Modularity, the endgame with Ethereum

24-03-10 10:30
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Original title: "Modular architecture and its role in Ethereum's Endgame"
Original author: Chris Powers, Denis Suslov
Original compilation: Ladyfinger, Blockbeats
Editor's note:
With the continuous development of blockchain technology, two different design philosophies, single architecture and modular architecture All demonstrate their respective advantages and application scenarios. Solana's single architecture provides a fast, low-cost transaction experience, but its high requirements for hardware may lead to a trend of centralization, while modular designs, such as the latest trends in Celestia and Ethereum, reduce costs by separating data availability layers. , improve security and flexibility, and support a wider range of applications and innovation.
These developments reflect the evolving nature of blockchain technology and the community’s continued exploration of the balance between security, decentralization and scalability. With the further development of modular architecture, we may witness a richer and more diverse blockchain ecosystem, providing users and developers with more choices and possibilities. Although there are different opinions and approaches, these advances collectively push blockchain technology forward and mark its evolution towards a more mature and flexible architecture.


A Single Era


Solana has been hugely popular lately, and for good reason. It has emerged from the dark days of the Alameda crisis with a strong run, from frequent pauses to successful handling of historically The busiest airdrop claim while maintaining extremely low fees. Solana is a good choice from the perspective of attracting new users: Ethereum's L2 still charges up to $1 per transaction(We really don't think starting with BSC or Tron is a good idea).


Another advantage of Solana is its single global state that reflects all market signals instantly, with no jumps between rollups or shards for arbitrage and bridging. It's as if trading is seamless 24 hours a day on all trading platforms around the world, with events reflected instantly in price changes on all exchanges, regardless of geography or time zone. These are the benefits of a single chain at its best, but there are still drawbacks to this design choice. Most notably, the Solana validator set tends to be centralized due to very high hardware requirements. This is because Solana handles all three layers of blockchain in a single way: execution, consensus, and data availability.


On the other end of the design spectrum, modular architecture—particularly outsourcing the data availability layer—is becoming increasingly popular. This approach reduces transaction costs while keeping hardware requirements low ( Although MEV poses a threat to this). The modular design also allows for more specialized chains and hardware for specific applications, dYdX being the best example of this.


At the forefront of the modular movement is Celestia, a chain optimized for rollup data efficiency. Ethereum, on the other hand, has achieved modularity in a more step-by-step manner, building the plane as it flies. We believe that rollups are key to enabling scaling and lowering transaction fees, and now the battle for the data availability layer (and the rest of the modular stack) has begun.


Scaling and Data Barriers


Data availability issues were initially identified in the early stages of the race to scale blockchain. The focus was on minimizing the amount of stored data to maximize the number of nodes in the network. This dynamic is also the basis of Bitcoin’s block size wars. Data availability refers to a blockchain’s ability to make its data accessible to all network participants. A key breakthrough in solving this problem was the introduction of Data Availability Sampling (DAS), as Bridget Harris Explained:


"With DAS, light nodes can confirm the availability of data by participating in random sampling rounds of block data without having to download every complete block. Once multiple rounds are completed Sampling, and reaching a certain confidence threshold, confirms that the data is available, and the rest of the transaction process proceeds safely. In this way, a chain can expand its block size while maintaining easily verifiable data availability. Considerable cost savings are also achieved : These emerging layers can reduce DA costs by up to 99%."


Celestia, Avail, NearDA, and EigenDA are the most important DA projects. They do not need to verify transactions, just check that each block is added via consensus and that new blocks are available to the network. They rely on third-party sequencers to execute and verify transactions. Celestia launches in October 2023, Avail and EigenDA will launch mainnet in the coming months, and Near recently announced its DA Solutions. Let's review the unique characteristics of each project:


1. Celestia chose the fastest path to market with Fraud Proof (this is also used by Optimism rollups). The trade-off is that Celestia will not be able to support ZK rollups in its current configuration. The Celestia team claims that 1., approximately 70% of all new Arbitrum Orbit chains are using Celestia for data availability.


2. Avail (formerly Polygon Avail), as an independent blockchain, provides a fast and secure data and consensus layer, providing developers with They need something to start the rollup (either ZK or optimistic).


3. EigenDA is probably the most consistent with Ethereum because it is a DA module, not a blockchain. Additionally, ETH restaking in EigenLayer will be available to secure rollups using EigenDA. Its weakness is that it does not useData sampling or proof of data availability.


4. NearDA helps rollups save on data availability fees by storing data on Near's sharded blockchain. NearDA leverages an important part of the Near consensus mechanism, which parallelizes the network into multiple shards.


Massive Rollups launched


Then let’s talk about the rollup itself. In rollups built on top of these data availability (DA) providers, there are a number of tools that make launching rollups easier:


1. By leveraging Celestia With modular data availability, Manta Pacific offers significantly lower costs compared to standalone L2 solutions, And has saved $1 million in Ethereum gas fees. Manta also uses custom opcodes to validate ZK technologies, which makes them It becomes very cheap to implement privacy protection and native randomness in the protocol.

