Blockchain Node

Blockchain development is a complicated process, and many concepts might be unfamiliar to those who are just getting into it. Understanding nodes and the role that they play in a blockchain stack is elemental. At first, confusion may arise, and it is an expected outcome; however, slowly getting into the weeds of all these things becomes easier as you get more and more familiar. 

First, we need to understand what nodes and node providers are. So, what are nodes in a blockchain?


Blockchain nodes 

This is super basic when it comes to blockchain. Essentially a node is like a program that runs on a computer allowing the user to connect with other blockchain networks. It helps you connect with different nodes and pass information around. A node also ensures that transaction checks and their exchange are valid and stores essential data and information regarding the blockchain state. 

One interesting fact about blockchain networks is that the framework of the network is made only of nodes. Ethereum, bitcoin, and other blockchain have to run on physical hardware. This hardware is basically just a collection of all the nodes running around various parts of the world by an individual. It is a decentralized network which means there is no owner, no source, and no single individual operator. Another important point that needs mentioning is that you cannot access the data or the information within a blockchain without the utilization of a node. 

How do you interact with a node?

The interaction is conducted by either receiving responses or sending them from the note through the use of an API. When you send a request, it will ask your note to return a block number (usually, the latest block number is returned). 

Difficulty of running a node 

Several difficulties make personal node development a hassle. 

The crux of developing a node is that it takes a lot of time, and then you also have to set it up. Most often, these nodes end up being a tool that doesn’t directly contribute to your main project. This can be significantly demotivating as you spend a lot of time setting something up that is going to be useless for you. 

Light Nodes and Full Nodes

Nodes can be categorized into either light nodes or full nodes. 

Light nodes are able to sync only the block headers, and they request from the full nodes for other queries and full nodes, on the other hand, keep entire information regarding the blockchain state (essentially every transaction that ever happened). So while you can make do with light nodes for most queries, the full nodes serve as the backbone of any blockchain.

At present, light-nodes have gotten relatively simpler, but they do require the installation of the node program. Then you also have to configure the variables, check ports, download block headers, and check health to ensure that everything is operating smoothly. 

The situation is much more complicated when it comes to a full node. The biggest issue is that it needs to download all the nodes from scratch and then manually replay all blocks and submit millions of transactions. Take Ethereum, for example; there are over tens of millions of blocks and over billions of transactions. The syncing process, as a result, may take weeks. 

What are note providers? 

As their name suggests, providers are like teams who provide you with nodes. They allow you to focus on your actual project by creating your nodes. They also maintain the nodes and take care of the technical side of things. Node providers provide you with a way to access information within a blockchain without needing to run your node.

When you are sending a request to a local node, the typical nodes allow you to communicate with the blockchain network. Still, when you are utilizing the help of a node provider, your request is received by a provider who offers an identical API that uses a full-synced node that is available all the time and is constantly being updated. 

Things a solid provider will provide

Consistency: Perhaps one of the most important factors is consistency when it comes to handling different tricky problems. When you are using Infura, consistency can often be an issue that needs to be checked upon. 

Access: A good node provider provides light and full nodes access. The nodes are regularly updated and allow you to focus on your task without worrying about network changes. Also, you should get access to archive nodes for the historical transaction. 

Reliability: A good provider will provide you with nodes that are available whenever you want and are compatible and scalable. 

Summary

While there are lots of confusing aspects to the blockchain, setting up nodes and their up-keep is one of the most difficult tasks and having a node provider helps alleviate almost all of it. It is also important to mention that node providers are many, and not all of them provide services that you will be satisfied with. Therefore, choosing a node provider for that very reason takes center stage if you do not want the unnecessary hassle. 

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