Sharding Could Solve Ethereum Scalability Trilemma, Researcher Says


Following a successful Ethereum merger, all eyes are on the next phase of transition that would introduce key scalability solutions to the platform, including sharding. Market experts believe that sharding would be a game changer for the Ethereum network as it could potentially solve the scalability dilemma.

In an exclusive conversation with TBEN, Dr. Martin Hiesboeck, Uphold’s head of research, explains how sharding could pave the way for Ethereum to become a truly global network.

Hiesboeck believes that sharding can eventually solve the long-running scalability trilemma of blockchain networks. Scalability trilemma means that in order to scale, blockchains usually have to sacrifice one of their three fundamental cornerstones: security or decentralization, the third being scalability itself. He explained:

“Sharding is indeed one of the most effective and universal ways to solve the so-called ‘scalability trilemma’.” I’m not sure if it’s enough to call it the only true scalability solution, but sharding is definitely one of the best we have right now.”

In layman’s terms, sharding would introduce parallel processing, enabling secure distribution of data storage requirements and making nodes easier to operate. In the current blockchain processing system, transactions are processed one block after another, while with the introduction of sharding, the network can process multiple transaction blocks at once.

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Using this mechanism, validators verifying certain blocks will publish signatures certifying that they have done so. Meanwhile, everyone else only needs to verify 10,000 such signatures instead of 100 full blocks, which is a significantly smaller amount of work.

Image of a sharded version of Ethereum. Source: Quantstamp.

Hiesboeck explained that sharding would not only multiply Ethereum’s throughput, but also lower gas rates and make the network more energy efficient. He explained that the energy savings and scalability both come from “the smaller packets that need to be moved because sharding stores data sets in manageable blocks and allows additional requests to be made at the same time.”

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Previously, Ethereum developers planned to launch 64 shards that would require approximately 8.4 million Ether (ETH) to be deployed in Eth2. However, almost 13.8 million ETH have already been staked, so the number of initial shards could potentially be even higher than that.

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The move to PoS has also raised concerns about the centralization of nodes, especially in the wake of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) jurisdictional claims over ETH, as nearly 43% of nodes in the US are clustered. Hiesboeck said the SEC’s claims about Ethereum have been misguided. He argued that the concentration of nodes can change overnight, explaining:

“Ethereum nodes can pop up anywhere in the world, and while almost 43% of them are indeed centralized in the US right now (the second largest country is Germany at 11.8%), that could change in the blink of an eye.”

Hiesboeck concluded by saying that the Ethereum developer community has a proven track record and has already demonstrated its resilience in the past so that everything can be fixed at some point.

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