An Introduction to Lava Network

Lava

Apr 25, 2024

3 min read

An Introduction to Lava Network

Lava is the first modular data access layer for blockchains. Lava network introduces so-called specs: a modular primitive that lets contributors permissionlessly add support for new chains and data services to the base protocol. 

The problem

Onboarding new users and dApps remains an unsolved challenge in the blockchain landscape. Ecosystems have found new ways to fill this gap, such as working with major node providers or coordinating volunteer node runners to offer a free service called Public RPC.

These solutions, however, lead to centralized control over traffic flow - as in Ethereum - or a fragmented public RPC setup that is under-maintained and unreliable.

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This systemic issue has resulted in a broken and inefficient infrastructural landscape that leaves some ecosystems heavily permissioned by a small handful of providers, and other ecosystems unable to serve demand reliably. New rollups must bootstrap an RPC network from scratch or pay significant fees to providers.

The majority of high-profile Mainnet launches still see significant issues with RPC downtime. Providers are often hacked, and censorship issues abound on Ethereum, where node providers hold the power to block transactions and access to specific smart contracts.

Solution

Lava is a modular network of node operators that dynamically supports and scales in-demand chains and APIs, while the protocol seamlessly sends your requests to the best available node. The first service module on Lava is RPC, available across 30+ chains, including Ethereum, Near, Optimism, Avalanche, Axelar, and Solana. 

Lava's infrastructure overview. Image source: Lava Documentation page.

With Lava, data consumers get easy, fast, and reliable access to 30+ chains. The protocol incentivizes providers to offer performant services and algorithmically pairs consumers with the best node available. This means you can add any chain's RPC module to Lava, and the network of node operators will optimize, scale, and decentralize the traffic.

On the other side of the spectrum, data providers (RPC node runners, indexers, etc.) are also incentivized to join Lava to reach more developers and to monetize their existing infrastructure. Currently, Lava has 250+ providers on the Lava testnet, including large providers such as Blockdaemon.

Lava Specifications or "specs"

Specs are modules that extend Lava beyond RPC, enabling providers to serve any API to developers. As per Lava’s Documentation page, Specifications (specs) are the foundational blueprints for Lava's multichain support. 

Presented in JSON format, they detail the bare minimum requirements for an API to run on Lava. Through these specs, Lava determines which chains and methods are supported, and enabled and establishes the costs, requirements, and verifications for them.

Lava Network participants 

Let’s further explore the role each of the participants plays in the Lava network:

  • Developers

Developers on the Lava network can consume APIs on the network via the Lava Gateway, make contributions by maintaining and developing specifications for new blockchains and APIs, and write code or debugging issues that contribute to the Lava blockchain (based in CosmosSDK).


  • Validators

Validators participate in the network by verifying new blocks to earn rewards. LAVA holders are incentivized to stake their tokens to secure Lava while receiving a reward. Validators earn LAVA by creating new blocks and transaction fees. 


  • Providers

Providers are the key pillar of the Lava network, servicing relay requests by staking on the network and operating RPC nodes on Relay Chains queried by users. In return, they earn fees in the form of LAVA tokens from the Consumers for servicing these requests.

Closing thoughts

Lava Network is a modular network designed to be the access layer for all chains and rollups. The first service module on Lava is RPC, which is already available across 30+ chains. Beyond RPC, rollups can add many other types of data services to be optimized through Lava, such as decentralized oracles, indexing, and sequencing.

The key participants in the Lava network are blockchain protocols, developers, and providers. Blockchains use Lava to scale and optimize their data infrastructure, giving developers and users reliable access to their ecosystem. Developers and users send data requests to a decentralized network of data providers, routed based on geolocation, historical quality of service (QoS), and stake. Finally, providers join the network to earn native tokens of chains on Lava or to earn LAVA tokens.

Lava’s vision is to encourage permissionless innovation by making it easy for blockchain developers to onboard dApp developers and users.

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