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New blockchain for very high transaction rates

The so-termed ‘sharding’ blockchain is a new type of platform that is set to surpass VISA and MasterCard with regard to the number of transactions-per-second. The set-up is also intended to have far lower transaction fees.

To examine the platform, researchers from the National University of Singapore, who have founded a startup called Zilliqa, tested the new platform on an internal ‘testnet’ of Amazon Web Services nodes. The test achieved transaction rate of almost 1,400 transactions per secon. This had led Zilliqa to declare it will release their public testnet and source code for developers within the next few months (and before the end of 2017).

Elusive scalability
The Zilliqa blockchain platform was developed by a team led by Xinshu Dong. The platform is based on a Secure Sharding protocol. This protocol is designed to overcome a problem hampering blockchains: scalability. This means the ability to handle a larger number of transactions per second.

Sharding refers to automatically splitting up a large network of machines to process transactions into parallel sub-committees or “shards”. Every shard then processes its own microblock in conjunction with other shards. At the end of this the generated micro-blocks are merged into one complete block.

Transaction numbers key
This issue of transactions per second will become more pressing as a blockchain networks grow. Many blockchains can only handle seven to 10 transactions/second (as is the case with the way that Bitcoin and Ethereum are currently configured). In contrast, a service like VISA can process some 8,000 transactions per second on average.

The biggest challenge that the Zilliqa developers faced was with ensuring a secure and unbiased process. The trial showed this was possible with a network size of 10,000 nodes (which is less than half of the number of nodes that form Ethereum).

This was achieved through the use of a new ‘scalability-driven’ smart contract language. The language has been developed to assist with automated auctions, shared economy, and financial modelling.

The Amazon trial involved deploying Zilliqa on 2,400 nodes with four shards. This led to resultant the blockchain network hitting a throughput of 1,389 transactions per second, which is some 100 times faster than any other blockchain.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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