Recently, Polkadot, a project targeting compatibility has redefined its technology as heterogeneous sharding and attracted attention from many. Such a re-interpretation means that Polkadot has followed the path of QuarkChain to develop heterogeneous sharding technology. Even in exchanges, Polkadot engineers have expressed that even though the two projects have different roadmaps, the solutions the two projects provide create the same effects. In this article, we will introduce heterogenous sharding and the differences between the solutions of these two projects.
What is Heterogenous sharding?
Bitcoin, anonymous tokens like ZCash and Grin, ETH, EOS, and all the pubic chains are all considered under the bigger umbrella of blockchain technology.The essence of blockchain technology comes from the arrangement and combination of the following four components:
- Consensus (POW, POS, DPOS, PBFT),
- Transaction model (BTC transaction model, different virtual machine, privacy transaction model),
- Ledger model (UTXO, Account model), and
- Token economics.
At present, for many public chains, the four elements are fixed. Once a consensus, a transaction mode, an ledger model and a token economics are selected, they can no longer be changed, which limits the flexibility and adaptability of the whole blockchain system.
QuarkChain is the first public chain that implemented heterogenous sharding technology. Heterogenous sharding treats each shard as one chain and each chain can configure the four components we mentioned based on its needs. Such design allows new technologies to be incorporated into a chain and such chains can be embedded into the overall system design easily. So different chains can host different consensus mechanisms, token economics, and ledger models.
Value of Heterogeneous sharding
From the information above, the four elements for many public chains are fixed. They can no longer be changed, which limits the flexibility and adaptability of the whole blockchain system. Such a situation engenders three problems: forking due to upgrades, difficulty in building functionalities, and wastage of resources.
Forking due to upgrades: because it is difficult to upgrade a fixed framework, in order to enhance functionalities, forking becomes the only solution. However, forking brings about the loss of operation capital and the disintegration of community. For example, ETH 1.0 is not able to upgrade to 2.0 painlessly and now the project needs to abandon 1.0 and restart 2.0. This kind of failure is similar to when using a 5G phone, one would not be able to communicate to a 4G mobile phone and a 4G one unable to communicate with a 3G one. Such constraints would throw the mobile network market into scrambles. Similarly, for blockchain networks, hard fork upgrades will change the structure of the community and incur losses in the meanwhile.
Difficulty in building functionalities: the rigid infrastructure layer of public chains forces public chains to be restrictive about its clients instead of accommodating and servicing as many clients as possible. For example if a client would like to use consensus A while this particular public chain only supports consensus B, then the public chain will force the client to make tradeoff of its own development in order to meet the configuration of the public chain. Otherwise, the client would need to develop projects for multiple chains in order to satisfy all the internal requirements. The two solutions incur high costs and low efficiency; as such, public chains turn away many potential interested clients and have few active users.
Wastage of resources: A lot of public chains cannot upgrade flexibly due to their rigid frameworks. Developers in order to create new features decide to first launch their own chains and then add additional functionalities. As a result, the olderer public chains fail to upgrade and each new chain bears only a slight fraction of innovation. This situation reflects a wastage of resources with duplicate developments. It is foreseeable that the cycle of duplicate developments will perpetuate; each tiny new innovation will become a rigid framework that will be rendered obsolete when someone else will launch another new chain to replace it when adding new features.
One of the ways to end this vicious cycle is by offering a flexible framework that allows continuous addition and upgrades. We envision an entire framework that is flexible enough to allow direct merging of new features into the old networks where old and new co-exist seamlessly. This is where the value of heterogeneous sharding lays: with new features launching, one can simply add a new shard to enable the new features. For example, a new shard with anonymous coins can add privacy functions to the entire network, another shard for stable coins, and even a shard for Libra. By accommodating new and old functions alike, through continuously adding new features, one can guarantee the user base will be steadily growing instead of losing to other competitors. On the other hand, such a framework allows the network to gradually refine and upgrade. Our approach will build a system that all blockchains can coexist and complement each other harmoniously. Users will no longer need to make difficult decisions such as whether to migrate to another project for better configurations or hard forking.
Other than that, as the industry continues to evolve, the complement between alliance chain and public chain is becoming an inevitable trend. In the future, enterprise-level applications will require an infrastructure layer solution that connects public chains and alliance chains well together to satisfy demands from all fronts. This is precisely what heterogenous chains can achieve.
QuarkChain VS Polkadot VS ETH2.0 VS Cosmos
Even though the detailed solutions of QuarkChain and Polkadot are different, the logics in the bottom layer are the same: through supporting shards or sub-chains or parallel chains with different characteristics for data exchanges, the solution will enhance compatibility, interoperability, and composability. We term this comprehensive solution that includes heterogeneous sharding and cross shard technology as heterogeneous multi-chain technology.
Overall, Polkadot provides a hub that allows users to release a new chain easily. Among the released chains, one can cross the chains for communications. At this stage, each chain can pick its consensus mechanism out of the three options that Polkadot provides. For protection, Polkadot’s hub will provide hashing power to protect the chains launched under the hub. Cosmos has a similar strategy: users can leverage its API to launch a new chain easily but one would need to take its own risk in protecting its from attacks. Users are welcome to customize the configuration of each of the four components.
While Polkadot provides heterogeneous sharding, QuarkChain also allows cross-chain mechanism. Through the root chain of QuarkChain, one can add shard chains as added. For each shard chain, one can configure each of the four components flexibly.
We can compare Polkadot, ETH 2.0, Cosmos, and QuarkChain in the following table:
As the community sees the need for flexibility more, the entire industry has turned its aim to adopt a heterogeneous multi-chain structure. It achieves two things: it enables a more flexible framework and connects alliance and public chains. This approach will prevent a flooding of similar chains and focus on developing the community altogether more efficiently. Through this flexible network approach, all projects will work together to explore the limitless possibility of blockchain technology.