2. Mantle Network is built on a modular architecture and will be optimistic The rollup protocol is integrated with EigenDA's data availability solution. This integration allows the Mantle network to inherit the security of Ethereum while also providing more economical and accessible data availability.

3. Kinto is a chain that requires KYC. Every user on the network and Developers must complete the Passport KYC process before making transactions. It uses Celestia to reduce costs.


In a truly modular fashion, the modules of each layer are selected according to specific needs. You can see the variety of combination options here:

Like Eclipse "Rollup As A Service" (Rollup As A Service) projects make it easier to start rollup, and developers can choose which technology to use for each module.


Similarly, Conduit Allows users to deploy a rollup in 15 minutes. Supported technology stacks include Optimism, Arbitrum Orbit and Celestia. A monthly hosting infrastructure fee is paid to Conduit, and a separate data availability fee is payable to the provider.


The richness of possible combinations created by modularity is undoubtedly a major advance. Is this similar to the difference between the difficulty of building a website in the early days compared to the ease and customization of using Squarespace today?


The meaning of this sentence is that modular technology greatly simplifies the complexity of technology implementation by providing a variety of combination possibilities, which is a trend in technology development. a major progress. This advancement can be compared to the difference between the complex process of creating a website in the past and the convenient, highly customizable website building now using a platform like Squarespace. Modern platforms like Squarespace make it easy for people without a technical background to create and manage websites, and modular technology offers similar convenience and flexibility in blockchain and rollup implementations.


Trade-off considerations


Despite the growth of Data Availability (DA) projects, many are concerned about The outsourced DA has reservations. Vitalik made his point very clearly: "Your data layer must be your security layer ." Dankrad Feist, another member of the Ethereum Foundation, also agreed: "If it doesn't Use Ethereum for data availability, then it is not an (Ethereum rollup) and therefore not an Ethereum L2."


We agree. A rollup that outsources data availability will be less secure (and really should be called "validiums") than a rollup that uses the same chain for data and consensus, although for some applications Safe enough. Short-term projects using this kind of rollup will appear and disappear quickly, making it a good experimental and testing ground. However, for long-term holding of financial assets, L1 like Ethereum or rollup for both data and consensus will remain the lowest risk networks.


Ethereum is moving towards modularity


While skeptical about outsourced data availability, Ethereum attaches great importance to modular architecture. The original vision of scaling through sharding was abandoned in favor of Support modularity.



Three things needed to realize the vision The first major update is rollups (we discussed this before),Proposer-builder separation ("Block proposers are no longer Generate a "profit-maximizing" block yourself and instead delegate the task to external participants (builders) in the market"), and Data sampling. The latter is a way that allows light nodes to verify whether a block has been published by only downloading a small amount of randomly selected data. Technically, this is more challenging than the other two and will take two to three years time to implement.


Important Note: EIP-4844 is the first step in improving Ethereum’s data availability layer before data sampling goes live. As discussed before, improving Ethereum is akin to repairing an airplane while in flight; once the Ethereum Foundation recognized the need for rollups (i.e. When Vitalik famously proposed a rollup-centric future), the team chose to do so by adding blobs (a space specifically tailored for rollup data) to extend the block. Blobs are expected to reduce rollup transaction costs by a factor of ten. EIP-4844 is scheduled for March in the Dencun upgrade /Online in April. While this is a temporary solution to keep Ethereum competitive for two to three years, the long-term solution will be to support proof of validity on the mainnet itself, which will reduce the cost of rollups by orders of magnitude.


While Solana may be vehemently defending its monolithic architecture philosophy (and they may be right for many use cases), the industry seems to be moving toward modularity . As far as Ethereum is concerned, only a modular architecture can achieve the future:


1. Low transaction costs for millions of users due to rollups (scalability);

2. Network protection (security) from threats such as censorship and 51% attacks;

3. An ordinary PC or even a mobile phone can run node to verify transactions (decentralized).


One may ask whether Ethereum’s modular architecture solves the problems considered unsolvableThree Difficulties of Blockchain? Technically, it doesn't, since Ethereum is no longer a monolithic network, but as a modular network, it does.


Among the three, we believe that solving decentralization is the most important part of the trilemma. Innovation ultimately reduces transaction costs; prioritizing decentralization (especially geographical distribution) is the only way to ensure long-term network security. Ethereum leads the way in decentralization, with the most decentralized set of validators, with over 800,000 validators. At the same time, with a modular approach, it can adapt to new design innovations with custom rollups launched on top. Celestia and others certainly share this vision. The question that remains is whether Ethereum can move in this modular direction fast enough to keep up with competitors who are building from the ground up, rather than fixing the plane as they fly.


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