Ethereum’s way to break the game over the next decade ⸺ Modular

In his Endgame article, Vitalik describes what he considers to be the ultimate form of Ethereum, describing a new Ethereum built by Rollups and DA.

It’s been 5 years since Vitalik Buterin proposed The Blockchain Trilemma, and both the ETH-core community and other public blockchain developers are trying to find the key to the next generation of blockchains.

In his Endgame article, Vitalik describes what he considers to be the ultimate form of Ethereum, describing a new Ethereum built by Rollups and DA. This certainly points the way to Ethereum’s game-breaking over the next decade of ⸺ modularity.

And we know that in fact, whether it is Ethereum or the new public chain, they have long begun their own modular road, but the “answer” method is different, but also formed a completely different technical route.

1. Blockchain layering

In fact, Ethereum itself has divided the blockchain into multiple layers, but in the 1.0 era, nodes assume the responsibility of all levels. We can follow the idea of Ethereum and split the blockchain into four levels:

  • Consensus Layer: Determines the order, validity, and consistency of transactions between nodes
  • Data Availability Layer: Guarantees that transaction data can be used (guaranteed to be stored, verifiable and available)
  • Settlement Layer: Settles out status commitments
  • Execution Layer: Computes state transitions

Returning to the narrative logic that Ethereum is the “world’s computer”, the modules of the blockchain and the computer structure are analogous, then:

  • The consensus layer of the blockchain ⇒ maintains a consensus algorithm for distributed clusters of computers
  • The execution layer of the blockchain ⇒ the operating system of the computer (the environment in which the instructions are actually executed)
  • The DA layer of the blockchain ⇒ the computer’s memory (for short-term data access)
  • The settlement layer of the blockchain ⇒ the CPU of the computer (hardware guarantees the correctness of instruction execution)

It is worth mentioning that the EigenLayr project is very groundbreaking in the further division of the consensus layer, he understands the role of the PoS consensus layer as responsible for maintaining the consistency of distributed systems and maintaining the trust foundation of the network through mechanisms such as stake. This creates two more sub-layers:

  • Trust layer: Consists of the lowest level of validator nodes, or hardware entities that are pledged to join the Ethereum network
  • Consistency layer: Connect nodes to maintain the consistency of this massive distributed system

It is the distinction of these levels (modules) that provides the basis for the modular development of the blockchain, resulting in a variety of dismantling schemes for the main chain.

2. Project mapping

In the layered logic we mentioned above, trust is gradually passed from the consensus (trust) end to the execution layer, and the core starting point of the separation module is to reduce the burden of the mainnet without harming the original trust system as much as possible.

2.1 Secured Rollups

Obviously, the first thing to be dismantled is the execution layer at the end of the trust system. So Ethereum-based Rollups came into being, whether it is optimistic Rollups based on fraud proofs or zk-Rollups based on proof-of-validity proofs, the existing solutions are to hand over the execution layer to the off-chain, while settlement, DA and consensus are handed over to Layer1 to continue to bear, which is of course the most intuitive solution.

We call it Secured Rollups, which can be understood as Rollups protected by Layer 1, which comes from the description of Scailing in the official Ethereum documentation:

For some solutions the layer 2 instance then batches them into groups before anchoring them to layer 1, after which they are secured by layer 1 and cannot be altered. The details of how this is done vary significantly between different layer 2 technologies and implementations.

However, having “dismantling” often means that the problem of “connection” will surface, and almost all mainstream Rollups today hold centralized power over transaction ordering. Of course, as an important component connecting the execution layer and the mainnet, the centralization of Sequencer will certainly help improve system efficiency, but the “dark forest” formed by the high concentration of transaction sequencing power makes people inevitably fall into the worry of MEV attacks (Shutter Network is working to detrust Sequencer by introducing threshold cryptography).

2.2 Sovereign Rollups

Rollup on Ethereum currently publishes its blocks directly to EVM-based smart contracts, also known as bridge contracts. The contract effectively implements an on-chain light client for Rollup that receives the block header and handles fraud or proof of validity.

In this model, we think of Ethereum as the coupled settlement layer of Rollup, where Rollup is the “baby chain” of Ethereum, rather than a separate chain with its own rights.

To use an inappropriate analogy, Ethereum Rollups that only separates the execution layer is like a “working boy” who only “moves bricks” (calculations), without any power to participate in the final (settlement), and the way and order in which the bricks are finally stacked is still decided by L1.

Celestia’s design clearly gained more power for Rollups, and it defined a new way of dividing modules: Sovereign Rollups, or sovereign Rollups.

