Infrastructure-as-a-service firm Bison Trails has added support for yet another “Ethereum killer”: NEAR Protocol.
Inked Tuesday, Bison Trails will help host the newly launched NEAR Protocol’s validator set, currently consisting of over 150 nodes including some 40 of the project’s investors. The NEAR Foundation announced the closing of a $21.6 million sale of its NEAR token, led by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), on May 4.
“What we’re doing with it is helping people run their own NEAR validators and, if they don’t want to run a validator, they can delegate to the Bison Trails NEAR community validator,” Bison Trails protocol specialist Viktor Bunin told CoinDesk.
The NEAR Foundation launched its chain in stealth on April 22 under the Proof-of-Authority (PoA) consensus algorithm, which delegates the ability to approve transactions to the Foundation and token validators. Bison Trails will help launch validators while the network continues to execute its roadmap.
NEAR operates as a base layer for running decentralized applications (dapps) but is pinning its hopes on dynamic sharding technology to increase scalability.
Sharding breaks data into silos across a network, unlike traditional blockchains that store data on every computer, also referred to as a node, across the network. The technique is currently being explored for various blockchains to increase throughput, including Ethereum in a running project dubbed Eth 2.0.
Bison Trails will also be supporting NEAR’s dynamic sharding, which re-shuffles data across shards depending on network activity. While that feature has not yet been added, Bunin said it helps Bison Trails maintain its own network which now supports 11 networks.
“It’s perfect for us because [we] built our platform to support many validators simultaneously and make it incredibly easy to add new validators or scale down the validator count. It’s perfect for a network like NEAR when dynamic sharding is activated,” Bunin said.
NEAR Protocol co-founder Illia Polosukhin told CoinDesk the protocol will move into phases 1, 2 and 3 later this summer, inching the network to unrestricted mainnet and its Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus algorithm.
Polosukhin said the project has a few dozen professional validators – often hired by venture firms holding NEAR tokens – to execute transactions while the network remains in restricted mode. Those validators receive a stipend for running NEAR nodes to offset the costs associated with approving transactions until inflation rewards are allocated once the PoS network launches, he said.
Bison Trails was hired due to the ease of spinning up a NEAR node on its infrastructure, Polosukhin said.