Scalability is considered by many the biggest challenge of the current generation of blockchain solutions. The scalability challenge is not only a limitation to the mainstream adoption of blockchain technologies but its also the main factor exploited in blockchain security attacks. Intuitively, we think about scalable computation models in the blockchain as either “layer 2” protocols or brand new blockchains. A few months ago, I came across bloXRoute, an interesting startup that proposes a completely different approach: scaling blockchains without changing their core protocols. If protocols like Plasma or Sharding are considered layer-2 solutions, I believe bloXroute should be classified as a layer-0 scalability solution.
The Scalability Challenge
Don’t you love it when you come across a solution that challenges the conventional wisdom for a specific problem? bloXRoute sorts of does that when comes to blockchain scalability. You see, most solutions to the blockchain scalability problem focused on either improving the consensus protocol, reducing the block-size or scaling the network with side channels.
While many of those layer-2 scalability protocols are likely to become widely adopted by the current generation of blockchain technologies they also contribute to the increasing fragmentation of the space. After all, we might have different version of the same blockchains using different layer-2 scalability protocols and certainly different blockchains that use completely different scalability models.
While the battle for layer-2 scalability protocols is in full force, bloXRoute ignores those conventional models and proposes a solution that works underneath any blockchain. Their approach resembles the contribution of content distribution networks(CDNs) to the scalability of the internet. Not surprisingly, the bloXRoute team likes to call themselves the Akamai of the blockchain 😉
Following the Akamai analogy, bloXRoute introduces the concept of a Blockchain Distribution Network(BDN); a layer-0 protocol that can increase the on-chain throughout by several orders of magnitude without affecting the overall architecture of a blockchain.
The bloXroute BDN achieves high levels of scalability by acting as a decentralized router underneath a blockchain. The bloXroute architecture is based on two fundamental components:
· BDN: is a high-capacity, low-latency, global BDN network, optimized to quickly propagate transactions and blocks for multiple blockchain systems.
· Peer Networks: P2P networks of nodes which utilize bloXroute to propagate transactions and blocks, while carefully auditing its behavior. Each Peer Network consists of all the nodes using a specific protocol. For example, all the Bitcoin nodes utilizing bloXroute form a single Peer Network, while all the Ethereum nodes utilizing bloXroute form a different Peer Network.
The magic of bloXroute is based on the fact that the BDN uses a small number of nodes to propagate blocks in a blockchain. The BDN blindly serves the nodes, without knowledge of the blocks it propagates, their origin, or their destination. Additionally the nodes constantly serve as auditors of the behavior of the BDN. The platform leverages system-wide caching that enables faster propagation and Gigabyte size blocks, and state-of-the-art routing methods that enable efficient transmission of blocks through the network.
In order to use bloXroute, a blockchain can start by running instances of the bloXroute Server on a target set of nodes such as miners. bloXroute will run a sufficient number of BDN nodes around the world, so that users can propagate blocks and receive transactions faster than any other peer. As more nodes use bloXroute, the block distribution performance should increase drastically. Obviously, in order to take full advantage of the benefits of bloXroute, a blockchain might decide to change some parameters such as the block-size or the inter-block time interval.
The bloXroute Token
bloXroute includes a native ERC20 token called BXLR which receives its value from 50% of the funds received by bloXroute. The value of BLXR is also collateralized by a reserve of heterogenous cryptocurrencies known as the BLXR-Reserve which is available to all BLXR holders. The BLXR-Reserve injects certain level of liquidity into the network allowing a BLXR holder to convert their BLXRs into other cryptocurrencies at any given time.
A Unique Approach to Blockchain Scalability
bloXroute proposes a unique approach to solve the scalability problem in blockchain network without disrupting the underlying protocols of existing blockchains. bloXroute combines three principles that were often seen at odds with each other when comes to blockchains: scalability, neutrality and adaptability. The platform provides scalability by implementing an effective broadcast primitive that can be incorporated into any blockchain. It achieves neutrality by supporting encrypted blocks and by obscuring blocks’ origin via peer relaying. Finally, auditability is attained by enabling users to directly and actively probe, via Gateways, the network in a systematic manner.