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Solana Virtual Machine (SVM) Meaning

Mar 16, 2024 | Updated Mar 20, 2024
Solana Virtual Machine is the software framework that allows the Solana network to handle thousands of transactions per second and execute smart contracts.

What Is a Solana Virtual Machine (SVM)?

Generally speaking, a virtual machine (VM) is software that carries out tasks that a physical computer usually would, such as running programs and applications. 

In the blockchain context, a VM is the decentralized software environment where blockchain nodes execute smart contracts and process network transactions. Thus the Solana virtual machine works much like its Ethereum counterpart: enabling transactions, smart contracts, and updating the state of the blockchain after transactions get processed.

How Does SVM Work?

The Solana Virtual Machine runs as separate, independent instances on the blockchain’s nodes (validators). Each of these validators operates an isolated SVM local environment on their own hardware, which is how they process transactions. However, before a validator can execute a smart contract, the SVM has to convert the smart contract into a format that the validator’s hardware can process.

When a smart contract successfully deploys it causes a change to the state of the blockchain. This change must then be reported to Slana’s runtime, which in turn forwards the changes to the SVM, allowing all validator nodes to update the blockchain with the state change.  

A key aspect of the Solana virtual machine – and a major contrast to the Ethereum virtual machine – is its use of parallel processing. While there are a few reasons why SVM can handle transactions faster than EVM, a major factor is the difference in the two blockchain’s runtimes.

 In short, EVM has a “single-threaded” runtime, meaning that it is only able to process one contract at a time. SVM, on the other hand, has a “multi-threaded” runtime that can process multiple contracts at once, in parallel. 

Consider a busy bank with hundreds of customers queueing for financial services but with just one teller on duty. This situation creates inherent congestion issues since the teller can only serve one customer at a time. The SVM is a version of this bank but with multiple tellers serving multiple customers concurrently. In other words, the SVM executes transactions with non-overlapping states in parallel– thereby increasing network speed and efficiency.

This distribution of instances across multiple parallel processors allows Solana to handle a significant workload, achieving greater network scalability. Additionally, this isolation ensures that a vulnerability or bug in a smart contract is localized, preventing it from compromising the entire network’s stability and security.

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