Ethereum Node: Everything to Know
By Beluga Research November 6, 2023
- An Ethereum node is a computer that runs software to verify blocks and transaction data for the Ethereum blockchain
- Ethereum nodes perform the work that is necessary to build and secure the Ethereum blockchain
- There are different types of nodes: Full, archive and light, each with distinct storage and verification capabilities
- In 2022, Ethereum transitioned from the proof-of-work (PoW) to the proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus mechanism, to improve scalability and energy efficiency
An Ethereum node is a computer that runs software to verify blocks and transaction data for the Ethereum blockchain. The Ethereum blockchain also defines a node as any instance of Etherum client software that is connected to other computers which also run Ethereum software. Together, these computers form a network.
An Ethereum node must run two clients, an execution client and a consensus client. A client is a type of software that allows interaction with a network other than the node's network. The execution client listens to new transactions that are broadcast in the network and executes them in the program called Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). The consensus client implements the PoS consensus algorithm.
A Brief History
Computer programmer Vitalik Buterin proposed the Ethereum network in 2013. His goal was to expand the use and application of blockchain technology beyond financial transactions. Buterin then published a whitepaper in 2014 to introduce the concept of smart contracts. Buterin co-founded and helped launch Ethereum on July 30, 2015. Ethereum originally utilized the PoW consensus mechanism. In 2022, Ethereum switched to use a PoS consensus mechanism.
Ethereum Node: Everything to Know
Node Types: The three types of nodes are light, full and archive. A light node stores a subset of the blockchain. A full node stores the entire blockchain. It also validates transactions and executes smart contracts. An archive node maintains a historic record of all states of a block and transactions in it. An archive node goes beyond the work of a full node.
Syncing with the Blockchain: When a node joins Ethereum, it synchronizes with the blockchain to obtain the latest state. This process involves downloading and verifying each block. Once synced, the node stays updated by validating new blocks.
Transaction Validation: Nodes validate transactions by verifying authenticity, sender's funds and adherence to network rules. Validated transactions are added to the blockchain.
Smart Contract Execution: Ethereum nodes execute self-executing smart contracts stored on the blockchain. Nodes perform computations triggered by transactions, updating the blockchain. This ensures transparency and immutability.
Consensus Mechanisms: Ethereum's new consensus mechanism, PoS, relies on validators who hold and lock up cryptocurrency as collateral. Validators create blocks based on stake. If they engage in malicious behavior, they risk losing the cryptocurrency they have staked.
Network Upgrades: Ethereum undergoes regular upgrades for scalability, security and functionality. Upgrades introduce features and modify behavior. Nodes need to stay updated with the latest software versions to remain compatible.
- An Ethereum node is a computer that participates in the Ethereum network. The computer is a gateway that connects to other nodes and relays information. An entity that runs a node contributes to the Ethereum ecosystem. It enhances the network's overall health and security.
- A user must select which type of node they want to be. A full node offers higher security and decentralization. It requires more storage space and computational resources.
- Install the necessary software like Geth or Parity. The software provides tools for interacting with the Ethereum network.
- Synchronize the node with the Ethereum blockchain. This involves downloading and verifying all the blocks and transactions. This process can take time, depending on the user's node type and internet connection.
- Actively participate in the Ethereum network. A node receives and propagates transactions, validates blocks and executes smart contracts.
Ethereum nodes execute smart contracts. Such contracts are self-executing agreements written in code. They enable transaction automation and the creation of decentralized applications (dapps) on the Ethereum blockchain.
When a smart contract is deployed on the Ethereum blockchain, every participating node independently validates and executes its code. This distributed execution model ensures transparency and immutability. The results are replicated and verified by multiple nodes.
Use of PoS consensus mechanism. The PoS consensus mechanism is more energy-efficient and scalable than the PoW consensus mechanism. The switch to PoS helped Ethereum reduce its environmental impact and improve network performance.
- Decentralization: Ethereum nodes contribute to the decentralization of the network by distributing the blockchain's data and processing power across multiple nodes. This decentralized nature enhances security. It also reduces the risk of censorship or manipulation. Decentralization prevents any single entity from having complete control over the network.
- Security: The use of multiple nodes in the Ethereum network provides an added layer of security. Each node independently verifies and validates transactions. This ensures the accuracy and integrity of the blockchain. This cryptographic verification process makes it extremely difficult for malicious actors to tamper with the data stored on the Ethereum blockchain.
- Transparency: Ethereum nodes enable transparent and auditable transactions. Every transaction that occurs on the Ethereum blockchain is recorded and stored on the blockchain. The transactions are accessible to all nodes. Transparency ensures that transactions are visible to all participants. It promotes trust and accountability within the network.
- Consensus mechanism: PoS allows nodes to secure the network and validate transactions by locking up a certain amount of cryptocurrency as collateral.
- Smart contract execution: Ethereum nodes play a crucial role in executing smart contracts. They ensure the agreed-upon terms are met, which facilitates trustless interactions between parties.
- Scalability challenges: Ethereum nodes face challenges with scalability. This occurs as the network grows and the number of transactions increases. The issues result in delays in processing transactions and validating blocks. Congestion leads to slower transaction speeds and higher fees. The switch to PoS reduced congestion but has not eliminated it entirely.
- Resource requirements: Running an Ethereum node requires significant computational resources and storage capacity. As new transactions are added, the blockchain's size continues to grow. Nodes must store and synchronize a large amount of data. This can be a barrier to entry for individuals or organizations with limited resources. It can lead to centralization because only users with sufficient resources can participate as full or archive nodes.
- Network connectivity: Nodes in the Ethereum blockchain rely on stable and reliable internet connectivity to function effectively. Network disruptions or connectivity issues can cause a node to temporarily go offline or fail to synchronize with the rest of the network. This can impact the node's ability to validate transactions and participate in the consensus process.