We have spent the last several months researching existing and soon-to-be-launched public blockchains, and we have come to the conclusion that Polkadot is an extremely ambitious and interesting project. Many teams are already building projects to be ready by the time the MainNet launches.
Given PureStake’s infrastructure and DevOps expertise as a company, the obvious way for us to engage is as a validator helping to secure the network. From there, we may expand to additional services within the Polkadot ecosystem.
This post will go into some of the rationale that led us to this decision. One of the most important points that influenced us is that the Polkadot vision aligns well with our vision of a multichain future. We also think that developer adoption is key to the success of next generation chains, and Polkadot is well positioned in this regard.
How Polkadot is Different
Too many chains are trying to do everything and be good at everything. The idea of blockchains that can talk to each other opens the door for specialization. Much like the unix philosophy, individual Polkadot parachains can focus on doing one thing and doing it well. And larger effects can be achieved through composability of different components.
Polkadot has an ability to accelerate innovation by significantly reducing the barriers to blockchain development and allowing a rich ground for experimentation. The Polkadot MainNet launch is fast approaching and we are excited to provide secure and reliable validation services for the network. What follows are the reasons we choose Polkadot over all the other networks out there.
Top 4 Reasons PureStake is Validating on Polkadot
Reason #1: Formidable Ecosystem & Leadership
Even though Polkadot hasn’t launched yet, they have already amassed an impressive ecosystem of notable developers, validators, partners, and projects, not least of which is Parity itself.
In addition to leading the development of Polkadot, Parity has a strong history and track record of delivering crypto infrastructure projects at production-grade performance and quality levels. The Parity Ethereum client is currently supporting a large part of the production Ethereum MainNet, and thus already supporting billions of dollars of crypto value. The Parity team, including Gavin Wood, are very close to Ethereum and familiar with all of its shortcomings; as a result, they are well-positioned to address Ethereum’s critical scalability challenges with Polkadot.
While Polkadot obviously has not yet built a community the size of the Ethereum’s, it has already generated tons of information, documentation, chat groups activity, and videos that make it relatively easy for newcomers to get up-to-speed.
At the launch of the Polkadot MainNet, they will have substantial scalability and programmability advantages over Ethereum 1.0. Until Ethereum 2.0 becomes a reality, Polkadot seems well-positioned to gain developer traction, including by stealing away some market share from Ethereum.
Reason #2: Flexible Underlying Framework (Substrate)
Polkadot is built on Substrate, an impressive developer framework that can be used to build a Polkadot-compatible blockchain. Substrate is a very powerful framework for developing blockchain applications and it provides a lot of choices to developers who are looking to build a decentralized applications.
If you want full control over your blockchain, you can use Substrate Core to build an application-specific blockchain that won’t even be part of the Polkadot network. Developing a blockchain this way will be much faster than rolling your own, as it handles many of the low-level subsystems that you will need out-of-the-box.
Substrate gives you flexibility, though. Rather than using Substrate Core, you could pull from the SMRL library of modules to plug in already-developed functionality for things like accounts and balances, fungible tokens, consensus mechanisms, and smart contract functionality. Alternatively, you could opt for the highest level of abstraction, Substrate Node, to get up-and-running with a custom blockchain very quickly and efficiently.
The quality and functionality of Substrate will almost certainly help draw developers in and spur adoption of Polkadot.
Reason #3: Scalable Design
Polkadot implements a Proof of Stake-based consensus mechanism on its main relay chain that uses a scheme called Nominated Proof of Stake. Proof of Stake-based consensus mechanisms offer several significant advantages over Proof of Work and other consensus algorithms, including scalability.
Right now, on the Polkadot Alexander TestNet, blocks are being produced roughly every 6 seconds. This is significantly faster than Ethereum (which is currently producing blocks every 13-13.5 seconds) and provides a scalable foundation for the rest of the system.
Another way that Polkadot achieves scalability is by parallelizing execution using parachains. Each parachain can have its own blockchain, and each of these parachains connects back to the main relay chain. By parallelizing execution into many parachains, Polkadot will inherently be much more scalable than a single chain network like Ethereum — at least until Ethereum 2.0 and its very similar concept of shards is realized.
Parachains will allow for more transaction throughput through parallelization, but separating transactions into different parachains also can provide economic scalability. Developers of applications occupying parachain slots have control over the economics of transactions. They have the ability to make certain classes of transactions less expensive, or perhaps even free, as opposed to a single economic model that is in use on more traditional single blockchain systems. This will allow developers to optimize their applications on Polkadot to achieve cost scalability when deployed.
Reason #4: Solid Security Posture
There are many parts of the Polkadot design that provide compelling security advantages, but there are two examples that stand out.
Stash Accounts and Controller Accounts
In our experience running crypto infrastructure at PureStake, a lot of time is spent worrying about key security, particularly keys that need to be warm or hot and online, versus cold and offline.
For a Polkadot validator, there are three different types of accounts and keys involved in the setup: a stash account, a controller account, and a session account. The stash account can be totally cold and offline — where you keep your funds. The controller account is warm, but needs to hold only a very minimal set of funds to perform certain specific transactions. And the session account is hot, but has no funds in it.
This design is much more secure than almost any other crypto network, since it allows you to store essentially all of your funds cold and offline.
The shared validator security model in Polkadot provides security-as-a-service for all of the parachains.
This is quite different from Cosmos (which is the other major next-gen network) that enables parallelized application-specific blockchains. In Cosmos, each zone is on its own to recruit validators for security.
There are a lot of next-gen blockchains launching in 2019 and 2020 with some form of Delegated Proof of Stake which need professional validators to help secure their networks. There simply aren’t enough professional validators to go around and secure all of these networks. By having a shared security model, Polkadot has removed a big barrier to launching a parachain which should speed up adoption of the network.
What’s Next for PureStake as an Early Polkadot Validator
To date, PureStake has been providing node, API, and other infrastructure services for blockchain networks, including supporting the Algorand MainNet launch in June.
Now we are expanding our services to become a validator on Polkadot and the Kusama BetaNet (in preparation for the Polkadot MainNet launch). We will leverage a lot of what we’ve already built to support the Algorand network — the skills on the team, existing infrastructure, and code — to deliver highly reliable and secure validator services for Polkadot stakers. That includes:
- Base compute infrastructure
- Base storage infrastructure including blockchain snapshot / restore
- Base network, VPC, VPN infrastructure
- Authentication and authorization services
- DevOps automation stack
- Multi-cloud approach across AWS, Azure, and Google
- Elastic load-balancer and firewall infrastructure
- IDS, IPS, vulnerability management services
- OS patch management and automation
- Key and secrets management infrastructure
- Monitoring and alerting infrastructure
- Log collection and analysis infrastructure
- DevOps and SecOps processes and reporting
Since only minimal work is needed to port the elements above, we can focus our energy on elements that need more adaptation to support Polkadot validation. Some of these areas include:
- Validator infrastructure design: create our version of the standard sentry / validator design to support the validation requirements in Polkadot’s NPoS design
- Extend our cloud automation: support the VPC, VPN, and other networking elements that are part of the validator design
- Update our DevOps automation at the node and blockchain storage levels to support Polkadot-specific requirements
- Enhance our monitoring, alerting, and logging / log analysis for Polkadot
- Add support for Polkadot keys and secrets so they can be managed securely
- Train our DevOps team on all things Polkadot so they can effectively manage and troubleshoot the services
We expect the PureStake validator infrastructure to be ready in time for the Kusama BetaNet switch to Proof of Stake. If you’d like to learn more about our Polkadot validator or other services we are planning, drop us a line.