Solana’s endgame: becoming an Ethereum rollup

There’s a lot of misinformation and animosity in the space, people love to pit Solana as an “Ethereum killer”. In this post, I’ll make the argument that Solana and Ethereum are better together — each working to the best of their strengths. As the blockchain industry, we have to come together, leave our egos aside and build what is actually the best engineering solution for mass adoption. And I believe this is Solana being a zkRollup on Ethereum.

First, let’s get some misconceptions out of the way.

Ethereum 2.0 does not exist. I repeat — Ethereum 2.0 is not a thing. This was certainly the case in 2019, but in 2020, Ethereum pivoted to a rollup-centric roadmap. What this means is Ethereum L1 is transforming into a settlement layer for rollups. Ethereum is no longer focused on being a smart contract platform, but rather, a platform to build smart contract platforms on top of. This starts with The Merge, which will merge the execution layer (previously eth1) and consensus layer (previously eth2), and continue with the release of data shards.

What are rollups? Rollups are simply blockchains that are laser focused at offering the highest throughput possible, while leaving the hard work of security and data availability to a different chain that’s better at it. This way, it can achieve upto 10x-100x more throughput possible than any L1, by using clever compression techniques. There are several rollups live today, with more rolling out over the next few years.

So, what does Solana as a zkRollup look like? Actually, very similar to zkSync 2.0, which is currently in testnet, with mainnet release due late this year or early next year. Like Solana, zkSync 2.0 leverages LLVM, allows programming in native Rust, and is designed to offer 100,000+ TPS. However, zkSync 2.0 has two key advantages over Solana:

- Instead of thousands of validators and thousands of non-validating nodes, zkSync 2.0 can be more secure and decentralized than Solana while running ONE sequencer. OK — you need more than one, to cover liveness and censorship resistance risks, but a handful sequencers and provers will offer bulletproof security. This will enable zkSync 2.0 to scale farther than any L1 ever could.

- This is done by using advanced zero-knowledge proofs. A zkRollup can commit to whatever the most secure and decentralized L1 is at the time (currently, Ethereum) and the zk proof ensures validity.

What this means is that over the long term, by leveraging Ethereum data shards, zkRollups can scale up to millions of TPS, while continuing to be highly secure and decentralized, with being verifiable on consumer PCs. Solana can scale up to 50,000 TPS, according to the description in this subreddit. Let’s take this to the next level! By the way, it’s very important to note that a zkRollup maintains full composability even across multiple data shards.

So, why can Ethereum data shards help scale Solana to millions of TPS, and why can’t it do it all by itself? The answer is simple: Ethereum is targeting 1 million validators long term, and the more validators there are, the more data shards can be deployed. Yes, this is the opposite of the blockchain trilemma. Now, I’m sure you have seen some criticisms about Binance running 10,000 validators — and this is true. However, the beacon chain is at a very early stage, and actually, technically it doesn’t matter. What matters is that 1 million validators enables over 1,000 data shards for insane data availability. Next, zkRollups are highly efficient, and through advanced compression and aggregation techniques, it requires 1/10th to 1/100th the data availability a traditional L1 would. Combine highly efficient use of data availability with massive data availability, and you have the holy grail of blockchain scalability.

The incredible thing about zk chains is that you don’t even have to exclusively use Ethereum for data availability! You can use both Ethereum and other data availability solutions like Solana itself. Indeed, they can be used concurrently, while still saying composable. Imagine Ethereum and Solana in one chain, fully composable. That’s the magic of zk tech! Also, if a different chain offers better security than Ethereum — just migrate there or add that as an option for users.

In short, if Solana becomes a zkRollup:

- Instant transaction confirmations.

- Scale up to millions of TPS long term.

- While still offering the highest possible security and decentralization in the industry, and being verifiable on a consumer PC.

- Offer users the choice for varying spectrum between cost and security.

- Remain competitive with future zkRollups like StarkNet and zkSync 2.0.

It’s a no-brainer!

Finally, the caveats:

- This vision will take years to roll out, and it’s a highly advanced, complex system which will need years to prove itself. But it’s certainly time for Solana to start looking closely at zkSync 2.0, StarkNet, Polygon Hermez and other zkRollups and examining how things progress.

Rants and musings on blockchain tech. All content here in the public domain, please feel free to share/adapt/republish.