bitcoin of 10 minutes per block. Recently, platforms such as OKEx, MXC, and the Solana foundation became partners to launch two new funds that will increase the growth of projects on the Solana ecosystem. If the ecosystem continues this way, it might just become the leading blockchain soon.
Also, read on Stable Coins.