“We will either solve the scalability problems or die trying,” Vitalik Buterin, Chief Scientist at the Ethereum Foundation, said back in 2014.
Now four years later, the countdown to Serenity has begun, a Plasma sidechain testnet has launched, EY is implementing zero-knowledge proofs for Ethereum’s public blockchain and Microsoft and Intel have joined the race to build a massively scalable public blockchain.
“The open source eEVM and Trusted Execution Environments [TEE] like Intel(R) Software Guard Extensions can help improve blockchain scalability and privacy by enabling off-chain Ethereum smart contract execution.
With the eEVM released to open source and the EEA’s announcement of the Trusted Compute API, off-chain smart contract capability has been extended to any blockchain developer,” says Mike Reed, Director of Intel’s Blockchain Program Office.
He announced a “new application specification called the Trusted Compute API (TC API)… The TC API announced at Devcon4 extends the notion of decentralized trust to off-chain workloads.
With the TC API, transactions can execute in an off-chain compute environment and then return results to the main Ethereum blockchain.”
While Microsoft has launched an Enclave-ready EVM (eEVM). “This contribution demonstrates how TEEs like Intel® SGX technology can enhance the EVM with confidentiality.
We expect that this codebase will be used as a starting point in projects across the ecosystem to have TEE-enabled EVM contract logic work on any blockchain or in off-chain compute scenarios,” Microsoft says.
In simpler language, you’re probably familiar with the Lightning Network. Basically, you lock funds in the public blockchain, and now on second layers you can have as many transactions as you like with hashes, linked back to the public blockchain, keeping account of how the balance has changed on the second layer.
That can have many problems which the Cornell team suggested can be removed or minimized by using trusted execution environments, i.e. hardware. You lock the funds in the hardware “wallet,” and can now transact with other hardware to the tune of some 30,000 transactions a second. Or as they said at the time:
“We describe Teechain, a new off-chain payment protocol that utilizes trusted execution environments (TEEs) to perform secure, efficient and scalable fund transfers on top of a blockchain, with asynchronous blockchain access.
Teechain introduces secure payment chains to route payments across multiple payment channels.
Teechain mitigates failures of TEEs with two strategies: (i) backups to persistent storage and (ii) a novel variant of chain-replication.
We evaluate an implementation of Teechain using Intel SGX as the TEE and the operational Bitcoin blockchain.
Our prototype achieves orders of magnitude improvement in most metrics compared to existing implementations of payment channels: with replicated Teechain nodes in a trans-atlantic deployment, we measure a throughput of over 33,000 transactions per second with 0.1 second latency.”
The Cornell team is trying to implement this in the context of bitcoin, while ethereum is seemingly having Microsoft and Intel working on it.
Meaning that scalability is now being tackled from all angles and for ethereum it appears global tech giants are taking part in refining its infrastructure so that it can handle all the demand.