Nodes are the backbone of a blockchain’s infrastructure and without them, data cannot be stored, verified, saved, broadcasted and distributed to other nodes. Know everything related to blockchain nodes with this comprehensive blog.
It is no longer a wonder that blockchain is becoming mainstream as it offers multiple benefits. Several organizations across industries be it the finance, healthcare, food supply chain, logistics, power, energy, entertainment and media– almost all are waking up to the important use cases of blockchain and taking steps towards its adoption. This digitally distributed, open and shared ledger is maintained on nodes. However, are you aware as to who shares this ledger and how the decentralized blockchain ecosystem can be maintained to work seamlessly? Let’s take a deep dive to understand what blockchain nodes are and how do they work?
In order to explore the blockchain nodes concept fully, we also need to understand why they are so important. Imagine yourself to be a great baseball fan, aware of all the rules of the game. There may also be a favorite team and you may have players on whom you could bet on in the game. You are also always excited about any baseball game and you never want to miss any of the games. However, baseball is not only about the game but it is also about where it is played out. Have you ever wondered why there was no baseball ground? Where would the baseball game happen and where would your favorite team and favorite players play?
In the blockchain development domain, consider the blockchain platforms as the players, competing teams are the other blockchain protocols such as permissioned, private or public and hybrid. And the playground is the blockchain node where the blockchain runs. Thus in simple terms, it is the blockchain nodes that help the blockchain technology to run seamlessly In this blog we would attempt to also understand the different features of the blockchain nodes, the hashing algorithms, cryptography and also the distributed ledger working as important part of the blockchain world.
What are blockchain nodes?
The most significant part of a blockchain’s infrastructure is the nodes and without it no one could access any information. In fact, nodes are mostly used in relation to blockchain- a decentralized digital ledger that keeps track of all cryptocurrency transactions and provides the information to everyone via a connected device. It implies that each and every transaction has to be chronologically recorded and distributed to a series of connected devices in a blockchain and the connected devices are called nodes. These nodes are interconnected with each other operating within the same network and conveying every piece of information about transactions and new blocks.
Long back, a node was also defined as a critical part of the cryptocurrency and trademark of all the well-known cryptos such as the Bitcoin and Ethereum. In fact the decentralized ledger to keep track of all the cryptocurrencies on the blockchain network is the nodes and this is why it is also a critical part of the entire blockchain infrastructure.
Since more and more people started taking interest in the popular cryptocurrencies such as the bitcoin and so, thus there arose a bigger need for participants to acquire a full knowledge on the way the system works. Although this holds true for all the sectors, given that cryptocurrency is still at a nascent stage but gaining rapid traction and there is still a lot to be understood and explored. You may not need a deeper understanding to gain profit from the spike in prices of Bitcoin but having a good understanding of the basic concepts around the blockchain and cryptocurrency can be quite beneficial.
To help a layman understand a node better, it can be referred to as a point of intersection or connection in a telecommunication network. Any system or a physical tool that connects to a network and can perform specific duties such as sending, receiving and creating data across communication channels can also be called as the node. In terms of cryptocurrency, the computer is connected to a cryptocurrency network with capabilities to carry out different activities such as receiving, moving and creating data. There can be different explanations of the nodes depending on the protocol. For instance, a resident network may consist of a file server, three computer devices and a printer machine. In this case, the network has five nodes with each of them armed with an exclusive MAC address to recognize them.
Purpose of blockchain nodes
Nodes form a highly important part of the blockchain infrastructure and the prime purpose of it is to enhance the security of the data, maintain the integrity of the data and also provide credibility to the network. Each of the network transactions that are the blocks can be verified with the help of a blockchain node. Each node is distinguished from the rest by a unique feature.
Blockchains are a shared, immutable ledger. Each block is cryptographically linked to the next block, and if any part of the chain is changed, it would change the values in all successive blocks. However, because blockchains exist on a distributed network, there are multiple copies, so it can’t be changed.
Therefore, if just a single system undergoes changes then there are other systems made accessible to showcase the integrity of the data. The visibility of data across the various nodes in the blockchain provides the trust and integrity that we so desire to build with advanced technologies. Without nodes, a blockchain is just a database with some crypto hashing protecting it.
