Ethereum’s Biggest Scaling Challenge: The Voorhees Metric

Introduction

The Voorhees Metric is the name given by Ethereum researcher Viktor Voorhees to a metric that determines the scalability of a blockchain. It uses two inputs: how big each block on the blockchain is and how long it takes for those blocks to be added. The higher these numbers are, the worse off your blockchain is in terms of scalability. The good news is that there’s no such thing as an unscalable blockchain—that would mean no one could use it at all! Instead, there are just blockchains with high values for their Voorhees Metric (which means they’re not very scalable) and ones with lower values (which means they can handle more activity). So what does all this mean? And what does it have to do with lightning networks?

The Voorhees Metric is the name given by Ethereum researcher Viktor Voorhees to a metric that determines the scalability of a blockchain.

The Voorhees Metric is a way to measure the scalability of a blockchain. It uses block size and time to miner as inputs, along with miner hash rate required for blocks to be added.

Voorhees’ paper describes how this metric has been used by Ethereum researchers to determine which proposed scaling solutions should be implemented on the network in order for it to scale well into the future.

The Voorhees Metric uses the size of blocks on the blockchain and how long it takes for those blocks to be added as its inputs.

The Voorhees Metric uses the size of blocks on the blockchain and how long it takes for those blocks to be added as its inputs. The resulting value determines how scalable a blockchain is, with higher numbers meaning better scalability.

The first input is blocksize: this is simply the number of transactions that can fit into each block before it becomes full, which means no more transactions can be added until another block has been mined. The second input is time-to-miner (or TTM): this measures how long it takes for new blocks to be added after they are mined by miners who use GPUs instead of ASICs (Application Specific Integrated Circuits).

It also requires miners to have a certain amount of hash rate in order for their blocks to be accepted.

One of the most important metrics in determining how secure a blockchain network is its hash rate. The higher this number, the more secure it is and vice versa. This means that if you want your transactions to be processed quickly, then it’s important that miners have enough hash power so that their blocks can be accepted by other miners on the network.

The same goes for block sizes: If you have more hash power available, then you can process larger blocks which will lead to lower transaction fees (because each block will contain more transactions) and faster confirmation times (because there are fewer empty spaces between blocks).

“If your network has zero mining centralization, there’s no one stopping you from having 1MB blocks… no one stopping you from having 10MB blocks,” says Voorhees.

Voorhees says that if your network has zero mining centralization, there’s no one stopping you from having 1MB blocks. “You can do that,” he says. “No one’s going to stop you.” The same goes for 10MB blocks or 100MB blocks if you want them–the only thing stopping you is the size of your blockchain and your ability to store it (and even then, solutions like IPFS exist).

But what about throughput? Won’t bigger block sizes slow down transactions? Not necessarily: Voorhees argues that an increase in transaction throughput would actually lead more people to use cryptocurrency because they could use their coins as intended–as digital cash rather than just speculative assets.

An unscalable blockchain would have very high values for both its block size metric and its time-to-miner metric.

To be scalable, a blockchain must have low values for both its block size metric and its time-to-miner metric.

An unscalable blockchain would have very high values for both its block size metric and its time-to-miner metric. For example, let’s say that the Ethereum network has 100 transactions per second (TPS) and 10 seconds per block. In this case:

  • The block size would be 100 TPS / 10 seconds = 10 transactions per second (TPS) per miner; and
  • The time it takes for a miner to add a block to the blockchain would be 1/10th of one second (0.1 sec), or 100 milliseconds (ms).

A blockchain with a high value for its Voorhees metric can only handle so much activity before its throughput comes up short.

The Voorhees metric is a good way to measure blockchain scalability. It helps us understand how much activity a blockchain can handle before its throughput comes up short.

The Voorhees metric has two components: the number of transactions per second (TPS) and the size of each transaction (in bytes). The more TPS that a blockchain can support, the higher its overall value will be on this scale; similarly, larger transaction sizes lower their scores because they take longer for miners to verify and add them to blocks.

For example, Ethereum currently supports about 20 TPS with an average transaction size around 1KB–meaning its Voorhees score is around 40 (20 x 1). That’s pretty low compared with other cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin Cash or Litecoin which have scores in excess of 100!

Conclusion

The Voorhees metric is useful because it gives us a way to compare the scalability of different blockchains. It’s not perfect, but it does give us some insight into how well a given blockchain can handle its own activity level.

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