Blockchain Architects: Avoid the Fatal Mistake of Choosing One

Why Your Blockchain-based Tech Solution Should be Blockchain Agnostic

About a month or two ago, the game Etheremon clogged up the Ethereum network, brought transactions to a halt, and caused fees to climb astronomically. In December, Cryptokitties had the same effect as this game took over 10% of Ethereum network traffic, and as a result, also drove transactions fees up quickly.  


Systems that only rely on the public Ethereum network have been constrained by the availability of Ethereum over the long haul. But it doesn’t just apply to Ethereum, the Bitcoin blockchain has recently become increasingly congested, as well. The cost of transactions now exceeds $.60, and it can take up to 40 hours to confirm a transaction. The same transactions a year ago cost about $.05, and it would be confirmed in roughly 10 minutes. Due to high network traffic, we see now that Bitcoin too, is no longer a viable system for high-scale blockchain-based solutions.

Why did this happen?  

And why is it guaranteed to happen again with other public blockchains? Every blockchain transaction requires every server (node) in the network to process it. This feature makes the blockchain inherently resistant to hacking; however, unlike traditional databases which can update records in parallel, each new record inserted onto the blockchain has to be added serially, due to the blockchain’s chain nature.  As the number of transactions increase, the performance slows and prices for validating them rise.


It is unwise to assume that any particular public blockchain infrastructure is suitable over the years. If you build your technology solely around one blockchain, then be prepared for performance delays, increased transaction costs, or worse, a complete halt to executing critical transactions, which could ruin your business. An obsolete blockchain will deem any of its dedicated systems obsolete. Architects would be wise to keep their options open.


Go Agnostic

While the Ethereum and Bitcoin communities works to find solutions to their congestion , there is no guarantee they will find one anytime soon (Vitalik Buterin predicts it could be as much as 5 years) or even win the blockchain wars.

Those of us designing new blockchain-based technologies are better off taking a faster, safer, and more holistic approach, and that is going agnostic.  


ShoCard will never be affected by network traffic bottlenecks, because we designed its architecture to avoid the congestion disaster by making it blockchain agnostic, meaning our platform can use multiple blockchains at the same time and adopt new ones in the future. Since records written to the blockchain are immutable, any existing writes are permanently viable and any future writes can be directed at a different blockchain, including private blockchains for private applications.


Lead the Pack

Looking at the ShoCard Identity Management (IM) platform diagram, you can see we have introduced an adaptor layer we call the Blockchain API Adaptor.


ShoCard Architecture
ShoCard Architecture

The ShoCard Blockchain Adaptor abstracts the interface to the blockchain that maintains the proof of work so that the ShoCard Service layer can remain efficient. The Blockchain Adaptor layer allows the rest of the ShoCard system to remain blockchain agnostic. This is an important architectural decision that will pay dividends in the future.

Furthermore, our blockchain caches keep a local copy of the blockchain for faster “read” access so that verifications can be managed independently of what happens with a public blockchain. While a public blockchain in the distributed network can be used for verification, the distributed nature of the blockchain and immutability of the records make any local copy as viable as any other network copy.  This sidechain/private blockchain design distinguishes ShoCard’s IM platform from other identity platforms.

My advice to any architect beginning a new blockchain-based system: Avoid the fatal mistake of choosing one blockchain to build upon. Save yourself the anxiety of riding the highs and lows of one single blockchain. Escape the fate of all your work becoming obsolete.

Go blockchain agnostic.
For more information on ShoCard and ShoBadge,

Khot is an industry veteran with 26 years of experience building highly scalable, business critical systems that process large volumes of data. Most recently he was CTO & Co-Founder of Youplus. Prior to that, he was the Chief Architect for Dynamic Retargeting (formerly Buysight), an AOL company. Prior to Buysight, he spent several years working on the Yahoo! display advertising platform, where he was responsible for various parts of the display ad serving platform and helped build a system that scaled up to 20 billion transactions per day. In 1999 he was the first engineer at a small startup that built one of the first web-based content management platforms from the ground-up.