How Richardson’s Shardus is Solving Problems Behind Traditional Blockchains

Shardus calls itself "the foundation for global-scale decentralized applications." It hopes its distributed ledger software can remedy problems of traditional blockchains like scalability, decentralization, and efficiency.

The Shardus Association is an open source decentralized network project involving a core team of developers, with five in Richardson and ten more in countries worldwide. Its senior-level expertise includes Dallas-based co-founder Omar Syed, Andrew Foster, and Sameer Siddiqui who collectively have worked at enterprise level organizations such as Yahoo, Zynga, and NASA as well as startups. Syed launched the group in 2017 with his son and two of his son’s friends.

It’s an engineering marvel, according to a Whitepaper.

The bitcoin peer-to-peer network software doesn’t invent anything new—it combines existing tech to solve the problems of trustless value transfer over the Internet.

The team at Shardus is building distributed ledger software that could overcome scalability, decentralization, and efficiency problems found in blockchains. Shardus aims to be “the foundation for global-scale decentralized applications.” The first application built is expected to be a payment network and coin called Liberdus.

The Shardus team is made up of a team of highly skilled developers who have worked for organizations like NASA and Yahoo. It’s a not-for-profit corporation, rather the team wants to build decentralized technology that has the technical requirements to support global-scale decentralized applications.

They say it’s exciting because it’s the first decentralized network capable of linear scalability. 

The software uses sharding technology to increase the processing speed and storage capacity of decentralized networks, and addresses issues around decentralized networks like energy efficiency and long-term sustainability.

A shard is a database partition, and according to ComputerWorld, sharding might be the key to allow blockchains to scale and still maintain distributed ledger technology’s privacy and security features. Shardus seeks to effectively bring sharding to blockchain tech.

“Sharding basically forms smaller groups from the computers in the decentralized network so that different groups can hold different data and process different transactions, thus allowing for more parallel processing and increased overall throughput,” Syed told Dallas Innovates. “Sharding is often used in databases to manage very large data sets. However, it’s very difficult to apply sharding to blockchains or more generally distributed ledgers.”

Shardus’ Omar Syed explains decentralized networks:

A network refers to a group of computers connected over the Internet. A decentralized network is one where each computer in the network can be owned and operated by a different individual or company.

If all, or a majority of, the computers in a network are owned by the same entity, the network is considered centralized. Not only are the computers in a decentralized network operated by different entities, but they are also peers, meaning they are all equal. No one computer has greater control or functionality over the network than any other computer.

In addition, the computers in the network do not trust each other, but yet are able to use cryptography, math and game theory to ensure that they all cooperate towards the same goal. A decentralized network forms a more robust, fault-tolerant, trustworthy and hacker-proof system than any centralized systems we’ve ever built.

One of the most common use cases of decentralized networks is cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, that offer a form of digital cash with many unique features not found in conventional payment systems.

He explained that applying sharding to a network where the computers are peers and don’t trust each other opens up issues around decreased security, cross-shard communications, and cross-shard consensus. “These are all tough engineering problems, and we thrive on coming up with innovative solutions to such challenges,” he says.

Shardus’ software is designed to allow the network to linearly increase its throughput and capacity as more nodes join the network in a process known as linear scaling.

Shardus’ software is designed to allow the network to linearly increase its throughput and capacity as more nodes join the network in a process known as linear scaling.

Tracking contributions and changing business

To add a layer of tracking, the project is tapping blockchain—specifically Ethereum tokens—to keep track of individual contributions.

“With Shardus, we wanted to maintain that openness of individuals coming together to work on a common goal rather than having a corporate structure,” Syed says. “In the past, open-source projects have not had a way to track the contributions made by individuals.”

Shardus Association members who receive tokens can hold them or transfer them without involvement from the group. Once the software is complete, anyone who wants to create a decentralized network built on the Shardus software can license the software with the tokens.

The tokens can be used via a smart contract to receive a license token, which provides proof on the blockchain that a license was obtained. The Shardus tokens are then taken out of circulation by the smart contract, reducing the outstanding supply.

“This is an innovative new way for individuals to organize and collaborate, which was not possible before the advent of decentralized networks,” Syed says.

While the group is currently developing the Shardus software to create decentralized networks for applications like ridesharing, the long-term goal is to allow the creation of organizations that exist for what Syed described as “the benefit of everyone” through decentralization, autonomy, and transparency.

“For example, imagine something like a decentralized Uber, where the drivers and the riders are not giving up billions of dollars of value to a centralized middleman just for setting policies and providing some hardware and software,” he says. “The term for such decentralized organizations is DAOs. It stands for Decentralized Autonomous Organizations. Such organizations would be altogether different from anything we have today. The centralized, bureaucratic, closed organizations we have now often benefit only a small group.”

The blockchain impact

Once the software is released, it will facilitate the creation of highly scalable, application specific, decentralized networks. It will also open the door for decentralized services that could enhance—or even replace—centralized services available today in areas such as social networking, online shopping, matching sites like job boards and personals, and stock exchanges.

“The impact it will have could be as huge as that of the internet and web,” Syed says. “In addition, there will be many new services that were not possible before. Distributed ledger technology makes it possible for even competitors to collaborate over the same database, thus introducing new possibilities in many industries such as finance, retail, transportation, advertising, healthcare, government and much more.”

Blockchain and distributed ledger tech is still in its infancy, Syed says, pointing out that scalability and throughput in decentralized networks determines what applications can run on these networks. He sees a “huge paradigm shift” coming that anyone who dismisses the technology will miss out on.

Looking to the future of blockchain, he says its important for regulators to understand the difference between blockchain tech and the apps built on its back such as cryptocurrencies.

“The U.S. needs to quickly recognize the future potential of blockchain technology and encourage industry to embrace it, especially now that China has taken an official position to support blockchain technology,” Syed says

Given Shardus’ deep Dallas roots, Syed said the core group decided to stay in the area rather than relocate to Silicon Valley or the emerging Crypto Valley in Switzerland. He added that while many Dallas companies are using blockchain to develop applications, Shardus is working on advancing the core technology.

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