Sovereign rollups on Celestia do not publish their blocks into smart contracts, but directly to the chain as raw data. The Celestia consensus and data availability layer does not interpret or perform any calculations on Rollup blocks, nor does it run on-chain light clients for Rollup.

2.3 Danksharding

Whether it is Danksharding or the original data sharding solution, it is essentially to solve the problem of the DA layer. In the context of a modular blockchain, Danksharding clearly increases the Ethereum’s mainnet’s ability to take on the data availability layer.

Danksharding uses Data Availability Sampling (DAS) technology to enable “decentralized validators,” which is similar to Celestia’s solution.

Although we know that the ultimate form of the Ethereum consensus layer will still take on the responsibility of settlement and data availability. However, the decentralization of the verification work implemented by DAS technology greatly reduces the cost of participating in network verification, thereby further releasing the performance of the mainnet.

After the Danksharding fork, the Ethereum mainnet assumed some of the power to review data availability, while Rollups assumed the power of the DA layer in addition to the original responsibility of the executive layer.

2.4 EigenLayr

We mentioned above EigenLayr’s further subdivision of the consensus layer, which separates Ethereum’s trust layer from the entire network and attempts to build a separate layer on top of the trust layer ⸺ EigenLayer. This layer relies on the Ethereum Trust Layer network (or Ethereum Pang

large pledge capital) to provide infrastructure/middleware service providers with a platform that can freely build consensus and application.

Among them, how to connect the Ethereum trust layer and the EigenLayer is the key to the entire design. EigenLayr cleverly came up with a completely new concept ⸺ Restaking. Staking nodes on Ethereum can voluntarily opt in to EigenLayr. On the other hand, middleware/infrastructure service providers with more needs for the performance level can also choose to build their networks on EigenLear.

EigenLear’s separation scheme is equivalent to only “borrowing” Ethereum’s credit (consensus) foundation, and on this basis, we can expand endless associations, whether it is to build a new sovereign chain or build an infrastructure network, there are possibilities. Behind these possibilities, it is the huge credit base of the Ethereum main network that endorses it.

2.5 Arweave

We can find that in the future of Ethereum’s modular road, the main network will still maintain control over the consensus layer, or the consensus layer as the soul of Ethereum, which is the “holy grail” that brings together participants and values.

Also a modular blockchain, Arweave is clearly unique in that it jumps out of Ethereum’s narrative logic and constructs a set of design paradigms based on memory consensus.

In Arweave’s design, the mainnet acts as a paper tape for the entire Turing machine, recording these states and transactions for each modified state at the bottom layer, realizing the separation of storage and computing resources.

Arweave redefines our modular segmentation by using a DA layer to guarantee consensus, while execution and settlement are left off-chain.

Of course, the price is that in order to obtain the validity guarantee of the latest state data, the user needs to download all the historical state data and perform a verification calculation before performing the off-chain calculation locally, which obviously brings efficiency problems (KYVE Network is working to solve the inefficiency problems caused by this part of the work).

3. Summary

Looking at the exploration of these blockchain modular roads, although there are hundreds of flowers, there are still traces to follow. In the final analysis, the source power of different route choices often comes from their different understandings of market demand.

This round of DeFi has set off a big bull market, which has created an urgent need for Ethereum scalability and the composability of different chains. It is also based on these needs that many solutions dedicated to alleviating the pressure on the mainnet have emerged. If the narrative logic of the future blockchain network is still built in financial primitives, then perhaps ETH2.0 with Rollups as the core will be the end of the modular road.

What if we jumped out of the shackles of a centralized financial context and tried to imagine the broader application of blockchain? With big games, real-world asset trading, decentralized social networks, and so on, we may need a new modular approach to fully unleash the power of each module.

On the other hand, for the development of the public chain itself, consensus is the core value of the public chain. As we mentioned above, no matter how Ethereum develops, it will not abandon its consensus layer in exchange for performance.

The road of blockchain modularization is not only to consider the blind expansion of performance, but more importantly, to return to the attributes of the blockchain itself, to obtain value from the consensus, and then to feed back the consensus through value, so as to build a stronger consensus.

Reference Articles:


Vitalik: The Final Picture of Ethereum Centered on Rollup (Chinese Edition)

Rolling Shutter: MEV protection built into Layer 2

Proto-Danksharding FAQ

Vitalik: Proto-Danksharding FAQ (Chinese edition)

Posted by:CoinYuppie,Reprinted with attribution to:
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