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Solana passed scalability test despite outages, analyst says

source-logo  crypto.news 12 April 2024 15:16, UTC

As Solana faces another outage, crypto.news talks with experts about its impact and what it could mean for the system’s future.

Since its inception, the Solana network has emerged as a leading player in the blockchain scene, promising lightning-fast transactions and low fees. However, behind its meteoric rise lies a series of outages that have raised questions about its dominance in the proof-of-stake (PoS) scene.

A historical battle with hours-long outages

On Sept. 14, 2021, Solana encountered one of its first significant disruptions during the token offering of Grape Protocol, resulting in a staggering 17-hour outage. This incident foreshadowed future challenges as resource depletion and halted blockchain validation brought trading, staking, and lending projects to a standstill.

The following year, 2022, proved to be tumultuous for Solana, marked by a flurry of outages. From Jan. 6 to 12, the network grappled with six major disruptions, primarily due to a surge in compute transactions that compromised network performance.

1/ The Solana Network is currently experiencing degraded performance due to an increase in high compute transactions, which is reducing network capacity to several thousand transactions per second. This is leading to some failed transactions for users.

— Solana Status (@SolanaStatus) January 6, 2022

The situation escalated on Jan. 21 and 22, 2022, when a prolonged outage lasting for a combined 29 hours occurred, attributed to bots overwhelming the network and hindering consensus.

On April 30, 2022, Solana experienced a two-hour block production halt due to stalled consensus. Just a day later, the blockchain suffered a seven-hour outage caused by an influx of transactions from NFT minting bots.

As the year progressed, Solana continued to face challenges, with an extended downtime on June 1, 2022, lasting approximately four and a half hours.

One of the most alarming outages occurred on Sept. 30, 2022, when the Mainnet Beta ceased operation. This extensive downtime was followed by another six-hour blackout on Oct. 1, 2022, caused by a misconfigured node.

In 2023, Solana encountered a solitary major downtime on Feb. 25, lasting 19 hours, due to congestion within its primary block-propagation protocol, Turbine. Solana ran through the rest of the year without major outages.

This year has seen another significant outage on Feb. 6, lasting around five hours. Most recently, Solana witnessed congestion issues, triggering massive delays in transactions, with some failing. Anza Network disclosed plans to fix these issues in an April 5 statement.

“Unacceptable for a blockchain”

With Solana now facing another setback, crypto.news discussed the potential effect of these outages on Solana’s dominance with Max Shannon, an analyst at CoinShares.

Shannon clarified that the recent failed transactions were not necessarily outages but rather a result of implementation bugs in the networking stack responsible for processing the blockchain’s transactions.

He acknowledged Solana’s history of outages as one of its major disadvantages but noted the developer community’s efforts to address scalability issues. However, Shannon cautioned that these fixes might not fully resolve the issues until later in the year with the launch of Firedancer, a scalability solution for the Solana network.

Playnance CTO Roman Levi, in a conversation with crypto.news, had a more critical opinion. Levi expressed concerns about the frequency of Solana’s outages, noting that the network has experienced multiple serious incidents over the past two years.

He called attention to delays and dropped transactions during periods of high network congestion, which affected user experience. Levi called it “unacceptable for a blockchain that aims to be an industry leader.”

“This creates unpredictability in the network’s operation and raises significant questions about its long-term stability. You can spend significant resources building on Solana, but it would be frustrating if it all crumbled later on.”

Playnance CTO Roman Levi told crypto.news.
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Ethereum’s Dencun heats up the competition

Despite its recurrent outages, Solana still commands a massive user base, with its defi total value locked (TVL) having surged 1,192% from about $500 million last year to the current figure of $6.43 billion, according to data from DefiLlama.

Meanwhile, the Ethereum blockchain has continued to push upgrades toward maintaining its dominance. Despite being initially touted as an “Ethereum killer,” Solana has not displaced the premier smart contracts network.

Ethereum boasts a defi TVL of $59.29 billion, over nine times bigger than Solana’s. Now, Ethereum looks to steal Solana’s thunder with the release of Dencun, which helps its layer-2 (L2) solutions rival Solana’s low-fee brag.

Crypto.news reported last month that several Ethereum L2 networks saw their fees drop drastically after implementing blob transactions. This could challenge Solana’s offerings.

According to Levi, Solana could compete with Ethereum thanks to its fast and cheap transactions. However, the network lags in addressing scalability and reliability concerns to challenge Ethereum’s dominance effectively. He added:

“We’ve seen high transaction fees and longer wait times [on Ethereum] but never outages of this kind. The stable operation of Ethereum L1 has laid the foundation for the development of numerous second and third-layer solutions.”

However, Shannon believes Solana still stands a chance at competing with Ethereum despite its outages. According to the CoinShares analyst, Solana brings more to the table than just cheap fees. He stressed that the blockchain boasts little fragmentation when it comes to user experience, liquidity, and tooling — a recurrent issue with Ethereum L2s.

Solana’s meme coin craze: a scalability test?

Perhaps these selling points attracted the recent meme coin craze that the network has witnessed in recent times, as meme coin developers and proponents flood the chain.

The Solana meme coin ecosystem started gaining traction with the success of Bonk (BONK).

Since then, Solana has welcomed multiple successful meme coin projects, including dogwifhat (WIF), Myro (MYRO), and analoS (ANALOS).

New Solana-based meme coins have raised millions with informal pre-sales on X in a matter of days, with some projects rugging their early investors.

However, these few cases of rugpulls have not impacted investor confidence, as market participants look to jump on the next successful meme coin project. Shannon believes this flood of meme coins and the ensuing adoption has been a scalability test for Solana.

Despite Solana’s recent issues with delayed and failed transactions, Shannon says the network has passed this scalability test with flying colors. He noted:

“The resulting outages were not scalability-related; more code implementation in the architecture and execution packets are being worked on. Further, the meme coin craze improves Solana’s brand exposure to many more users globally.”

While Solana continues to attract developers and users with its promising features, as evidenced in the recent meme coin mania, the persistent outages and network issues pose significant challenges to the goal of overtaking Ethereum as the dominant smart contracts platform.

Neither Solana Labs nor the Solana Foundation responded to crypto.news’ requests for comment.

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