Parity Technologies, the blockchain infrastructure company co-founded by Gavin Wood and known for its Parity Ethereum client, today launched the beta for its open-source blockchain development framework, Substrate 1.0. With a generic architecture, Substrate is designed to give developers "maximum technical freedom" to create their blockchains how they see fit. Jack Platts, director of communications at the Web3 Foundation, told ETHNews, "Substrate is to blockchains what Ethereum was to Dapps."
The Substrate stack is comprised of three key components: Substrate Core, the Substrate Runtime Module Library (SRML), and Substrate Node. As the name suggests, Substrate Core provides the foundation needed to build a blockchain. Core parts include, but are not limited to, a light client, storage, and a crypto primitives library. Further, developers can plug in their own consensus mechanisms and connect to other chains via Polkadot.
Aura/GRANDPA consensus is included in the box, but there will be more consensus mechanisms to choose from. Platts noted that Ouroboros and proof of work are coming soon. Plus, Parity maintains that Substrate will make consensus "hot-swappable" in a later version, meaning already deployed blockchains can switch their consensus mechanisms.
The SRML offers a suite of modules builders can choose from to implement into their chains. For example, the Accounts & Balances module enables cryptocurrency functionality, whereas the Staking module equips a chain with proof-of-stake logic. In addition to these modules, developers can write chain logic in any WebAssembly-compatible programming language, such as Rust (which is what Parity Ethereum uses), Go, or C.
Substrate Node, the final key component, is simply used to deploy the blockchain.
Although the multichain platform Polkadot (also developed by Parity) is related to Substrate, the technologies are inherently different. Projects built on Substrate can run on Polkadot to interoperate with other chains, but this is not a requirement. Essentially, Polkadot is a protocol that developers building on Substrate have the option to connect to. "They're designed to work together," said Wood.
It's important to note as well that Polkadot is supported by the Web3 Foundation, another organization founded by Wood.
The Substrate framework, while a major release for the Parity team, hearkens to the Truffle Suite, a toolkit containing front-end libraries, a personal blockchain, and a development environment that uses the Ethereum Virtual Machine. Truffle is a spoke of the blockchain company ConsenSys.
There have been various proofs of concept leading up to the Substrate 1.0 beta. The first release, dubbed PoC-1, hit GitHub on May 18 of this year. With the beta out in the wild, Wood is optimistic about what this means for the future of blockchain development:
"I really hope that by pushing out Substrate, we can create a whole new class of sort of development teams and development applications that sit right in the sweet spot between the two where you don't have to know everything, you don't have to do everything to develop your whole new blockchain, but you can do just enough … that wouldn't have been possible before because smart contracts are too bloaty, and writing your own chain is too much work."