Komodo: Introducing A Multi-Chain Architecture to the Blockchain Industry

DanielJuly 12, 2018

The term “platform” has come to dominate many discussions about adopting blockchain technology. While blockchain platforms have enormous potential, it’s not always clear what services they can provide or what the underlying architectural design really looks like.

As we will soon see, not all blockchain platforms are created equally. Most first-generation platforms are really just a single blockchain with support for smart contracts and decentralized applications (dApps). All of the projects that build upon a single-chain smart contract platform must all share the same infrastructure.

This stands in stark contrast to Komodo's mutli-chain architecture, which gives every business a sovereign and composable Smart Chain. Each Smart Chain has its own rules for blockchain consensus, its own peer to peer network, and its own currency. There's no forced dependence on the KMD blockchain or the KMC coin. Moreover, each Smart Chain comes with a built-in library of modules that can be activated on demand, as well as the option to code custom modules that run directly on the Smart Chain's daemon. There's no virtual machine to deal with, which means that these modules don't require any gas fees. There's also much fatser and more secure than the smart contracts of single-chain platforms.

With all of these advanced technologies in one ecosystem, Komodo is redefining what it means to be a blockchain platform.

multi-chain architecture banner image

The Origins Of Blockchain Technology

On January 3, 2009, the very first block in the Bitcoin blockchain was mined. This event sparked the eruption of blockchain technology that followed, forever changing the way we think about money and currency.

The advent of Bitcoin was Blockchain 1.0. It was the very first iteration of this revolutionary technology. While absolutely groundbreaking, Bitcoin was not without its flaws.

For example, the BTC blockchain is slow and mines just one block every ten minutes. Each block can only contain, at the very most, 1 Mb of data. As a result, the BTC blockchain can only process about 7 transactions per second.

In addition, the Bitcoin Script used to process transactions is not Turing complete. This prevents infinite loops from congesting the Bitcoin network, but it also makes it impossible to develop decentralized applications or contract-based transfers of digital assets.

The Emergence Of Blockchain Platforms

A few years after the creation of Bitcoin, hundreds of new blockchain projects began to emerge. Their aim was to improve upon the various shortcomings of Bitcoin and make it easier for developers to start using blockchain technology. This new wave of blockchain projects was Blockchain 2.0.

Several of these startups made it possible for developers with no prior knowledge of blockchain to develop dApps on a pre-existing blockchain infrastructure. For this reason, some Blockchain 2.0 projects are called “platforms.”

This first generation of platforms brought significant innovations to the blockchain industry. In particular, they made it possible to create tokens, easily hold an ICO, implement smart contracts, and develop dApps, all without needing to launch a blockchain.

The logical consequence of this model is that each of the first-generation platforms is merely a single blockchain with the option to build decentralized applications on top. This shared-blockchain model is the architectural foundation of single-chain platforms. It forces every project built on a single-chain platform to share the same blockchain.

Accordingly, a huge influx in adoption for any one project inevitably causes severe congestion for the entire network. Thus, as single-chain platforms experienced rapid success, two fundamental limitations were exposed in the underlying blockchain architecture: scalability and interoperability.

The Limitations Of Single-Chain Platforms

The scalability issue is plain enough: the more any particular single-chain platform is used, the slower and more expensive it becomes. The optimal scenario for any one project is for no other projects to use the same platform upon which they are built.

This is quite literally the opposite of a scalable solution. A platform should become cheaper and faster as more projects use it or, at the very least, maintain a steady level of performance. Becoming less usable with increased adoption is a recipe for failure.

As for blockchain interoperability, the challenges are also somewhat obvious. If a project creates tokens and builds a dApp on a particular blockchain platform, it is literally tethered to the platform. The project’s tokens will often have just one trading pair: the coins native to the platform on which they were created.

This technical limitation often means that two users who own two different assets built on the same platform cannot exchange with one another.

If Bob holds Token A, created on Platform Z, and Alice holds Token B, also built on Platform Z, Alice and Bob can’t trade. They would need to first swap their tokens for the platforms native coin and then swap again for the other token desired. So the trading process would be [Token A] —> [Coin Z] —> [Token B] rather than simply [Token A] —> [Token B].

And this is to say nothing of tokens created on different platforms or native coins of a blockchain that uses a different protocol. Things only become more complicated and less sensible.

