It’s possible for a centralized database to process 710,000 transactions per second on a standard gigabit network if the transactions are, on average, no more than 176 bytes. A centralized database can also replicate itself and maintain high availability without significantly compromising that transaction rate using the distributed system technique known as Optimistic Concurrency Control. At Solana, we’re demonstrating that these same theoretical limits apply just as well to blockchain on an adversarial network. The key ingredient? Finding a way to share time when nodes can’t trust one-another. Once nodes can trust time, suddenly ~40 years of distributed systems research becomes applicable to blockchain.
Furthermore, and much to our surprise, it can be implemented using a mechanism that has existed in Bitcoin since day one. The Bitcoin feature is called nLocktime and it can be used to postdate transactions using block height instead of a timestamp. As a Bitcoin client, you’d use block height instead of a timestamp if you don’t trust the network. Block height turns out to be an instance of what’s being called a Verifiable Delay Function in cryptography circles. It’s a cryptographically secure way to say time has passed. In Solana, we use a far more granular verifiable delay function, a SHA 256 hash chain, to checkpoint the ledger and coordinate consensus. With it, we implement Optimistic Concurrency Control and are now well en route towards that theoretical limit of 710,000 transactions per second.