Portfolio Spotlight: Solana
Solana is a radically new approach for making blockchains fit for mass adoption. Nearing the launch of the Solana mainnet, we take a look at the “Why?”, the current state of the network and the surrounding validator ecosystem.
Solana is a protocol that aims to scale out on a single blockchain. No sharding, no sidechains, no fancy off-chain scaling solutions. Not only would we be able to cut out lots of complexities but also preserve the arguably most important property of blockchain in general: composability. But what exactly is composability?
In a world of decentralized services, the argument that a good portion of transactions is smart contracts interoperating with other contracts seems to be obvious. Rune Christensen, the CEO of Maker, in the early days once described the core value proposition of Ethereum with one word: synergy. A smart contract performs a specific task, but it’s also a building block. Composability is a superpower for developers and refers to the ability to compose those building blocks together to create something new. You can catch a glimpse of the insane power of this paradigm by looking at the Ethereum DeFi ecosystem. Each composable smart contract is adding to the utility, network effects, and value of the overall system as it allows for compounding innovation. Notably, developers are also freed of platform risk as nobody can pull the plug once smart contracts are deployed. One of the biggest worries about sharding as a scaling solution is the importance of smart contract composability, and the overhead asynchronous cross-shard communication imposes on that paradigm.
The last few days have also shown how much of an unsolved problem and risk factor scalability still is. ETH tumbled down 30%, sparking lots of activity on the Ethereum network. Gas fees skyrocketed to more than 190 gwei (more than 0.50$ for a simple ETH token transfer). The Maker price oracle got stuck since it wasn’t able to get transactions processed. Maker CDP owners were unable to interact with their CDPs. Chainlink oracles had difficulties updating their prices as well. We operate several Chainlink oracles ourselves and paid almost 3ETH (~$330) in daily transaction fees to keep them running. This is by no means a problem with Chainlink or Maker but rather shows the limits of the underlying protocol. While this is early days and Ethereum has it’s own promising scalability upgrades coming up, it once again demonstrates the importance of building our next generation systems on solid foundations.
With almost no other protocol going down the path of scaling out on a single blockchain, Solana has become a contrarian bet and excellent hedge against most other approaches. If you are interested to learn about the key technical innovations that Solana leverages to scale out, we recommend this blog post.
What is the state of the network?
Solana has been able to attract an incredible pool of validators like Chorus One, Dokia Capital, Forbole, Figment Networks, Certus One, Stake Capital, and Stake Fish, to name a few.
During one of the recent performance testings, a global network of more than 40 independent validators spanning 5 continents was able to synchronize with 500ms block times, sustained throughput of 9k TPS (transactions per second) and busts up to 60k TPS. Those are not theoretical claims but real world results.
What’s exciting is that there is still a significant amount of headroom available for performance optimizations as Solana is designed to scale with hardware and bandwidth. This is an extremely compelling vision for us, as hardware and bandwidth are constantly improving at a rapid pace. This effort naturally requires a significant amount of performance engineering, however given the team’s expertise and the rapid pace they’ve been moving during our involvement in their testnets, we’re confident they’ll be able to execute.
With those real-world results at hand and Moores Law on our side, the core assumption of Solana’s approach seems to be validated. If you are interested to learn what a Solana validator might look like from the inside check out our “Building a bare-metal validator for Solana” blog post.
Mainnet launch & Coinlist auction
The Solana validator community is currently operating an early version of the Solana mainnet. This network will be gradually upgraded over the course of the next days and weeks and we expect a fully-fledged mainnet with staking and smart contract support very soon.
You can watch the network progress on our validator dashboard:
A crucial task for Solana will be to spread out and decentralize the token supply of its native token (“SOL”). Solana just announced their Coinlist auction which will be the first public opportunity to buy SOL tokens.
Subsequent listings on exchanges will open up the secondary markets soon after. Our goal is a broad community of stakeholders (token holders) that supports a diverse and healthy validator set — because ultimately, the token holder community decides what kind of network Solana will be. We are thrilled to be working with Solana and it’s world-class validator community on the mission to build out a global, permissionless operating system over the coming years. We hope you join us on that journey. See you on mainnet soon!
— The Staking Facilities Team