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Sharding Meaning

Apr 5, 2023 | Updated Mar 18, 2024
In the context of blockchain, sharding refers to dividing the network into smaller partitions to improve accessibility, scalability, and process more transactions per second.

What Is Sharding in Blockchain?

The concept of sharding, as a technological innovation, has its roots outside of the blockchain domain and can be traced back to a technology known as “database partitioning.”

Sharding is a technique that aims to solve the problem of scalability in blockchain networks. In simple terms, it involves breaking up a large database into smaller, more manageable pieces. In the context of blockchain, sharding refers to dividing the network into smaller partitions or shards, each of which can process transactions independently.

Within the blockchain context, this implies that every node in the network is responsible for storing and managing solely the data relevant to its specific shard chain. Despite the fact that this information can still be shared, the responsibility of storing and processing all of the data is no longer placed on all nodes in the network.

The idea behind this concept is to improve the throughput of transactions and to spread out storage and computational resources across a network. In a traditional blockchain network, all nodes maintain a complete copy of the ledger, which means that the network’s capacity is limited by the processing power and storage capacity of individual nodes. This limits the number of transactions that can be processed simultaneously, leading to network congestion and slower transaction processing times.

By dividing the blockchain into “shards”, it can significantly reduce the latency and slowness of the network, leading to faster transaction processing times and a more efficient system. These shards contain their own unique set of data, which sets them apart from the other shards in the network, making them distinct and independent.

By partitioning the network into smaller shards, each shard can operate independently and process transactions in parallel, thus improving the overall throughput of the network.

Which Blockchains Use Sharding?

Ethereum 2.0

A fundamental component of Ethereum 2.0 is the Beacon Chain, a network that operates on a proof-of-stake consensus mechanism. In the context of Ethereum, the Beacon Chain serves as the backbone of the sharding system. The Beacon Chain is a separate, parallel chain that runs alongside the existing Ethereum mainnet, which serves as a coordinator for the various shard chains.

Each shard chain within Ethereum will have its own set of validators, which will be responsible for processing transactions within that shard. The Beacon Chain will manage the validator pool, ensuring that each shard has an appropriate number of validators and that the validator set is secure and decentralized.

The Beacon Chain will also manage the cross-shard communication between the various shards, allowing for the transfer of assets and data between shards.

Polkadot

Polkadot is another blockchain project that utilizes sharding to improve its scalability and interoperability. The sharded partitions in Polkadot are called parachains, which are connected to and secured by the network’s central Relay Chain. As a multichain network, Polkadot allows parachains to run parallel to the main network, enabling them to process multiple transactions simultaneously. This provides the Polkadot ecosystem with the potential for increased scalability and interoperability.

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