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What Solana is Building

It's been a busy year for the chain and its ecosystem. Let's take a look at the tech.
David C David C Jul 10, 20245 min read
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What Solana is Building

Solana has had a whirlwind year.

With most investor attention focused on the price action and memecoin markets catching fire on Solana, the most bullish development for the L1 has been just that – actual development.

In this article, we’ll dive into a series of different technologies being employed and developed to advance the chain, from a burgeoning L2 ecosystem to ZK compression to new validator clients, all of which could spell a bright, lasting future for Solana.

Let's dig in 👇


Solana L2s and Rollups

While Solana’s 1.18.15 software update could mark a significant improvement for the network thanks to a new central scheduler, this is by no means the only upgrade in the works to help Solana manage high transaction volumes and scale as it continues to see success.

Months of congestion from memecoin trading and anticipated airdrops have tested Solana's monolithic architecture, sparking a debate about staying monolithic or adopting a modular approach.

Solana's monolithic design, where all activity occurs on one chain, offers benefits like rapid transaction speeds and ease of composability, but as the chain matures, infrastructure costs have risen. Earlier this year, we saw plenty of discussions around Solana needing L2s and rollups to address rising costs and congestion.

Momentum for L2s and modularizing the Solana Virtual Machine (SVM) has grown with the development of appchains and L2s for gaming, AI, banking, and trading. This is driven by scalability needs and the success of appchains like Pyth, which moved off mainnet to handle high-frequency price updates while maintaining the SVM for high transaction volumes.

Others are following Pyth's lead, building appchains and rollups for specific use cases with their own SVMs.


ZK Compression

Beyond L2s, Helius, a Solana developer platform, and Light Protocol, a ZK layer for Solana, have introduced a technology called ZK compression to scale the network.

ZK compression aims to enhance scalability by addressing state bloat, which is the continuous data growth each node must store. State bloat increases hardware requirements for full nodes, making historical data maintenance costly. Consequently, network costs rise, decentralization decreases, and application interoperability becomes harder.

While ZK compression, like traditional file compression, reduces the data size, it also optimizes how Solana stores its ledger data by grouping multiple accounts into a single, verifiable summary called a Merkle root. This approach reduces storage costs while maintaining data security and integrity. This happens at the RPC level, which facilitates communication between different parts of the network rather than directly on Solana.

ZK compression can vastly improve Solana's scalability. It mitigates state bloat, reduces full node requirements, and enhances historical state access, improving ledger efficiency, lowering transaction costs, and maintaining decentralization.


New Node Clients

Solana is evolving to meet the high demands of blockchain performance and reliability. Two major developments are the new node clients, Firedancer and Mithril. These aim to enhance Solana's scalability, efficiency, and robustness through upgraded technology. 

Firedancer

Developed by trading firm Jump Crypto, the upcoming Firedancer validator client aims to enhance Solana's performance with modular architecture, low latency, and high throughput.

With Firedancer currently live on testnet, let’s examine how it achieves these improvements.

  • Modular Architecture and Fault Tolerance: Unlike traditional clients, Firedancer uses individual processes called tiles, each performing specific functions like processing transactions or verifying signatures. This modular approach ensures that a failure in one tile doesn't impact the entire system.
  • Advanced Networking and Data Processing: Firedancer uses custom implementations to manage data flows efficiently, minimizing memory allocation and preventing the congestion that leads to network outages. Furthermore, Firedancer leverages data parallelism to handle massive transaction volumes with minimal latency.
  • Hardware Acceleration and Efficiency: By incorporating Field-Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs), highly efficient electrical hardware, Firedancer achieves incredible throughput and energy efficiency. FPGAs allow Firedancer to process up to 8M signatures per second.

Mithril

Written in the simplicity-focused coding language Golang and developed by validator Overclock, Mithril is an upcoming new full-node client designed to lower hardware requirements and improve accessibility for running Solana nodes, enhancing scalability and decentralization.

Mithril's development is structured into several milestones:

  • Rebuilding of the SVM: Almost complete, the first milestone involves rebuilding the SVM in Golang, reworking all system operations and native programs, and ensuring thorough testing and bug-freeness.
  • Transaction Handling and Ledger Update: The second milestone focuses on handling transactions and updating the Solana ledger. Mithril will implement a minimal RPC interface to improve interaction with the network and enhance infrastructure components to ensure proper operation.
  • System Optimization: The third milestone involves optimizing the system's performance and reducing resource consumption by upgrading the Virtual Machine and Accounts database. This allows for faster smart contract execution and more efficient data management, making the system more scalable.
  • Upgraded Data Retrieval and Storage: The final milestone aims to improve data accessibility, resilience, and security by retrieving blockchain data from multiple sources, ensuring availability, instituting archival abilities for historical data, using BitTorrent for quick and reliable data distribution, and Filecoin for enhanced security and durability.

Building Ahead

As Solana continues to evolve and address the challenges posed by high transaction volumes and network congestion, the latest software update and the introduction of new technologies like L2s, ZK compression, and advanced node clients mark significant strides toward handling the scale Solana aspires to.

The future of Solana looks bright, with the chain adapting its architecture to meet its surging demand, and paving the way for continued growth and advancements that make the network a premier place to build.

David C

Written by David C

152 Articles View all      

David is a writer/analyst at Bankless. Prior to joining Bankless, he worked for a series of early-stage crypto startups and on grants from the Ethereum, Solana, and Urbit Foundations. He graduated from Skidmore College in New York. He currently lives in the Midwest and enjoys NFTs, but no longer participates in them.

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