The fact that all transactional records on the blockchain can be audited is another reason people consider it trustworthy. The more nodes you have worldwide the more reliable your network becomes. The blockchain network can be resilient to all kinds of centralized attacks and also other potential hackers and problems with the help of multiple blockchain nodes. You may need only one node to start a complete blockchain ledger to the new network.
Functions of a node
Blockchain nodes have different functions, depending on the application. For example, nodes can be both interactive endpoints and part of the IP address network. Usually, a node only maintains blockchain transaction records, but not all of them do this. Different nodes have different roles, depending on the requirements of the blockchain network. For example, Corda has two nodes: One is required to perform the validation of the transactions and another one is needed to store information for clients. Hyperledger Fabric requires nodes for membership service providers, anchors, and other entities. The segregation of the nodes happens on the basis of the roles they play in the blockchain ecosystem. In the blockchain domain, several different kinds of tasks can be performed by the nodes and the essential functions include the following:
According to the Blockchain, a node can be said to have the three most important functions: Agreeing
- Storing data and
- Sharing with other nodes for better syncing
- Recording transactions
- It also helps in validating transactions for consensus algorithms
Some standard functions for which a node is held responsible for include managing transactions, promoting the growth of the network by sharing new data it has with other nodes, and implementing an algorithm to help the network stay updated.
In short, a node can handle transactions, process data, and communicate with other nodes. They also have a few other standard functions:
Assisting in the growth of the blockchain
A node does not just maintain blockchain but also helps expand it. When new data is added to the blockchain, the record is stored on the node’s storage. Nodes also help add new blocks and synchronize the network with one another. This is done through a consensus algorithm.
With the help of nodes, one can get access to the blockchain ledger and with that access to a blockchain network like the blockchain explorer, for example Etherescan, a user could track the transactions on an ETH network, and know that you are dealing with a node. The block explorer is simply an interface that connects you to a node and lets you read data from it. Some nodes store that data while others just provide access to it. To find out which type of nodes there are, get into the details of the types of the blockchain nodes.
Types of blockchain nodes
Often the term “node” is confused with the term “full node”. However, both are dissimilar and hold different meanings. A full node is different from the term “node” in that it is a Bitcoin network computer which performs the primary function of storing and synchronizing the complete Bitcoin network on the blockchain.
Full nodes are important because they vote on proposed changes made to the network. In case when more than 51% of the full nodes are in disagreement with a proposal then there is no change. In some cases, this led to a hard fork, for instance the one that happened with Bitcoin Cash in 2017.
There are different types of full nodes. Take a look: light nodes, full nodes, and super full nodes.
- Lightweight Nodes
These are also called SPV nodes that are Simplified Payment Verification. Lightweight nodes don’t store the entire Blockchain, instead, they keep track of only their own transactions. These nodes rely on third-party servers to get information about the network.
Lightweight nodes are best for users who only transact and hold a small number of Bitcoins. These nodes are very easy to run, as they are available as apps on your devices.
- Archival Full Nodes
Full nodes are the backbone of the network. Full nodes validate each block, and store the entire blockchain. That’s where they take on the responsibility of verifying transactions, communicating about the status of the network to other nodes, and validating transactions and handling consensus. You can lend your computer resources to the blockchain network as a full node in order to contribute to every aspect of its functionality.
- Pruned Full Nodes
Such nodes offer a storage space saving option for users by pruning old blocks of the blockchain. They will have to download the complete blockchain from the very start in order to run this node, but then they can delete blocks with the oldest transactions. For example, if a 250 MB limit is in place for the operator and it has a 250 MB transaction, then this node will be able to store it.
- Mining nodes
A new block can be developed with the use of nodes and this can help in crypto mining. In this case, the proof-of-work is being used and miners are also required to have a full node or to gather data from other nodes to understand the current status of the blockchain. Either the miners can work on their own or they may work in groups.
