What is Sharding? | Flint

Note: Before we proceed, it is important that you read about What is Ethereum? and some of the properties of the Ethereum blockchain

Introduction to Sharding

In computer science, sharding is defined as the splitting of data into smaller parts which are called shards. Its 2022 and Ethereum blockchain is ready for a historic crypto upgrade which would be called Ethereum 2.0.

Ethereum 2.0 is expected to be fast and more scalable compared to the current version. But here’s the twist in the story. It isn’t the case. Read more about Ethereum — ‘The Merge’ here to understand what exactly changes for the Ethereum blockchain

Hence to solve this issue, there’s a proposed method of splitting the new Ethereum blockchain into smaller pieces which would be called shards, and this process is known as sharding.

It’s a process that shall enable the validators on the chain to store more data and hence would help make the concept of building decentralized applications mainstream.

How does Sharding Work?

Under the current mechanism, each node on the network stores the entire history of the Ethereum blockchain which by its very nature makes it difficult for anyone to make changes in the same. But in reality, it’s a lot of data needs to be stored. If this is continued, becoming a validator on the network would remain in hands of a few nodes with powerful equipment.

According to block explorer Etherscan, Ethereum full nodes already take up at least five terabytes of space, which is about 10 times what the average computer can hold.

And the nodes are only going to grow bigger and harder to run over time. Sharding would solve this problem and would make it more accessible.

According to the official website of Ethereum, “The Beacon Chain will coordinate the stakes in the network, assigning them to shards they need to work on. And it will also facilitate communication between shards by receiving and storing shard transaction data that is accessible by other shards. This will give shards a snapshot of Ethereum’s state to keep everything up-to-date.”

Advantages of Sharding

  1. Sharding would enable more network participation as it would allow storing data in not so big quantities.
  2. As everyone would have the chance of becoming a node, it would help to scale the operations on the chain and make it more sustainable.

Disadvantages of Sharding

  1. Sharding would work effectively only if the Ethereum blockchain successfully upgrades to the Proof of Stake concept. (This article here explains What is Proof of Stake?, to help you understand better)
  2. In case of an attack, an attacker can take over the majority of block producers in a shard to create a malicious shard that can submit invalid transactions.

Conclusion

The Ethereum blockchain is all set to be upgraded and people at large are expecting it to be a game-changer in the history of blockchain. But, it will be just a part of it. The other part would be fulfilled by the application of Sharding and its successful implementation which would help make the Ethereum blockchain mainstream.

Originally published at https://www.flint.money.

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