Wed. May 12th, 2021


A blockchain is a technology that stores transactional records on various databases in “blocks” and shares them among participants through a “chain” of connected nodes over a network. The storage is referred to as a digital ledger, and every participant has a copy of the records. Initially, blockchain was created to support cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, but industries and organizations from different sectors later started applying blockchain technology in their day-to-day operations. Organizations found the technology’s security and versatility to be a boon for their operations and started using blockchain platforms and applications.

Up until a few years ago, only financial technology (FinTech) and supply chain management companies widely used blockchain technology. Today, other companies have started incorporating blockchain technology to provide better solutions than their market competitors. For example:

  • Nebula Genomics, Encrypgen, Luna DNA and Zenome are disrupting current healthcare providers and their facilities by allowing consumers to maintain control over their DNA test samples and the tested data.
  • com and Airbnb are facing huge competition from as the latter is developing a zero-commissioned marketplace solely based for travel.
  • Sia network is disrupting cloud computing providing titans like Amazon, Microsoft and IBM by providing a service for anyone who has excess storage to put their desktop computers for rent on the cloud platform.

What Is Blockchain Sharding?

With blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies gaining momentum in recent times, users have flocked to these platforms, resulting in more transactions. With every transaction, nodes get added to existing nodes. Since blockchain lets every node participate in the transaction, every transaction’s validation makes the transaction process slower. This is where blockchain sharding comes into the picture.

Sharding is a database partitioning concept that is used to make databases more efficient. An organization’s network can be separated into smaller partitions which are known as “shards.” Each shard has its own distinctive and independent data when compared to other shards.

Sharding is a technique used to optimize the data stored and process it quickly and efficiently. It is a horizontal partitioning of a database, thereby separating the load on a single database and make it more efficient. Each shard is stored in a separate server instance. It helps achieve latency-free scalability by spreading the network workload into shards and enabling more transactions to be processed.

How Sharding in Blockchain Works

To maintain the digital ledger stature in blockchain, each shard can share the records with other shards. The ledger is still available to every participant who can view all the transactions. The split nature of sharding can benefit the transactions process as dividing the workload will help transactions process faster and reduce latency.

Horizontal Partitioning

Blockchain sharding can be achieved by horizontal partitioning. A database is split by dividing and storing rows of the same table in different database nodes in horizontal partitioning. It is also possible to sort shards based on the digital assets held in them. A transaction that involves those digital assets might be a collection of different shards.

Vertical Partitioning

A database is split vertically in vertical partitioning, where different tables and columns are stored in a separate database. It is considered domain-specific, and a logical split is planned to store application data in other databases. Vertical partitioning is usually implemented at the application level, and a code is written to read and store records at their designated database.

Advantages of Sharding

  1. Sharding reduces the problem of constantly checking for storage limit and computer power as splitting the database makes the setup more flexible. A relational database can thereby operate without having to upgrade its computer resources.
  2. The sharded database infrastructure speeds up the query response time. This is achieved as sharded databases are separated into different tables, enabling the queries to traverse through fewer rows to look for results and return the answer faster.
  3. The most significant advantage of the sharding technique is that it mitigates cyberattacks and breaches as the attacker is likely to target only one shard. This may result in only a part of the database or application being compromised, reducing the overall disruption of the database or application.

Disadvantages of Sharding

  1. Sharding increases the complexity of implementing a shared database, and that poses a considerable risk. Incorrectly implementing a shared database will expose the blockchain to vulnerabilities and cyberattacks. After splitting the records into separate databases, it isn’t easy to revert to the unsharded database architecture. This affects the backup of transactional records, and the data may suffer.
  2. Vertical sharding has a limit to splitting databases into different shards. A shard can only be divided depending upon how powerful the server is or according to what our cloud providers has assigned us. However, powerful servers are very expensive.
  3. Lastly, sharding is not supported by all database engines. For example, PostgreSQL does not have the feature to split the database automatically. However, sharding can be manually implemented in PostgreSQL.

Blockchain sharding is a promising solution to divide records and improve scalability, reduce latency, and process more transactional records in less time. However, it adds to blockchain technology’s complexity and highlights potential weak points of the application or database. The implementation of the sharding technique depends on your application and platform, according to your priorities.