- Authority Nodes
These types of full nodes are being used in case of a decentralized network. It is the task of the development team to decide on the number of authority nodes required and also the community votes. The function of these nodes is the same as other full nodes.
- Master Nodes
The prime function of the master nodes is to authenticate and also store transactions but not to add blocks to the blockchain. Users by running a masternode can share the network rewards with others. It is for this purpose that it is advisable to share some of the money in the network’s token. One network that particularly uses the masternode is the DASH network.
- Lightning Nodes
The node that is quite different from all others is the lightning node. These nodes are capable of bringing down the load of the network and hence they are also known as lightning nodes. These nodes are helpful in forming a link between the users out of the blockchain to allow for the off-chain transactions. Hence, it is one of the preferred nodes for facilitating quicker and also much cheaper transactions.
How do a miner and a node differ?
In order to set up a new node, miners have to run a full node so as to pick up on the authentic transactions. It is only owing to the full node that a potential transaction can be determined as correct or not as per the transaction history of the blockchain network. Hence, a miner works as a full node.
However, a node does not need to be a miner. All transaction data can be stored, received and also broadcasted on the full node of the device, without the need for setting up new transaction blocks. Thus it functions as a pass point with a directory, while miner remains the same and it also plans to build new transaction blocks.
How do node services perform?
Organizations provide blockchain node-as-a-service often as secondary services to help users not to run it. Blockchain node-as-a services also come with the API key allowing people to read and write from the blockchain. Users can also get access to the Ethereum test nests and Mainnet. There are a few service providers to extend support for the dedicated nodes and they also tackle them for your company, while a few others may provide load balancers to discharge the range of activities through the nodes.
Integration of the node services is possible with a single line code change. Users can sometimes access full and archive nodes as the node service providers run various nodes. Moreover, users can also provide clientele-specific methodology in one API.
Advantages of using a Node Service
Running node as a service can be highly time-consuming. Hence, it is best to hire a company that manages and deploys nodes as this way you could save significant time and effort that goes in managing, building and also deploying those nodes. Thus, you can save all the required time and resources to direct your energies on the development of your products and services. Focus on spending on the improvement of the infrastructure and decide on the right node deployment and node Management Company.
It can also be quite a cost burden to run your own nodes and hence hiring the services of an experienced and expert team can help you manage the node very well without proving to be costly for you. Upgrading and scaling the nodes to the updated versions can also be helpful for you to avoid heavy expenses on your product resources.
Steps to Setup and Run a Full Node
There are a number of factors to take into account when running a full blockchain node and to break it down in simple steps here are some key ones that you need to follow for setting up and running a node.
- Choosing a blockchain is the most important step in setting up a node and then running it.
- Get the software and hardware required for deploying a node and running it. It may differ for each of the cryptocurrencies.
- Executing the node is another vital step in deploying a node.
- Look for a suitable hardware to run a node as this is the most basic thing for setting up and running a node. It entails the use of a small computer called the Raspberry Pi.
Full nodes can be run in the following three ways:
- A node can be hosted on the cloud protocols
- Moreover, a node can also be run on a device with enough hard disk space and RAM
- Make the most of the node solutions or grow one from the base.
Once these steps are complete for running a node, you have to simply monitor and maintain the node.
If you have to further understand the important role of a node in blockchain then compare it with that of the server on the Internet. Having clarity about the nodes in a blockchain is crucial to understand how blockchain works and if you are a consultant, UX developer or an architect then you need to have a more detailed understanding of the nodes, its functions, advantages, rules of setting up nodes and also running it. Streamlined solutions could also be developed by blockchain architects with the use of the blockchain nodes. Node computational power, node ability can help develop bespoke solutions for solving critical challenges.
Zevee powering the management and deployment of nodes
Zeeve helps DevOps teams ease their operational, security, and performance challenges while deploying and managing Blockchain nodes and networks. We are an enterprise Blockchain Management Platform that helps deploy, benchmark and manage Blockchain networks and provide no-code automation capabilities for Blockchain deployments. Our team will manage the Blockchain network for you and provide you a hassle free experience of blockchain. Get in touch with us for sharing, managing and deploying the nodes.