Other notable features of Zilliqa’s DLT are a relatively low energy
footprint and a light, non-Turing-complete smart contracts system. But
Zilliqa’s truly killer feature is the promise of achieving a throughput much
higher than other open DLTs like Bitcoin or Ethereum. It seems likely, indeed,
that Zilliqa’s high throughput will make it a strong candidate for
implementation in legacy enterprises focused on financial markets, global trade
and other sectors that require high-performance DLT.
Enterprise Through Sharding
According to Zilliqa, throughput scalability is a major challenge
for today’s DLT, which could severely limit adoption.
“Existing blockchains are not able to scale for the next
generation of internet-style applications,” notes Zilliqa’s first
announcement post. “An often cited example is the 7–10 transactions/second
(TX/s) available in Bitcoin and Ethereum today, and the demands of payment
processing in centralized operators (e.g., VISA, MasterCard) for supporting
thousands of TX/s.”
Zilliqa aims to achieve scalable throughput, which rivals
traditional centralized payment methods in an open, permissionless distributed
network, without compromising resilience and security.
Zilliqa’s DLT is based on the concept of “sharding” — dividing the
network into several smaller component networks (called shards) capable of
processing transactions in parallel. Sharding, which is seen by many DLT
developers as a promising way to achieve high throughput, is also part of Ethereum’s
roadmap for the future.
In 2015, University of Singapore computer scientist Prateek
Saxena, now chief scientific advisor at Zilliqa, co-authored a paper titled “A Secure Sharding Protocol For
Open Blockchains,” which was the first proposal for sharding in the context of
The paper concluded that the protocol “scales up the agreement
throughput near linearly with the computational power of the network and
tolerates byzantine adversaries … It offers promising scalability in
experiments and suggest[s] strong usability in next-generation
Since then, Zilliqa’s sharding protocol has been under research,
refinement and active development.
In a short
video published by CNBC,
Zilliqa’s CEO Xinshu Dong discussed the project’s plan to achieve 10,000
transactions per second, a throughput comparable to the major credit card
networks. Similar or higher performances have been
achieved, but not in an open, permissionless blockchain.
If a network of 1,000 nodes is divided into 10 shards, each with
100 nodes, and each shard is capable of processing 10 transactions per second,
then all shards together can process 100 transactions per second. Thus, the
sharded network achieves a throughput that scales linearly with the size of the
Of course, this is easier said than done and there are technical
challenges to overcome. Subsidiary sharding techniques, indicated as “transaction
sharding” and “computational sharding,” are built on the network sharding
The “Practical Byzantine Fault
consensus protocol, which has been chosen for the Zilliqa blockchain mainly
because its efficiency depends on the size of the network, can exploit the small
size of the shards in the Zilliqa network. A related feature is that, while
miners use proof-of-work (PoW) to establish their identities on the Zilliqa
blockchain, the PBFT consensus protocol limits the amount of computing that
must be done to establish PoW. Therefore, mining in the Zilliqa blockchain will
be cheaper than in PoW blockchains such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, and offer a
smaller energy footprint and less impact on the environment as well.
The Ziliqa blockchain will support smart contracts with a dataflow
programming system that, while not Turing-complete like Ethereum, offers
better scalability and can be more easily parallelized for a sharded
blockchain. Dataflow programming is visual and used in demanding commercial
projects, including game development, which ensures the availability of talent.
Recently, Zilliqa added
high-profile fintech and banking experts to its advisory board and secured a
strategic partnership with blockchain digital asset management firm FBG
Capital. A draft
position paper describes the current Zilliqa roadmap, with the plan to launch
public test and main networks in the second quarter of 2018 and then further
increase the throughput of the blockchain and the decentralized applications
running on it.