For a blockchain platform to be truly useful, there must be complete interoperability. A user should have the ability to trade any coin or token directly for any other coin or token in existence. 

Komodo Platform Is Born

At the beginning of 2016, Komodo’s Lead Developer, James ‘jl777’ Lee, was developing a project called SuperNET on Nxt, one of the very first blockchain platforms.

The Nxt development team implemented major adjustments to the codebase without consulting any of the projects built on the Nxt platform. The changes broke SuperNET’s backend tech, requiring hundreds of hours of work to repair the damage.

This event turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it made yet another major limitation of the single-blockchain platform model perfectly clear: a lack of control over crucial decisions about the functioning of the platform itself.

In response, jl777 issued the following statement:

Declaration of Independence

We the asset holders hereby declare our independence from any single blockchain.

An open and jointly developed specification on cross-chain atomic asset transfers will be developed. Any current or future blockchain is invited to join. Each blockchain will need to not only promise protections for asset holder interests, they need to live up to them. Otherwise, all the assets will simply move to blockchains that do.….

This is an interop standards effort and it needs to be blockchain agnostic and asset centric.

James ‘jl777’ Lee

February 21, 2016

This declaration shows that jl777 saw the obstacles facing the blockchain industry long before most. Not only did he understand these challenges, jl777 had a vision for a solution: an interoperable blockchain platform with an architecture that provides ever project with its own independent blockchain.

In accordance with jl777’s vision, the Komodo Platform was born. With a strong focus on the principles of independence, autonomy, and collaboration, the Komodo team sought to create a fully-decentralized and open-source blockchain ecosystem.

The objective was to design an independent blockchain architecture that would allow all blockchain projects to avoid the shortcomings of the original, single-blockchain platform model.

Now, two and a half years since jl777’s Declaration of Independence, Komodo Platform has made enormous progress towards accomplishing these foundational goals.

Welcome to Blockchain 3.0.

The 3 Layers Of Komodo's Multi-Chain Architecture

The architecture of Komodo Platform is unique among blockchain platforms. To better understand how, let's take a closer look at the 3 layers of Komodo Platform's infrastructure architecture.

Layer 1: Komodo Core

The foundation of Komodo Platform's architecture is the network layer. 64 publicly elected notary nodes perform a number of tasks to make the network layer function. This is the backbone of Komodo's architecture and it focuses on three properties: security, scalability, and interoperability.

I. Security

Many newly-launched blockchains have an extremely low hashrate, making them vulnerable to 51% attacks. This is never a concern for blockchains launched on Komodo Platform. That's because Komodo’s security mechanism, delayed Proof of Work (dPoW), protects every chain in the ecosystem with the hash rate of the Bitcoin network. 

Every ten minutes, Komodo's notary nodes take a snapshot of all the chains in the Komodo ecosystem. This records the balance of every single address. Then, the notary nodes write this snapshot into a block on the Bitcoin blockchain.

In essence, dPoW functions as a form of 2FA for blockchain projects. A potential attacker would need to take down both the BTC and KMD networks at the same time before they could alter, disrupt, or destroy any chain on Komodo Platform. 

II. Scalability

Many single-chain platforms have a high enough hash rate to provide a reasonable level of security to the projects that build upon them. However, this security comes at the cost of independence and scalability.

Komodo provides both security and independent scalability. For starters, every project on Komodo Platform receives a native, independent blockchain. There is no shared infrastructure and thus no congestion. The activity on one chain cannot and will not affect the performance of any other chain in the ecosystem.

In addition, Komodo offers on-demand scalability features that no other platform can boast. Komodo allows multiple blockchains to sync up and function as a single chain. In the vast majority of cases, one independent Smart Chain is sufficient but, if growth is being limited by a single blockchain, more chains can be added to boost performance.

Think of it as upgrading from a one-cylinder engine to a two-cylinder or four-cylinder engine. In both cases, there is just one engine but horsepower increases as more pistons are added. On Komodo Platform, it's possible to add more pistons (blockchains) whenever more power is needed.

At the same time, each chain processes transactions independently, so the activity on one chain cannot and will not affect the activity of any other chain in the ecosystem. As a result, Komodo can process more than 20,000 transactions per second. The next scaling test will publicly demonstrate a total of 1 Million transactions per second.

