Every single system and process relies on suitable infrastructure for its proper functioning. In the realm of technology, infrastructure plays a crucial role, such as the underlying framework and resources needed to deploy blockchain technology in existing and new processes and systems.
On top of that, the most impressive blockchain applications are found in various business sectors, including finance, banking, cloud storage, payments, cryptocurrency, supply chain, retail, and more. These industries embrace blockchain infrastructure to decentralize their operations, enhance security, and improve efficiency and transparency. The blockchain is the foundational infrastructure, encompassing vital elements such as nodes, clusters, and more. You might be wondering, what is blockchain infrastructure? Here, we will take a deep dive into everything related to blockchain infrastructure and its components.
- Blockchain infrastructure ensures the integrity of the user data, supports and verifies on-chain transactions, and safeguards the networks for potential cyber threats.
What is blockchain infrastructure? Explained
The term “blockchain infrastructure” encompasses the foundational system that enables the seamless functioning of a blockchain network. It includes a combination of hardware, software, and network components that work harmoniously to ensure the blockchain’s efficient operation. This infrastructure maintains data integrity, validates transactions, and safeguards the network against potential attacks.
Nodes: To uphold the integrity of the blockchain ledger, a network of nodes is required. These nodes collaborate through a peer-to-peer (P2P) protocol, enabling them to share information and synchronize their records in real time.
Consensus: The consensus mechanism stands as another crucial element within the blockchain infrastructure. Consensus refers to the process through which the network reaches an agreement on the validity of each transaction, ensuring that all nodes possess an identical copy of the ledger.
Critical components of Blockchain infrastructure:
Nodes and clients
Blockchain infrastructure relies on nodes as its fundamental components. A node, essentially a computer, fulfills essential network functions such as validating transactions, storing blockchain records, and participating in-network governance through voting. The software responsible for executing these functions is referred to as a client.
In a decentralized network, multiple software implementations or clients can be supported based on the network’s design. These clients can be developed using various programming languages. For instance, the Ethereum network predominantly comprises Geth and Parity nodes, while eth2 introduces a broader range of clients, including Prysm, Lighthouse, Teku, Nimbus, and Lodestar.
Proof of stake networks comprises several distinct types of nodes, each optimized for specific tasks. These node types include:
- Participation nodes:
They are the foundational elements of proof of stake networks. Participation nodes validate transactions, create blocks, and earn rewards for executing this work. A specific value must be locked or “staked” to the node to become an active participant or validator on the network. Only when the node becomes active can it generate valuable on-chain work and receive rewards.
- Read/write nodes:
These nodes verify transactions, retrieve information about them (query), and write data such as transfers or smart contract interactions (transactions) to the blockchain.
- Sentry nodes:
Also known as proxy nodes, act as intermediaries between participation nodes and the blockchain. Sentry nodes enable participation nodes to perform their functions while maintaining privacy and staying hidden from the public internet. The participation node communicates exclusively through its sentry nodes, creating an additional layer of protection against attacks from the public internet. If an attack occurs, the participation node can spin up a new, unaffected sentry node, ensuring uninterrupted operation.
- Relay nodes:
They serve as communication hubs within the peer-to-peer layer of the network. Relay nodes establish connections with participation nodes and maintain connections with numerous others, facilitating efficient and swift transmission by sustaining open communication pathways.
The term “cluster” is employed by experts to describe a group of nodes within a network, along with its accompanying blockchain infrastructure. This infrastructure includes tools for load balancing, tracking, and alerting services. Clusters typically consist of the following components:
- Load balancers:
These tools evenly distribute network traffic across multiple servers, enhancing the responsiveness of a node. They ensure that every server becomes manageable with excessive network demand.
- Failover protection:
This feature safeguards a node from prolonged downtime if its operating system becomes unavailable. The nature of failover protection may vary depending on whether the node is cloud-based or hardware-based. Nodes operated by node-operators utilize multi-region failover and are distributed across different cloud providers, contributing to a robust and decentralized network.
- Monitoring and alerting services:
These services are vital in ensuring the health and optimal participation of nodes in the network. For instance, keeping track of a node’s CPU usage provides insights into the effectiveness of request processing. A sudden spike in CPU usage could indicate an attack or an error in the code of a protocol update. Uptime is closely monitored to ensure the reliability, stability, connectivity, and data accessibility of all nodes.
- Container services:
These services facilitate large-scale actions within a cluster. They enable the bundling of applications and their packages into a form that can be version controlled. Container services are beneficial for managing multiple clusters and supporting Blockchain client APIs.
In summary, clusters encompass not only the nodes within a network but also the necessary blockchain infrastructure for load balancing, failover protection, monitoring, alerting, and container services, all of which contribute to the efficient operation and management of the network.