Ethereum’s Casper, Sharding Upgrades to Launch Together Allowing Better Scalability and Security

Omar Faridi
  • Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin and the platform’s development team may decide to launch Casper and Sharding upgrades together, instead of separately as planned earlier.
  • New research has led Ethereum’s developers to consider launching Ethereum’s new proof-of-stake algorithm, Casper, through a shard (instead of a smart contract) to help reduce the cost of helping secure its network from 1,500 ETH to 32 ETH.

Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin recently stated during a meeting with the platform’s development team that there might be a change in the sequence in which the Sharding and Plasma upgrades are rolled out.

Buterin added that both the Sharding and Plasma updates would be activated side by side, and Ethereum’s developers suggested that Casper be launched via a sidechain, instead of through a smart contract, as had been planned before.

Buterin noted that "this is a substantial reworking of the intermediary steps in the roadmap, but of not the final product." Casper is Ethereum’s Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus protocol which aims to provide a more energy efficient alternative to the platform’s current Proof-of-Work based consensus algorithm.

Meanwhile, the primary objective behind the Sharding upgrade is to address Ethereum’s scalability issues. Per Buterin, once both Casper and Sharding have been incorporated into the Ethereum protocol, its blockchain will become much more efficient in terms of the number of transactions it can process per second. Network usage fees could significantly drop.

Scaling Ethereum

Commenting further on the upcoming upgrades, Buterin said that "this design can basically scale up to the theoretical maximum." Casper FFG, the most current version of Ethereum’s PoS, is now being tested through a smart contract called Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) 1011, which runs on the platform’s proprietary client software. Based on what was discussed during the meeting there might be a change of plans involving a new type of network design. 

The creator of EIP 1011, Danny Ryan, stated during the meeting:

"As someone who has been working on this, it took a second to digest and to be comfortable moving forward with, but I am totally okay with this, and think it gets us where we want to be sooner rather than later."

Danny Ryan

Reportedly, Ethereum’s developers are also considering not implementing anything related to Casper in the network’s upcoming Constantinople hard fork, which according to the Ethereum development team will occur within five months.

Nick Johnson, one of Ethereum’s main developers, clarified that the hard fork is geared toward "improvements that we have smoothed out and [are] ready to go, unrelated to [Casper]." Buterin added that launching Casper’s first version through a shard will significantly reduce the deposit required to play a role in securing Ethereum’s network.

In fact, the deposit amount was first set to 1,500 ETH (worth about $737,000) and could now go down to only 32 ETH (~$15,700). The Ethereum co-founder said, “regular individuals participating in staking becomes much more viable.” Notably, he also stated that this new method would enable Casper to be launched without directly affecting the Ethereum blockchain.

Justin Drake, an Ethereum developer, noted that Casper could help “unlock new functionality which radically changes the performance properties of the design.” Drake also noted that the new design would further enhance security on the Ethereum blockchain, because it will enable “animosity” among nodes.

It also appears that both Casper and Sharding will be interdependent, meaning that if a network is a Casper validator, then it will also have to be a Sharding validator, according to Drake. He further stated that "in general, there will be more unity between Casper and sharding, and the teams lobbying these projects. I think that's good, there will be more networks effects there."