Cassandra NoSQL database supplier DataStax has announced an Astra Block service to clone and store Ethereum blockchains in its Astra DB cloud database.
A blockchain is a decentralized distributed ledger recording transactions in a shared, immutable way in a peer-to-peer network with no central authority. Cryptographically protected chain linkages allow ledgers to be updated and viewed. An entire Ethereum blockchain can be cloned and stored in AstraDB, and is then updated in real time as new blocks are mined. DataStax claims this streamlines and transforms the process of building and scaling Web3 applications. It plans to expand this Astra Block service to other blockchains in the future, based on user demand.
Ed Anuff, chief product officer at DataStax, said: “These distributed ledgers open up a whole new world of innovation similar to what we saw with digital content 20 years ago or social media 15 years ago – that is, the possibilities are only limited by our imaginations. Crypto currencies, non-fungible tokens, and smart contracts have drawn a lot of attention, but there are many other areas that will benefit from blockchain innovation: healthcare, real estate, IoT, cybersecurity, music, identity management, and logistics, to name a few.”
DataStax says its new service allows advanced querying and real-time analytics to be run at sub-second speeds, enabling developers to build blockchain-based functionalities into their applications. For example, developers can build applications with the capability to analyze any transaction from the entire blockchain history, including crypto or NFTs, for instant, accurate insights.
Blockchain computations are compute-intensive and it can take seconds to to access blockchain data. The ability to analyze and track blockchain transactions is difficult, making many use cases untenable – particularly real-time ones. DataStax says that, according to Gartner’s 2022 Hype Cycle for Blockchain and Web3, “By 2024, 25 percent of enterprises will interact with their customers or partners using decentralized Web3 applications.” But developers have struggled to access this data, having to resort to hundreds of API connections, building their own indexers, and manually managing the data infrastructure.
Astra Block removes these problems by, ironically, providing a centralized copy of the decentralized blockchain – thus subverting blockchain’s design philosophy.
Centralized vs decentralized
Peter Greiff, data architect leader, DataStaxl, said in answer to this point: “Astra Block is not about centralizing blockchain data but addressing some of the dilemmas that developers of Web3 distributed applications, or dApps, have with using those distributed ledgers – accessing that data is hard, slow and expensive.”
Grief reckons “Astra Block provides a solid base for a hybrid architecture for your dApp, using Astra Block for very low latency reads to access data and then writing info and data back to the blockchain distributed ledger directly. Astra Block manages the cloning of the chain into an operational database for dApp reads to be performed. Then, you’re only writing back the absolute minimum necessary to the chain. Those transactions might be slow and expensive compared to the transactions taking place in Astra Block, but you are still using that distributed approach where you need it.”
So: “DataStax operates blockchain nodes for its customers, and whenever a new block is mined, Astra Block detects that event, processes it, and does all the enrichment. Your Astra account is kept up to date with that data via built in CDC (change data capture) synchronization. Block is able to use CDC for Astra DB to propagate any further change events to your Astra Block database.”
He asserted that: “You get all the features you would expect from a cloud-managed database, like a multi-tenant system, globally distributed, push button cloud clusters, intelligent auto scaling, and Data API Gateways, and then you can combine that with the fully distributed and trusted approach that blockchain or distributed ledger deployments can offer.”
Customer Elie Hamouche, founder of Clearhash, says: “AstraDB with Astra Block removes much of the complexity that comes with collecting and storing unbounded blockchain datasets to power real-time analytics workloads.”
The free tier of AstraDB offers a 20GB partial blockchain dataset to get started. The paid tier gives developers the ability to clone the entire blockchain, which is then updated in real time as new blocks are mined.
Microsoft and Ankr
Separately, Ankr and Microsoft have partnered to provide a reliable, easy-to-use blockchain node hosting service. The enterprise node deployment service will offer global, low-latency blockchain connections for any Web3 project or developer. Ankr and Microsoft intend making this service available soon through Microsoft’s Azure marketplace, providing a readily accessible gateway to blockchain infrastructure.
Customers will be able to launch enterprise-grade blockchain nodes with custom specifications for global location, memory, and bandwidth. When it’s launched, customers will be able to optimize data querying for high levels of speed and reliability on their choice of dozens of different blockchains with serverless functionality utilizing GeoIP, failovers, caching rules, and monitoring. They can track the performance of their nodes anytime, anywhere. Enterprise RPC clients can access usage data and advanced telemetry across 38+ blockchains.