What is the Blockchain and its Purpose?The blockchain is a distributed database that enables secure, transparent, and tamper-proof transactions. You might have heard how blockchain is going to revolutionize the world as we know it. It has many real-life applications already. But this article is for those of us who would like to understand a bit more about the technology. Actually, blockchains have five different layers. In this blog, we’ll try to explain these layers and explain what each one does.
Exploring the Five Layers of Blockchain TechnologyWhen it comes to blockchain technology, there are five essential layers that you need to be aware of. Each layer builds on the one below it. This leads to blockchain becoming a comprehensive and powerful technology.
Starting from the base layer, the physical layer encompasses the hardware and infrastructure that supports the network. Moving upwards, the data layer stores and processes transactions within the network. The consensus layer ensures that all participants agree on the validity of transactions. The security layer provides protection against potential threats and attacks. Finally, the application layer serves as the interface for users to interact with the blockchain network. Each layer plays a crucial role in the functioning of a blockchain system, and by understanding their interdependence, one can gain a comprehensive understanding of the technology.
Layer 1: Hardware Infrastructure LayerThe first layer of a blockchain is the Hardware Infrastructure Layer. This is where the blockchain resides and where all the transactions take place. The nodes on this layer are responsible for validating the transactions and appending them to the chain.
Blockchain technology uses a peer-to-peer network. When you access blockchain data, your machine requests it from a vast network of interconnected peers. This network of peers also called nodes enable faster and easier data sharing. Each of these nodes connect with each other and form a distributed ledger. Each of the nodes randomly verify transactional data, contributing to the overall computing power of the blockchain network.
By connecting different nodes, the blockchain forms a peer-to-peer network. This network is responsible for recording transactions and other data in a shared ledger, thus creating a distributed database.
Layer 2: Data LayerThe second layer to understand is the data layer. The data layer stores all of the actual data associated with a blockchain. Think of this layer like a library. In fact, like a storage with all the information you need to interact with the system. This includes things like transactions, user identities, smart contracts, and more.
The data itself is stored in blocks that link together by a cryptographic hash, or a unique string of characters. This hash identifies each block and helps keep them linked together as a chain. All new blocks are added to the chain through a process called mining, where computers solve complicated mathematical puzzles in order to confirm the validity of new transactions and add them to the chain.
Once all of the blocks are added, no one has the rights to edit or change them in any way. Thereby, these blocks are extremely secure and reliable. This level of security is one of the main reasons why blockchain technology has become so popular over the past few years.
Layer 3: Network LayerIn the third layer, we have the Network Layer. This layer facilitates inter-node communication and enables nodes to exchange transaction data, arrive at a consensus on the validity of transactions, and discover other nodes on the network.
In this open system, each node is aware of the transactions being validated by other nodes, all managed by the network layer. This layer takes charge of node discovery, block creation, and block addition, ensuring the blockchain network functions in a legitimate state. This layer distributes the workload among nodes, allowing for seamless communication and synchronized transactions carried out by nodes in the blockchain.
Layer 4: Consensus LayerThe fourth layer of a blockchain is the consensus layer. This is the layer that’s responsible for ensuring that all transactions added to the chain are valid and in compliance with rules set out by the network. The consensus layer in a blockchain is a critical component that ensures the validity of transactions. It is responsible for validating blocks, ordering them, and ensuring that all nodes agree on their legitimacy.
The consensus mechanism, also known as the network protocol, requires a specific number of nodes to verify each transaction, making the system decentralized and preventing any one node from having sole control over transactional data. This layer also resolves conflicts that may arise from multiple blocks being created simultaneously. Whether it is a Proof-of-Work or Proof-of-Stake system, the consensus layer is vital for the functioning of blockchain platforms like Ethereum, Bitcoin, and others. Without the consensus layer, transaction authentication would not occur, leading to system failure.
It’s important to understand that the consensus layer is essential in order for a blockchain network to be secure, efficient, and functioning correctly.
Layer 5: Application and Presentation LayerFinally, we have the Application and Presentation Layer: what most users interact with. Think of it like an executable program — it’s the part of the blockchain that provides a graphical user interface (GUI).
This layer acts as the user-facing front end. It allows end-users to communicate with the blockchain network through various programs like wallets, social media apps, browsers, and NFT platforms. The Application and Presentation Layer consists of the execution layer and the application layer protocols, which include smart contracts, scripts, and frameworks. These applications communicate with the blockchain network via APIs. And the semantic layer is where transaction validations and executions take place.
The decentralized nature of data storage in these applications sets them apart from traditional applications, providing secure and tamper-proof data storage.
Applying the Layers to Tackle the Blockchain TrilemmaNow that you understand all five layers of a blockchain, it’s time to put the pieces together. The Blockchain Trilemma is the challenge of designing a blockchain to be scalable, secure, and decentralized at the same time. Each layer of the blockchain allows us to tackle this challenge in a different way.
The five layers of blockchain technology – the hardware infrastructure layer, consensus layer, network layer, data layer, and the application and presentation layer – can be leveraged to solve the blockchain trilemma. The consensus layer ensures secure and accurate validation of transactions through its consensus mechanism. The network layer enables the efficient exchange of information among nodes. The data layer stores transactional data in a decentralized manner. The application layer allows for the creation and execution of smart contracts and decentralized applications. The presentation layer offers a user-friendly interface for interacting with the blockchain.
By effectively balancing the trade-offs between decentralization, security, and scalability at each of these layers, the blockchain trilemma can be addressed. And through the application of all five layers correctly, we have a powerful component on our hands—one that can tackle any problem thrown its way and usher in a new age of trustless technology and innovation.