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Fourth Generation Blockchain
The Solana network is known as a fourth-generation blockchain that aims to solve the blockchain trilemma — creating a fast and scalable network, without compromising on its security or decentralization. The protocol introduces eight core technologies that enable transactions to scale proportionally with the bandwidth, resulting in industry-leading transaction speed and enterprise-level security.
Speed and Scalability
This high-performance blockchain provides the fully decentralized, secure, and highly scalable infrastructure necessary for tomorrow’s DApps and decentralized marketplaces. It leverages a set of breakthrough computational technologies that can support thousands of nodes, allowing for transaction throughput to proportionally scale with network bandwidth. Solana uses a combination of proof-of-stake (PoS) and proof of history (PoH) consensus mechanisms to improve throughput and scalability. Consequently, the network claims to support 50,000 transactions per second (TPS), making it the fastest blockchain in the world.
The SOL Token
As with most smart contract platforms, SOL is used as Solana’s gas token, used to pay for all on-chain transactions and smart contracts. Investors can also use SOL to perform micropayments, also referred to as lamports within the ecosystem. SOL token holders can also earn rewards by supporting the network with a process called staking. This involves staking a minimum of 0.01 SOL to become a node that helps validate transactions on the blockchain, in exchange for more SOL coins.
Eight Core Solana Innovations
1. Proof of history (PoH) — A clock before consensus
Despite its name, PoH is not a consensus mechanism, but a cryptographic clock that enables nodes to agree on the time order of the events on the chain, without having to talk to each other — since each node has its own clock. PoH helps create more efficiency and higher throughput within the network by storing historical records of transactions and allowing the system to keep track of the order of events more easily.
2. Tower BFT (Byzantine fault tolerance)
Tower BFT is Solana’s implementation of pBFT (practical Byzantine fault tolerance), optimized for PoH. In essence, this is a consensus algorithm that takes advantage of the cryptographic clock, reaching consensus without having to go through a multitude of messages among nodes — consequently improving the transaction speed.
3. Gulf Stream — mempool-less transaction forwarding protocol
Gulf Stream is what enables Solana to reach 50,000 TPS. This is the protocol responsible for transaction caching and for forwarding them to the edge of the network. This allows network validators to execute transactions ahead of time, drastically reducing confirmation time and the memory requirements on validators from unconfirmed transaction pools.
4. Turbine — a block propagation protocol
Turbine is a block propagation protocol that breaks data down into smaller increments — making data transfer easier among the nodes. Turbine helps Solana address bandwidth-related issues and increase the network’s overall transaction processing speed.
5. Sealevel — parallel smart contracts run-time
This is a parallelized transaction processing engine that enables Solana to scale horizontally across GPUs and SSDs. In a nutshell, Sealevel allows for concurrent transactions on the same chain, resulting in a better runtime for the network.
6. Pipeline — a transaction processing unit for validation optimization
Pipelining is a common procedure used in CPU design. It refers to the process of assigning a stream of input data to different hardware for processing. This enables quick transaction information to be replicated and validated faster across the nodes of the network.
7. Cloudbreak — horizontally-scaled accounts database
Cloudbreak is a data structure required for the network’s scalability and throughput. It organizes the database of accounts, making concurrent reads and writes between the network’s 32 threads possible.
8. Archivers — distributed ledger storage
Solana’s validators offload the data to a network of nodes known as Archivers. Archiver nodes can be basic laptops or PCs that the network leverages for data storage.