Digital asset research company Delphi Digital has recently unveiled a report on Ethereum where it walks through some of the potential technical risks that could face the best known platform for the development of smart contracts. In the document, Delphi Digital briefly analyzes some of them, indicating, in addition, that the list of risks is far from being complete according to their point of view.
The most worrying points, for them, and which should be addressed as a priority would be, first, the size of the Ethereum block chain, followed by the centralization by Infura. The other two risks taken into account by Delphi Digital in its investigation include the communication between fragments (shards) and the possible vulnerabilities existing in the code of the platform.
Size of the block chain
The size of the resulting block chain should be a technical concern for any crypto project that aspires to survive in the already overpopulated blockchain ecosystem. This point is often mentioned as a key aspect of the greater debate around scalability. During the discussions surrounding the Bitcoin escalation, for example, the modification of the size of the block was one of the issues where, perhaps, the most diverse positions were faced.
According to the report prepared by Delphi Digital, the size of the Ethereum blockchain is currently 188 GB for a full Geth node and 2.12 TB for a file node. In perspective, the report mentions that the chain of Bitcoin blocks is at a point close to 200 GB, this taking into account that the Bitcoin network has been operating for a period of time that almost doubles that of the Ethereum platform in scene.
The report highlights the negative effect of increasing the size of the block chain in the execution of a node independently. Thus, says Delphi Digital, decentralization is significantly impaired.
In terms of short-term solutions, the report considers income by state and storage pruning as two viable alternatives. Recall that the “state” is a summary snapshot of the balances and data of a chain of blocks at a given point in time.
The same Vlad Zamfir declared in November last year that rent blockhain would not produce precisely a good user experience, but it was imperative to find a way to limit the state of the Ethereum Virtual Machine to avoid the eventual collapse of the platform. In other words, what is talked about here is to charge users for storing data in the chain of blocks.
As a long-term solution, Delphi Digital points out that sharding technology should be able to help Ethereum in the manageability of the volume of its resulting chain (Ethereum 2.0).
Centralization through Infura
While the Delphi Digital report admits that Infura has become an important tool for the developers of Ethereum, it also points out that there are risks of centralization around it.
Infura helps developers, services and decentralized applications (dApps) by enabling them to effectively redirect their need for a complete Ethereum node to a trusted provider. Delphi Digital mentions that Infura processes more than 10 billion requests per day, serves more than 50,000 dApps and developers, and represents between five and ten percent of all Ethereum nodes.
The report points to Infura as a single point of failure for the Ethereum network, due to the number of decentralized services and applications that rely on it. Delphi Digital also cites an interview in which Michael Wuehler, co-founder of Infura, commented with the well-known crypto news portal CoinDesk the following:
“If all the decentralized applications in the world were supported by Infura, and we decided to take it offline (because we could) all those dApps would then stop working. That is the concern and it is, of course, a very valid concern. “
Communication through fragments
Sharding, or fragmentation, is a central component of the Ethereum escalation roadmap, but according to Delphi Digital, there is a communication problem in it. The report states:
“Two intelligent contracts that run in different fragments (up to 1,024 fragments in the current specification) could get to process functions in parallel.”
Although there are about six proposals to attack this issue, Delphi Digital dismisses them all, considering them inefficient. The research firm affirms that the communication between the fragments is something that should be attended to in a prudent period of time, if Ethereum wishes to maintain an appreciable margin of long-term success.
Vulnerabilities in the Ethereum code
The fourth major technical risk that Delphi Digital mentions in its report on Ethereum are code vulnerabilities. Anyone who has had knowledge of Ethereum for some time will have seen this problem arise in the past in the form of the pirate attack on DAO, the error of multiform in the Parity wallet (November 2017) and the recent postponement of the expected update of Ethereum , Constantinople.
According to the report, these problems are due to the “limitations of Solidity as a programming language” and “the added complexity of being Turing-complete”.