All About Blockchain Infrastructure

Blockchain infrastructure including nodes, validators, and oracles come together to build a secure and robust network.

All About Blockchain Infrastructure

Many things can be encompassed within the term blockchain infrastructure, but the backbone of a blockchain network is the individual computers that interact directly with the network. These entities, often called nodes, come in different types, such as full nodes, which maintain a complete copy of the blockchain, and validator nodes, which are the arbiters of consensus. The landscape of blockchain nodes goes beyond just these two types. Together the various types of nodes work in harmony to create distributed blockchain networks like Sui.

Validator nodes achieve consensus

Validator nodes play a crucial role in achieving consensus within blockchain networks that utilize consensus mechanisms, such as Proof of Stake (PoS). These nodes are responsible for validating transactions and creating new blocks. Validators stake the blockchain's native token, such as SUI, as collateral to participate in the consensus process and are rewarded for their contribution to network security. Validator nodes are essential for maintaining the integrity and security of PoS-based blockchains.

Validators each independently verify the validity of transactions and together achieve consensus on valid transactions. Through a combination of cryptographic algorithms and economic incentives, validator nodes collectively ensure the immutability and trustworthiness of the blockchain ledger. Their efforts not only facilitate transaction processing but also safeguard the network against malicious attacks and fraudulent activities, thereby fostering trust and confidence among network participants.

Full nodes create immutable records

At the heart of every blockchain network lies a set of full nodes. These nodes serve as the backbone, maintaining a complete, up-to-date copy of the blockchain ledger. Every transaction, from the genesis block to the latest addition, is recorded and stored by these nodes. Their role is pivotal in ensuring the integrity and immutability of the blockchain. Full nodes are often used in tandem with validator nodes in the consensus process by collecting transactions that need to be validated and providing data on previous transactions relevant to those that are new.

Full nodes are crucial not only for validators to understand the network state but also to propagate transactions across the network. Their comprehensive view of the ledger enables full nodes to detect and reject invalid transactions, whether they are intentionally malicious or innocently illegitimate. Other infrastructure, such as wallets, apps, and other nodes, often require a full node to serve as reliable sources of blockchain data.

Node pruning and archival nodes

Node pruning is a technique commonly employed by full nodes to manage storage space efficiently. With node pruning, full nodes discard older transaction data from their storage, retaining only a subset of the blockchain's history. This selective pruning helps reduce the storage requirements of full nodes while still allowing them to participate effectively in the network. 

However, not all nodes employ pruning, and those that opt not to prune data are often referred to as archival nodes. Archival nodes preserve the entire transaction history of the blockchain network, holding onto every transaction ever recorded. These nodes serve as comprehensive repositories of blockchain data, invaluable for tasks such as auditing, research, and analysis. While archival nodes require more storage space and resources compared to pruned nodes, they offer a complete and unaltered record of the blockchain's evolution over time.

Light nodes offer streamlined access

In contrast to full nodes, light nodes operate with a trimmed-down version of the blockchain. These nodes store only the bare essential transaction history to maintain a snapshot of the current blockchain state. This is accomplished by frequently pulling the most recent data from a full node and pruning the previous data. Light nodes are more resource-efficient and are often used in environments where storage space and bandwidth are limited, such as mobile devices. They let users interact with the blockchain without the overhead of storing the entire ledger.

Light nodes emphasize efficiency and speed, facilitating swift and seamless access to blockchain data. By delegating storage and validation tasks to full nodes, light nodes provide a less cumbersome and user-centric interface, enhancing the accessibility of blockchain technology to a wider audience. Despite their reduced functionality vis-à-vis full nodes, light nodes serve as vital conduits for expanding the reach and adoption of blockchain networks across diverse platforms and devices.

Oracles bring real world data onchain

In addition to the traditional nodes that participate in consensus and store blockchain data, oracles serve as bridges between blockchain networks and the real world. Oracles provide blockchain networks with external data, such as market prices, weather conditions, or sports scores, enabling smart contracts to execute based on real-time information. By incorporating offchain data into onchain transactions, oracles enhance the functionality and utility of blockchain applications, paving the way for a new era of finance, supply chain management, and more.

Infrastructure on Sui is unique

Sui's novel directed acyclic graph (DAG) structure makes the details of how nodes operate on Sui a bit different from typical blockchain networks. The end user will only experience more performant reads and writes to the network as Sui’s infrastructure has been developed based on rigorous academic study and experimentation from both the Mysten Labs team and top academic researchers.

The novelty of Sui’s infrastructure is unparalleled as it leverages its unique data model and architecture to achieve remarkable feats. For example, Mysticeti, a new consensus algorithm, lets validators reach consensus on shared-object transactions in around 500 milliseconds and around 250 milliseconds for owned-object transactions. Additionally, Pilotfish, a new execution engine, will enable validators to deploy additional worker nodes to assist in periods of high demand, improving scalability. This is in contrast to similar horizontal scaling solutions which often require validators to run additional nodes at all times. 

Nodes in harmony

Blockchain nodes form the foundation of decentralized networks, facilitating transaction validation, consensus, and data storage. From full nodes to light nodes, validator nodes to oracles, each type of node plays a unique and indispensable role in the broader blockchain ecosystem. As blockchain technology continues to evolve and expand its reach, the role of nodes will remain central to the advancement of decentralized innovation across various industries and domains.

Note: This content is for general educational and informational purposes only and should not be construed or relied upon as an endorsement or recommendation to buy, sell, or hold any asset, investment or financial product and does not constitute financial, legal, or tax advice.