In an appearance on the Tim Ferris Show podcast, Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin has highlighted a "really powerful" scaling solution that will tide the smart contracts platform over ahead of its ETH 2 upgrade.
Buterin argued that Rollups could be the solution to Ethereum’s current scaling issues, at least until the introduction of sharding technology in Ethereum 2.0.
With Ethereum transaction fees hitting record highs earlier this year, debates over the network’s scalability are heating up again. As of today, the average cost of sending ETH is around $16—considerably less than the $38 one had to pay last month, but still a significant amount of money for a cryptocurrency transaction that's supposed to be fast and cheap.
Fixing Ethereum's scalability problem
Sharding is touted to be the most promising solution to Ethereum’s scalability problems, but it’s not coming any time soon. The technique, which breaks large amounts of data into smaller pieces, has been designed for ETH 2—Ethereum’s upcoming proof-of-stake blockchain. That means another solution has to be found before the transition from the current proof-of work chain is complete.
One such solution is Rollups, a Layer 2 method of aggregating transactions inside smart contracts. Aimed at reducing fees and the network’s congestion, Rollups are theoretically capable of increasing the platform’s throughput from the current 15 TPS to more than 1,000 TPS.
The concept, first described by Vitalik Buterin in 2014 and originally called “shadow chains,” has two main approaches: ZK-Rollups and Optimistic Rollups. The latter is increasingly becoming a preferred choice among the developers of decentralized finance (DeFi) applications, with projects like Synthetix Exchange and Polygon (formerly known as Matic Network) already implementing the solution.
Roll up, roll up
Speaking on the Tim Ferris Show, Buterin noted that the Optimism team will roll out the release of Rollups “very soon” and that in the mid-term, while sharding is being prepared for implementation, it will help the Ethereum blockchain to scale by a factor of 100.
"If you have rollups, but you do not have sharding, you still have 100X factor scaling," Buterin said. "You still have the ability for the blockchain to go up to somewhere between 1,000 and 4,000 transactions a second, depending on how complex these transactions are."
While exact timing for the Rollups release is still to be revealed, Ethereum is bracing for the Berlin hard fork. Scheduled for April, the upgrade will introduce several important improvements to the cryptocurrency’s underlying protocol. The Ethereum 2.0 upgrade, which is set to transition Ethereum to a new proof-of-stake consensus mechanism, launched its beacon chain in December 2020; more than 3 million ETH has been staked to secure the next-generation blockchain.