Top 5 ways to scale your Ethereum blockchain application (dApp)

General article outlining the relative trade-offs of existing solutions for scaling solutions on the Ethereum. If you would like to contribute tutorials or how to's for scalability solutions please reach out @kauri_io or @AndreasWallend1 and we will feature your project in kauri's scalability collection!

Scalability solutions are here now! This article explores some of the solutions that can be implemented today and the relative trade-offs of different approaches, as well as highlighting developer resources so you can start BUIDLing.

CONTEXT: Scalability issues

Why is scalability so hard? I often talk about the ‘scalability trilemma’, where I say that blockchain systems have to trade off between different properties. And it’s very hard for them to have three things at the same time, where one of them is decentralization. The other is scalability, and the third is security. -- Vitalik Buterin, November 2017

Public permissionless blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum have opted to optimize security and decentralization over high transaction throughput at layer 1. Anyone willing to become a validator can participate and being a validator requires a reasonably low time and capital commitment. Thousands of mining nodes participating in Proof of Work secure these blockchains from 51% attacks which cost ~$100,000 /hr on Ethereum blockchain and >$350,000 /hr on Bitcoin blockchain at today's, April, 2019, prices.

The truly permissionless decentralized nature and high security of Ethereum are two features of many that make it the top choice for a trust layer for the global economy and securing blockchain applications that facilitate those transactions.

However, security and decentralization come at the expense of scalability. Today Ethereum is processing ~5 transaction per second and would be overloaded at ~6 transaction per second, with a theoretical limit of 14-15 transactions per second for simple transactions. This is orders of magnitude too small for any mainstream existing consumer or financial applications.

The core limitation is that public blockchains like ethereum require every transaction to be processed by every single node in the network. -- Josh Stark, February 2018 [Making Sense of Ethereum’s Layer 2 scaling solutions] (

The Ethereum Foundation has an advanced roadmap to upgrade the base infrastructure of the Ethereum blockchain in Ethereum 2.0, and will greatly improve scalability in the coming years. However, we're building applications now and need to scale now! In addition, as I will discuss later, depending on your use case it is likely you will not want all transactions running on mainnet / L1 but opt for second layer solutions even once Serenity has arrived.

Primary challenges today

SUMMARY of scalability solutions

Summary of scalability solutions that can be implemented today to scale transaction throughput. There are other solutions to scalability which include off-chain compute and other scaling vectors, which can also be considered, but will not be directly covered here.

Trade-offs of scalability solutions

Description and implementation of scalability solutions

The following are implementations are OpenSource and available to build into your application, though all scaling solutions are still under development and a security audit is highly recommended before deploying anything to mainnet. Projects that are yet to release a useable product or code repos have not been included.

Message signing


Payment and State channels

State channels have three primary steps:

Payment channels:

Dispute resolution:

Existing projects and implementations

Raiden a payment channel solution, enabling near-instant, low-fee and scalable payments. It’s complementary to the Ethereum blockchain and works with any ERC20 compatible token Getting started

Connext is building open source, p2p micropayment infrastructure. Their first product uses payment channels on the Ethereum blockchain. Payment channels allow many off-chain transactions to be aggregated into a much smaller number of on-chain transactions Getting started

Side chains x bridges

Bridge (or relay) relays information from side chain running its own consensus algorithm to mainnet. Either lock value or state on mainnet (or both) and run Dapp on sidechain gathering and processing transactions - User deposits Ether/ERC20 from the mainnet to bridge contract - ÐApp runs for as long as required, then user withdraws their Ether/ERC20 back on the mainnet - Users pay only the gas for two transactions – the deposit and the withdrawal - User may also pay smaller transaction fees on side chain (Loom and POA both have running costs - Loom charges the Dapp in loom tokens, POA requires users to pay gas in POA tokens on the side chain) - Dapp can also operate a private chain and remove gas costs on side chain - however incentivizing many independent validators may be a challenge


Existing projects and implementations

POA Network is an Ethereum-based platform that offers an open-source framework for smart contracts. POA Network is a sidechain to Ethereum utilizing Proof of Authority as its consensus mechanism Getting started

Loom is a Layer 2 scaling solution for Ethereum focusing on social and gaming dApps that require a very high throughput. Loom SDK enables to generate a sidechain called dAppChain using a dPoS consensus optimised for high-scalability [Getting started] (

SKALE's elastic sidechains provide all benefits of standard full-capacity sidechains alongside the security guarantees of truly decentralized networks. Elastic sidechains are highly performant, configurable, and Ethereum / Web3 Compatible [Getting started] (

Plasma chains


Existing projects and implementations

Summary of development: Including FourthStateLabs, OmiseGo, Kyokan, Plasma Group. [Summary] (

Kyokan Minimum Viable Plasma implementation of minimal viable plasma (MVP) focused purely on payment use cases so that app developers can experience plasma today [Getting Started] (

Plasma Group is dedicated to the creation of an open plasma implementation for the greater Ethereum community. It’s our mission to push layer 2 scaling forward by exploring the full potential of the plasma framework. [Learn More] (