Waterloo Researchers Speed up Blockchain to Meet Real-World Needs


Researchers have re-engineered a blockchain used around the world in a variety of industries and sectors to support almost seven times more transactions per second.

With a new series of optimizations, the researchers increased the volume of data that can be processed by the blockchain, Hyperledger Fabric, from 3,000 to 20,000 transactions per second.

More than 500 applications based on Hyperledger Fabric are at various stages of deployment around the world — everything from securing land registries to tracking diamond shipments to tracing the source of agricultural products. Among the most well-known applications of Hyperledger Fabric is IBM’s Food Trust, which uses the blockchain to make food supply chains safer and more sustainable.

“Hyperledger Fabric has many applications. Our goal was to accelerate them all by accelerating the engine underneath it,” said Christian Gorenflo, a PhD Candidate in the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science at the University of Waterloo. “Our modifications are completely under-the-hood. Fabric’s application programming interfaces and modularity stay intact, so existing applications work just as before.”

To make Hyperledger Fabric more practical in fast-paced sectors, such as e-commerce, its end-to-end transaction throughput has to improve. To speed up the blockchain, the researchers designed and implemented several architectural optimizations based on common system-design techniques. These improvements included the redesigning of its ordering service, transaction service, and data management layer – three steps that together increase transaction throughput and decrease the delay before a transfer of data begins following an instruction. 

“Increasing transactions throughput to 20,000 per second is a good start, but we would like to take Hyperledger Fabric even further,” said Professor Srinivasan Keshav, a professor in the Cheriton School of Computer Science.

Professor Lukasz Golab from Waterloo’s Department of Management Sciences added: “We are talking with major Fabric contributors at IBM who are keen to adopt our optimizations in the upcoming official releases and the reception by industry has been very positive.”

The researchers have also outlined several directions for future work, which, together with the optimization they propose, have the potential to accelerate Hyperledger Fabric to 50,000 transactions per second.

A paper detailing the work titled, FastFabric: Scaling Hyperledger Fabric to 20,000 Transactions per Second, authored by Waterloo’s Faculty of Mathematics researchers Gorenflo and Keshav, Faculty of Engineering’s Golab and PhD candidate Stephen Lee from the University of Massachusetts, will be presented at the 2019 IEEE International Conference on Blockchain and Cryptocurrency later this month.