III. Interoperability

The first step to blockchain interoperability is atomic swap technology. Atomic swaps are peer-to-peer exchanges of cryptocurrency that allow users to retain control of their private keys throughout the entire trading process. Komodo’s world leading atomic swap technology supports swaps between 95% of all cryptocurrencies in existence.

The next big step in blockchain interoperability is cross-chain fungibility. With a combination of Merkle Tree proofs and an innovative burn protocol that holds coin supply constant, Komodo’s tech permits cross-chain transfers of value that require neither trades nor swaps. There is complete interoperability among all the synced chains that exist on Komodo Platform.

As Komodo continues to prepare and develop for the future, these interoperability features will be extended to any blockchain in existence, whether or not it was launched on Komodo Platform. This new blockchain bridging technology is still in development but, once released, will connect the entire blockchain industry.

Layer 2: Smart Chains

The second layer of Komodo’s architecture represents the “building blocks” that serve as the backend infrastructure of the projects that build within the ecosystem. 

Komodo originated as a fork from ZCash, the well-known privacy coin, and retained the zk-SNARK protocol, which enables zero-knowledge proofs and provides absolute privacy. Other features, such as the Delayed Proof of Work (dPoW) security mechanism described above, were added into the codebase of the KMD blockchain.

The KMD chain serves as a master template from which every other blockchain in our ecosystem is generated. Independent blockchains on Komodo Platform are called Smart Chains, and each one is a runtime fork of the KMD chain. That means every Smart Chain is endowed with zero-knowledge proof privacy features and the protection of dPoW security. 

Moreover, all new updates to the KMD blockchain get pushed to all the Smart Chains on the platform. As Komodo continues to develop new technologies, they are distributed throughout the ecosystem. This future-proofs every project and allows you to build on Komodo with peace of mind.

Smart Chains on Komodo Platform are also equipped with a number of modular features that allow you to customize your blockchain. From permissioned and permissionless privacy options to the ability to set custom mining rewards, Komodo Platform provides flexibility to meet individual needs.

Layer 3: Integration Layer

The third and final layer of Komodo Platform’s architecture is UTXO-based smart contract support. This is the final layer, as optimally designing the first two infrastructure layers took precedent.

Komodo's smart contracts are based on the UTXO of the Bitcoin protocol and hardcoded into the Komodo code base. This has a few important benefits.

First, UTXO-based smart contracts can be written in C, C++, or any other compiled programming language that can create a linkable library capable of calling and being called by C/C++ functions. In that sense, Komodo’s UTXO-based smart contracts are language agnostic. This also means Komodo's smart contracts are Turing complete and can be programmed to do just about anything.

Second, UTXO-based smart contracts are more secure than balance-based smart contracts. Since Komodo’s smart contracts are UTXO-based, the entire balance of an address is never at risk. This is not the case with balance-based smart contracts, which are linked to an address itself.

Third, UTXO-based smart contracts are essentially an extension of Bitcoin protocol so a series of RPC calls can be established. This will make it extremely easy to customize and implement UTXO-based smart contracts. Eventually, once enough RPC calls have been created, it will become possible to build dApps based solely on RPC calls.

Finally, UTXO-based smart contracts do not require “gas” or any sort of fee for every process executed. Instead, there is just a single transaction fee for moving the UTXO into a smart contract (and one more for moving the funds once the conditions of the contract are fulfilled). This makes complex apps possible and financially feasible.

Redefining The Architecture Of Blockchain Platforms

As the world's leading innovator of blockchain technology, Komodo Platform is truly a platform of platforms. Komodo's unique architecture gives every project the opportunity to build their very own blockchain platform.

There is no limit to the number of chains that one project can host, nor is there a limit to how far one project can scale. Each and every blockchain within the ecosystem is interoperable with all the other chains. And each chain can support smart contracts, including the ability to tokenize at a ratio of one native to as many as 100 Million tokens. The possibilities are endless.

Komodo Platform offers blockchain solutions that give developers, startups, entrepreneurs, enterprise leaders, and existing blockchain possibilities the technology they need to innovate and grow. The architecture is designed to allow every project to develop without limitations. In this way, Komodo has redefined what it means to be a blockchain platform.