back to article China unveils massive blockchain cluster running homebrew tech

China's ambition to record government and commercial activity on a blockchain has a new engine: a 1,000-server cluster in Beijing capable of handling 240 million smart contract transactions each second. The machine is notable for two reasons. One is that this rig uses homegrown tech. The cluster is linked to ChainMaker – a …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Now we're talking

    Finally a service based on Blockchain tech that is a) serious and b) not a scam.

    Looking forward to hearing about how said service handles itself in a country of 1+ billion possible users.

    That said, it appears to need a thousand servers to handle 240 million ops per second. I have no idea, but I'm guessing that a traditional database platform could handle that amount of activity with considerably less servers - or blockchain.

    I wonder what the server environment of the New York Stock Exchange is like ? I'm willing to bet they've got more than 240 million ops per second going on, and, from what I gather, it's pretty well traced as well.

    1. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: Now we're talking

      "Finally a service based on Blockchain tech that is a) serious and b) not a scam."

      Are you having a laugh? It will be used by the CCP to monitor and suppress the people of China, nothing more. So yes, it will be a scam.

      1. Black Label1
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Now we're talking

        "So yes, it will be a scam"

        If true, totally not a scam. It could even be used to integrate financial services across BRICS, to integrate CIPS+SPFS (thinking of an advanced version of SWIFT) - with friendly nations running their own nodes, all cryptographically-verifiable.

        Plenty of useful use cases, I cannot even imagine all of them. Kudos for China.

  2. mpi Silver badge

    Small question...

    Unless I misunderstood something, this is a centralized service, that stores things, transactions, whatever, right?

    What's the point of a blockchain, when the thing is centralized to begin with, and all connected parties have to trust that centralized entity? The whole point behind blockchains is that a) no central node is required, and b) no 2 parties have to trust each other. As soon as something is centralized anyway, SQL or noSQL database technology is faster, cheaper, and requires considerably less hardware.

    1. redpawn

      Re: Small question...

      But Blockchain is always the answer. Because Blockchain! It's a prestige issue to gain funding.

      1. Petalium

        Re: Small question...

        Blockchain is the new monorail!

    2. Andy 73 Silver badge

      Re: Small question...


      Whilst 240 million transactions a second do present serious engineering problems, a heavily hardware optimised, massively provisioned and centralised blockchain server appears to be almost precisely the hardest way to solve them.

      By comparison, the LMAX Disruptor (written in that painfully slow language, Java) handles 6 million transactions a second on a single thread of a standard general purpose CPU. If the Chinese numbers are to be believed, that's nearly two and a half thousand times more efficient than the deeply customised hardware they're throwing at the problem.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Small question...

        Not all "transactions" require equal computational effort. Comparing whatever China is doing with whatever this LMAX disruptor does is folly. Especially when we know blockchain transactions require quite a bit more effort than a "standard" database transaction.

        1. Andy 73 Silver badge

          Re: Small question...

          That's rather the point - a blockchain transaction does a whole host of things that is almost completely irrelevant if you're running a centralised "source of truth" as seems to be the case here.

          LMAX is a fully certified financial exchange handling millions of pounds worth of trading. It has to be trusted, is audited and is now a decade old technology. If the goal is to record local government activity as transactions, it sounds like a very comparable set of requirements. That's not to say there aren't probably a load of different wrinkles, but the point remains - centralised sources of truth do not need to perform the computationally expensive, hard to co-ordinate actions that blockchain solutions mandate.

          1. xeroks

            Re: Small question...

            a blockchain with a centralised authority doesn't require anywhere near the same computation. Yes, it's more than a plain old commit, but not much.

      2. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: Small question...

        Once you replace "the Chinese" by "a Chinese company" then everything makes more sense. There are a lot of entrepreneurs in China all looking for an angle, some secret sauce to sell. Just like in California, a place which has become synonymous with startup culture, among the really good ideas there will be a whole bunch of humdrum ones and some serious lemons.

        Its difficult to get a sense of scale but I was told that the Chinese middle classes outnumbers the entire population of the US.. Startups tend to follow the money and currently 'the country with the most loose capital waiting to be deployed is China (especially as more traditional places to park it -- the US, for example -- are proving problematical).

    3. xeroks

      Re: Small question...

      The only advantage I can see for blockchain here is that it makes transactions less modifyable than simple entries in a table.

      With table entries, someone with suitable access can edit that record however they wish. With blockchain - as i understand it - you'd have to roll that change right through all subsequent transactions.

      1. Natalie Gritpants Jr

        Re: Small question...

        So, almost the exact opposite of you would expect an autocracy to want. Or is it that the c*nts at the top don't trust the c*nts below them?

        1. xeroks

          Re: Small question...

          I don't think they trust anyone. This actually doesn't sound unreasonable, especially compared to the UK's constant requests to backdoor encryption.

  3. talk_is_cheap

    So they have built an audited database

    Centralized databases with audited insertion are nothing new, with the most basic just having a field with a CRC value generated from the current and previous record. This allows checks to make sure a record has not been changed.

    Blockchain tech is far more about doing all of this in a decentralized way, when you can't just throw together the fasted hardware that money can buy, on the fastest possible network, with the lowest possible latency.

    I'm guessing that all the CPU power is just there to handle the cryptography calculations needed for the claimed peak 240 million tps, so the scale of the system may just be due to limitations in the CPU core design being used.

  4. Colin Bain

    Un assuming

    The widespread assumption that blockchain is some kind of decentralised wizz tech was always a lie. If the transactions are recorded and linked, then anyone with the authority (i.e. the makers) will have total central control. No matter how many nodes, it is designed to be trackable.

    We must un assume the puffery.

    i.e. perfect for central control like wot China wants in every area of life. Becuase it is scary running things when people don't fall in to blockchain, I mean, line

    At least that is my understanding

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