Fork-free, energy efficient Red Belly Blockchain validated in global test

​Researchers behind the ‘fork-free’ Red Belly Blockchain have validated their work on a global scale, by deploying it on 1,000 virtual machines across 14 of Amazon Web Services’ 18 geographic regions.

George Nott Sep 26th 2018 A-A+
Red-Belly-Blockchain.jpg

Researchers behind the ‘fork-free’ Red Belly Blockchain have validated their work on a global scale, by deploying it on 1,000 virtual machines across 14 of Amazon Web Services’ 18 geographic regions.

The blockchain system – developed by CSIRO’s Data61, and the Concurrent Systems Research Group at the University of Sydney – removes the risks of double spending and is much faster than existing systems such as Bitcoin, researchers say. It is also far more energy efficient than comparable systems.

Blockchain systems are distributed chains of blocks. Each node in the system can create a new block of transactions and append the block to its view of the chain. Since the system is distributed, multiple nodes may add different blocks at the same point in the chain, before learning of the presence of other blocks.

This results in a forked chain or tree. For nodes to then agree on a single, true state of the system, different strategies are applied. Bitcoin, for example, selects the longest branch and 'wastes' all blocks not present in it.

The Red Belly Blockchain by comparison “enforces integrity initially rather than recovering from inconsistencies” said University of Sydney researcher Dr Gramoli.

The double spend risk is one that has “plagued previous generations of blockchain systems” he added.

The compute needed to solve crypto-puzzles fast enough in other systems typically slows down the creation of blocks and requires massive amounts of energy.

Red Belly Blockchain – the mechanics of which are outlined in the paper (Leader, Randomization, Signature)-free Byzantine Consensus for Consortium Blockchains  – differs from these blockchains as it is underpinned by a unique algorithm and offers performance that scales without an equivalent increase in electricity consumption.

That was put to the test with its deployment on 1,000 virtual machines in different AWS regions, including North America, South America, Asia Pacific (Sydney), and Europe.

The experiment saw 30,000 transactions per second sent from different geographic regions, with an average transaction latency – or delay – of three seconds with 1,000 replicas (a machine that maintains a copy of the current state of the Blockchain and the balance of all accounts).

The performance matched a 2017 experiment with only 260 replicas located in a single region.  “In comparison, mainstream blockchain technologies need minutes, with other technologies typically processing less than 20 transactions per second,” Gramoli said.

The demonstration highlights Red Belly’s scalability “making it ideal for faster processing of financial transactions and microgrids that use peer-to-peer trading to transform the energy sector” Gramoli added.

Earlier this month Data61, together with law firm Herbert Smith Freehills and IBM, formed a consortium to build a blockchain-based smart contracts platform dubbed the Australian National Blockchain (ANB).

Using the ANB, businesses of all kinds and sizes will be able to use digitised contracts, exchange data and confirm the authenticity and status of legal contracts, the consortium said.

Data61 last year launched a comprehensive review of blockchain and smart contract technology. The review included two reports – Distributed Ledgers: Scenarios for the Australian economy over the coming decades and Risks and opportunities for systems using blockchain and smart contracts for Treasury on how the technologies could be adopted across government and industry.

Then Treasurer Scott Morrison said at the time that blockchain would have a “profound impact” on the economy.

“Our reports identified distributed ledger technology as a significant opportunity for Australia to create productivity benefits and drive local innovation,” said Dr Mark Staples, senior research scientist at Data61.