The race to become the highest throughput blockchain has another contender. San-Francisco-based Solana announced it had raised $20 million in funding today, led by crypto investors Multicoin Capital. Later this year, the project is on track to launch what it’s calling the “world’s first web-scale blockchain”—a platform as scalable as the Internet, it says.
Solana, according to the team’s press release, will have a transaction processing speed (TPS) of 50,000—which puts it on a par with Ripple’s claim.
This capability, it promises, will allow it to “power decentralized versions of Nasdaq, Facebook, Twitter, and all other existing blockchains—with room to spare.”
The key to this is something called “Proof of History,” which allows nodes in the network to verify the time and order of events without witnessing them directly, “unlocking massive network optimizations,” according to the project’s website.
Solana is a layer 1, proof-of-stake blockchain, employing a Practical byzantine-fault-tolerant-derived (pBFT) consensus mechanism, an optimization of the original solution. (For more on pBFT, see here.)
Instead of building a solution around sharding into the mainchain—as Ethereum is attempting to do, or building sidechains on top of it (layer 2), to enable scaling (e.g. Loom’s Plasma Chain,) Solana has come up with a new solution.
“Solana has done it differently—and is one of the most compelling layer 1 platforms we’ve evaluated to date.” said Kyle Samani, co-founder and managing partner at Multicoin Capital.
“We’ve seen the challenges that developers are facing with layer 2 and sharding solutions, and we’re excited to give them an incredibly simple alternative that doesn’t sacrifice performance,” said Anatoly Yakovenko, Solana’s co-founder and project lead.
Solana was founded in 2017 by Yakovenko, formerly an engineer with semiconductor multinational Qualcomm. The startup boasts a number of ex-Qualcomm employees specialized in CPU and GPU chip design and optimization.
Their solution—which they claim is a world-first for blockchains—enables transactions to be processed in parallel by GPU hardware natively, with minimal computational overhead and additional components.
“Every other blockchain is a single-thread processor – that is, they can only make one state update at a time. This is the single greatest challenge holding back the industry today,” said Yakovenko. “By architecting a system designed to support concurrent processing, and by optimizing computation for massively parallel GPUs, Solana can process 50,000 TPS across a network of 200 nodes.”
As well as a mainnet, Solana is launching a public “DevNet” for developers, and a software development kit (SDK) is already available for them to download and check out the platform for themselves.
If the solution stands up to scrutiny, it stands a chance of competing even with the likes of Visa, the centralized global payment system which can process 24,000 TPS, according to one IBM study.
Notably, blockchains have surpassed that point, but only on paper, and it can be hard to measure with real-time traffic as opposed to test networks. So it remains to be seen whether Solana can achieve its goal and take the lead in the sprint towards scalability.