Vitalik Buterin, the CEO of Ethereum, yesterday on his Twitter account announced that ‘Sharding is coming soon’. Now many of his followers were baffled by the term ‘sharding’. Everyone who does not understand technical language was struck with a sense of confusion which was visible in their comments.
With the announcement, Vitalik also clarifies how sharding will help and work. This is a proof of concept which is a part of a fork choice rule-based mechanism for how sharding can be bolted on top of the current Ethereum main chain, with a specialized random beacon and shard block times of less than 10 seconds.
The basic idea is based on a concept of dependent fork choice rules. First, there is a proof of stake beacon chain in phase 4, i.e. full Casper. This will just be merged into the main chain. Every beacon chain block must specify a recent main chain block, and that beacon chain block being part of the canonical chain is conditional on the referenced main chain block being part of the canonical main chain.
The beacon chain issues new blocks every 2 to 8 seconds, with a design similar to the one prototyped in Casper PoC3 backbone simulations which has 3 seconds block time, 1.25 second average latency and in addition to it, 2 second average clock offset and 1% stale rate using the RANDAO mechanism to generate randomness which at the time Vitalik thought was sufficient
Vitalik comments on RANDAO:
“All in all, I really think a simple RANDAO mechanism with total main chain rewards being comparable to total shard chain rewards is enough and we don’t need fancy threshold signature randomness or low-influence functions or any other fancy math.”
The purpose of the code is to be the ‘heartbeat’ for the shard chains and to provide the randomness that determines who the proposers and notaries in the shard chains are. The beacon mechanism is upgraded with a proof of activity inspired technique to increase its stability.
The shards then themselves have a dependent fork choice rule mechanism that ties into the beacon chain. Every time a new beacon block is created, that beacon block randomly selects a proposer which has the right to create a shard collation. Each shard collation points to a parent collation on the same shard, and a beacon block.
The feature where all notarizations of any shard simultaneously double as votes in a global Casper FFG cycle, increasing Casper FFG scalability and allowing its minimum deposits and finality times to both be reduced, perhaps minimum deposits to 32 ETH and finality times to 6 minutes.
Dustin D, a Twitter user comments:
“Sharded my pants in anticipation!”
A Twitterati says:
“That’s why Ethereum works. So many Devs and Improvement Proposals.”
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