The US Patent and Trademark Office has published a patent filed by Intel that describes an automated method to verify a block record for a digital ledger. The patent titled “Technology for secure partitioning and updating of a distributed digital ledger” suggests a method to securely partition a DLS so that some or all of the scalability issues faced by a monolithic, unpartitioned DLS are avoided.
Intel’s patent explains the automated block record verification as follows.
The system involves a first validation node (FVN) which receives a block record from a second validation node (SVN). The block record will include a digital signature. Once a block record is received, the FVN will automatically obtain a node identifier for the SVN, based on the digital signature. The first validator node will use the node identifier for the SVN to determine whether the SVN belongs to a validation group that comprises the FVN. The FVN will also use an attestation service to determine whether the node identifier for the SVN belongs to a node with a trusted processor. The FVN will determine whether the digital signature for the block record was created with a private key that corresponds to the node identifier for the SVN.
To facilitate secure partitioning of a DLS, each node in the DLS uses trusted execution hardware to create a unique, unspoofable node identifier for itself. Those node identifiers are then used to securely assign nodes to validation groups. Each validation group handles a subset of the transaction processing and storage for the overall DLS. Consequently, the DLS avoids scalability issues that are normally faced by an unpartitioned DLS.
The system is different from the traditional mining method used by a Bitcoin blockchain in the sense that the latter depends on a network of nodes to verify and record transactions in exchange for block rewards.
The image below is an example of a distributed computing system that provides for secure partitioning of a distributed ledger.
Intel has also made a distinction between distributed ledger and blockchain. In its patent, Intel has stated that although a blockchain has been used to explain the system, in reality, the technology can be used for other types of distributed ledgers.
The system also demands pre-programming the computers using certain parameters to define the block validation process. The patent also states that distributed ledgers may not be the best choice for data storage.
The patent states
“Distributed ledgers have inherent scalability issues. When all of the validators in a DLS must have a copy of all transactions, all of the transactions must be broadcast to all of the validators. These broadcasted transactions create a very large number of network messages, on the order of (a) the number of validators in the DLS times (b) the number of transactions. Furthermore, at least one validator must then assemble a group of valid transactions into a block and b roadcast that block to all other validators. Such broadcasted blocks also create a large number of network messages. And when each validator must permanently store all transactions, the DLS can impose significant storage requirements. Consequently, a DLS may not scale well due to factors such as the number of messages and the number transactions.”