How should a blockchain's performance be measured?
As businesses begin asking this question in earnest, the open-source, Linux-led Hyperledger project has announced a new Performance and Scalability Working Group (PSWG) aimed at measuring how the various available blockchains will perform as their popularity and usage increases.
Leading the effort is Mark Wagner, a senior principal software engineer at Red Hat who has 15 years experience in performance and scalability. Red Hat was one of the founding members of Hyperledger, and at the end of 2016, Wagner became the software company’s representative on the project.
Wagner explained one of the expected results of the group's work will be to maintain a matrix of the key performance metrics and corresponding data for different blockchain implementations. The data is planned to help end users better choose the right platform to fit their needs.
As Wagner envisions it, the group will eventually develop a suite of downloadable kits anyone can use to test distributed ledger platforms, such as Hyperledger, Corda and Quorum, as well as public blockchains, like bitcoin and ethereum.
He told CoinDesk:
PSWG, which has 20 members so far, held its first meeting on 22nd May. Moving forward, the group plans to meet twice a month. PSWG is one of several Hyperledger working groups, all of which anyone can join.
Setting the scope
While often thought of as one and the same, performance and scalability aren't synonymous – performance refers to how long it takes a system to process a request, while scalability relates to a system's ability to handle an increase in workload, such as when new users are added to a system.
Why is this important? Because evidence is compelling that scaling cannot be an afterthought – it needs to be a part of the system architecture right from the start.
Bitcoin, for example, has become a poster child for the types of problems that can emerge when a network is not built to scale. Following massive growth, transaction processing times are taking longer and costing more, and the community is divided on how to address the issue (if they believe it's an issue at all).
While it's working with multiple distributed ledger platforms, Hyperledger nonetheless faces similar problems in its attempt to empower a diversity of stakeholders.
To measure performance and scalability in a meaningful way, everyone must be working within a common framework, otherwise, it becomes difficult to compare notes.
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