A deep dive into aelf, the so called blockchain Linux!
Updated: Jul 9, 2021
I came to know about aelf in 2017 when they raised 25 million dollars through private finance. The project caught investor attention very early and it got listed in Binance too. aelf aims to create a decentralized cloud computing blockchain network to serve corporates. aelf launched their testnet in June, 2018 successfully and it can handle whopping 15,000 TPS.
Nowadays, different crypto systems work independently according to their respective objectives. There is no sync between them. aelf wants to create a universal solution platform – an operating system which can be customized according to the need. It’s like blockchain’s own Linux. Maximum businesses are sticking to permissioned distributed ledger rather than shifting to the blockchain as majority of the blockchains can’t offer them customized solutions. The need of different businesses are also different. Business A may need speed and B may need privacy. Business C may need both equally. It is too tough for a single blockchain to solve all business needs.
Smart contracts don’t run on the Bitcoin network. Ethereum has replicated some features of OS successfully but it has limitations. Ethereum 2.0 is supposed to solve Ethereum 1.0 limitations. It offers a good platform to make smart contracts but it has scalability issue and it is slow. Tron was launched as a light version of Ethereum but customization capability is doubtful. EOS came with a bang but became prone to DOS attack. No blockchain is aiming to solve cross-chain interaction issues. None is capable enough to handle vast customization needs.
Interoperability between different blockchains like Bitcoin, ethereum etc. is a special need. There are very few projects which are addressing the issue of interoperability. aelf uses two innovative features – Sidechains & smart contracts to address the issue. It also uses several other cryptographic techniques.
Sidechains & smart contracts
aelf has a mainchain backbone and branched sidechains are connected to it. The connection is done by an indexing system. The indexing system recognizes two types of sidechains: external chains (like Bitcoin or ethereum) & internal chains. All smart contracts are developed on internal sidechains only. Each sidechain can have specific smart contracts as per business need. The mainchain has no smart contracts. If by chance, any sidechain experiences bottleneck, mainchain and other sidechains remain unaffected. Overall the structure provides high stability. Indexing is the process of sidechain interaction with mainchain. Indexing happens with the help of merkle tree technology. One sidechain can interact with another sidechain also through the mainchain. aelf has many standard side chain templates for the developers for rapid smart contract development and deployment. The below mentioned is a depiction of a crypto exchange running with support of aelf:
As new blocks are getting generated continuously, indexing the blockchain becomes a difficult task. A blockchain like ethereum does sequential processing of transactions to achieve stable output but it also makes ethereum highly non-scalable. aelf incorporates parallel processing to solve the issue. Here the side chains process transactions at high speed and unrelated transactions are processed in parallel to another. A sidechain dynamic indexing system allows mainchain to process indexing of the necessary transactions on the side chains at the same time. Because of this, aelf testnet could produce high TPS of 15,000.
Source - aelf TPS break down
There are different blockchain governance protocols. POW consumes high energy and it is slow when used in large scale. Bitcoin works with POW and the energy consumption is terribly high. POS protocol came as an energy-efficient alternative of POW. POS solves many problems but it often leads to concentration of wealth. The biggest flaw of POS is ‘nothing at stake’. AELF chose DPOS as the governing model. DPOS is more democratic and participatory. DPOS protocol actually suits its aim to provide enterprise cloud service. DPOS is a tested protocol to ensure fast, secured and stable outcome also. Here the ELF token holders elect mining nodes through voting. It creates the governance system in aelf. Interestingly Sidechains can have their own consensus protocols.
Source - aelf governance model
All transaction fees and cross chain interaction fees are in ELF. Another interesting feature is that the fees charged to the sidechains are variable and the biggest contributors pay the least fees. ELF token is used to maintain governance also.
A sample use case of aelf in supply chain management
Suppose a poultry firm is using aelf blockchain to manage its supply chain. Production happens in several places. Each production unit has a unique identifier and thus the merkle root. The identifier is included in the blockchain. The firm uses a third party shipping company to ship its products and the shipping company also uses the same identifiers. Suddenly bird flu outbreak happens in one of its production unit. Many products are already shipped. Some are lying in different warehouses and some have reached customers. With the unique identifiers, every party can detect the exact location of the production unit where the outbreak happened and discard the products. The poultry firm remains assured that its food safety will be maintained and the customers can select the products which have passed verification standards. Sounds good? Yes, and the system is economic too.
aelf’s decentralized cloud computing network is a big innovation. It aims to address all major challenges of existing blockchains for commercial adoption. Their key to success can be the dynamic customization ability. A business house gets the opportunity to start with aelf and scale up later. Potential immediate uses cases can be financial services, digital identity, smart city and IoT apps. Existing dApps of other blockchain can also interact with aelf dApps with ease. Testnet was successful with high TPS. The mainnet launch is awaited now. ELF is ERC20 token only. As per the team, the software is ready to be launched but they are delaying due to the problematic token swap event. They released the mainnet launch roadmap very recently. It doesn’t include specific dates. A more specific roadmap can surely boost investor confidence. ELF is already ranked 111 in Coinmarketcap. A successful mainnet can bring wonders!