What is Sharding?

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6 min read

Have you ever heard of Sharding? Maybe this topic has come up in a conversation and you don’t quite know what it is. In this article we will tell you all about what it is and how this computer technique works.

Sharding is known both in the world of cryptocurrencies and in computer science as a technique where a database or a network is divided to achieve greater scalability and decentralization in its operation. This technique applied to the blockchain world helps to overcome one of the main problems in cryptocurrency projects, scalability. By splitting or fragmenting databases, they become easier to operate and less cumbersome to manage.

The Sharding technique was created with the aim of achieving greater scalability in distributed and decentralized systems. Therefore, its application to blockchain technology can mean a before and after in the scalability problems presented by prominent networks such as Bitcoin or Ethereum.

Why implement Sharding?

This technique has some clear advantages that we will see below.

One of the most outstanding is, of course, an improvement in scalability. Thanks to this system, transactions can be processed and validated faster and more efficiently. This validation would be carried out in less time than the time normally required for this process. As a consequence, the network will have the capacity to process a higher number of transactions per second.

However, this is not the only reason for implementing this mechanism, as it also reduces the risk of network centralization. Networks such as Bitcoin require the use of equipment with high computational power. These are necessary to manage all the information contained in the network. Logically, this equipment has an acquisition cost and it is usually not at all economical, so many users cannot afford it. This means that the few users who own the equipment have greater control.

 

Thanks to the implementation of Sharding, there will be no need to purchase expensive equipment because it will not be necessary to store all the blockchain information in a single node. In this way a larger number of users will have the possibility to participate in the network and greater decentralization can be ensured.

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Is it necessary to implement this system?

Simply put, the answer is yes. The scalability issues presented by cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum are by no means a secret. Currently, the users employing these two networks are innumerable. As a result, many of the nodes face a high demand to validate and verify all the necessary processes in the network.

 

We must take into account that the operation mode of the nodes is based on the need to store an exact copy of their blockchains, which includes all the data contained from the beginning. This copy is constantly updated. This way of operating notoriously affects the speed at which transactions are executed, so much so that if the network is very congested it can collapse. On the other hand, there may be cases in which a long period of time is needed to process transactions. All these facts show that the sustainability of the network and the adoption of this technology are affected.

If something is undeniable is that blockchain technology is one of the most important advances in the digital world, as it provides great security, privacy and protection, not to mention the new facilities it has brought us, however, it has this problem of limiting networks with scalability. A clear example is that the Bitcoin network can only process 5 to 7 transactions per second. On the other hand, we can give as an example the Ethereum network that, despite outperforming Bitcoin, can only process 10 to 15 transactions per second.

 

For all these reasons, the answer is yes, the implementation of sharding is necessary, since it represents an evolution in this technology and can eliminate numerous problems and barriers that limit the operation of networks. Its implementation would mean the processing of a greater number of transactions, a smaller amount of time to achieve it and all this in a secure and efficient way.

What changes will sharding bring?

As we already know, sharding allows the fragmentation of a complete database into numerous parts that can be processed more easily. For example, if we work with a database of all the universities in Spain, with all the student data such as grades, education, experience, ages, addresses, etc., it will be much more complicated to find specific information. This is due to the fact that when handling this large amount of data the system becomes slower and heavier, making the operation more difficult.

If, on the other hand, we were to divide that database into smaller and more specific sectors, it would be easier to find the information we are looking for. This is because each fragment will present more organized and precise information. In this way we achieve a lighter and more organized process.

This would be the big change brought by the implementation of sharding in blockchain technology. Thanks to sharding, there will be no need for blockchain nodes to work linearly to validate all the data added to the blockchain, but instead they will operate in parallel to manage specific shards or fragments. 

Distributed information will be found in the shards. It will be easier to classify the useful information to be validated and processed from which only the necessary data will be extracted, avoiding information overload.

 

Once the groups of nodes have executed the entire process, the information will be added to the blockchain and remain complete. The only notable difference will be that the nodes will not handle the total amount of information, but will only manage a part of it. This will improve scalability and speed in the network.