Ethereum Scalability Solutions Like Sharding and Rollups

Ethereum has emerged as one of the most popular and widely used blockchain networks over the past few years. However, as Ethereum has grown, it has faced some scaling challenges that have limited its ability to process transactions quickly and cheaply. Two of the most promising solutions that are being developed to improve Ethereum's scalability are sharding and rollups.


Ethereum is a decentralized global computing platform that allows users to create and deploy smart contracts and decentralized applications (dApps). The native cryptocurrency of the Ethereum blockchain is called Ether (ETH). Ethereum operates on a proof-of-work consensus mechanism like Bitcoin, but is planning to transition to a proof-of-stake consensus mechanism called Casper in the future.

One of the main benefits of Ethereum is that it allows developers to build and deploy decentralized applications on the blockchain. Decentralized finance (DeFi) applications have boomed on Ethereum, allowing for decentralized trading, lending and borrowing of cryptocurrencies. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have also become popular on Ethereum, enabling digital art and collectibles to be created and traded on the blockchain.

However, Ethereum's popularity has also led to some scaling challenges. As more transactions occur on the network, it faces bottlenecks that cause high gas fees and slow confirmation times. For Ethereum to reach its full potential and achieve mainstream adoption, it needs to be able to efficiently scale to accommodate high transaction volumes at low costs.


One scaling solution being developed for Ethereum is called sharding. Sharding involves splitting the Ethereum blockchain into smaller partitions called shards that can process transactions in parallel. This allows the transaction processing burden to be shared across multiple shards, significantly improving overall network throughput and capacity.

The sharding implementation for Ethereum works by grouping transactions into batches and assigning them to specific shards. Each shard maintains its own independent state and transaction history. By distributing transactions across multiple shards, the transaction throughput of the overall network can be increased substantially.

Sharding technology for Ethereum is still under development, but holds great promise for drastically improving transaction speeds. Some estimates project that sharding could eventually allow Ethereum to process over 100,000 transactions per second, compared to around 30 transactions per second currently. This level of throughput could support Ethereum scaling to become a highly adopted mainstream blockchain.


In addition to sharding, rollups are another promising scaling technique being explored for Ethereum. Rollups involve bundling or rolling up transactions off-chain to be submitted onto Ethereum in a compressed batch. This allows a significant amount of transaction data to be squeezed into a single transaction on the Ethereum blockchain.

There are two main types of rollups - zero-knowledge rollups and optimistic rollups. With zero-knowledge rollups, cryptographic proofs are used to validate transactions off-chain while ensuring transaction data remains private. Optimistic rollups operate by submitting transaction data on-chain in a compressed form, with the assumption they are valid.

By rolling up hundreds or even thousands of transactions together, rollups can achieve tremendous improvements in transaction throughput. Rollups can reduce gas fees paid by users by over 100x compared to submitting transactions directly to layer-1 Ethereum. Leading rollup solutions like Arbitrum and Optimism are already live on Ethereum, offering users much cheaper and faster transactions.

As Ethereum continues to scale, rollups hold advantages over sharding in terms of data availability and fraud proofs. Rollups can also be implemented more quickly than the complex base layer changes required for sharding. However, sharding and rollups can work together to compound Ethereum's scaling abilities for even greater throughput and efficiency.

"The combination of sharding and rollups will be a scaling one-two punch that can propel Ethereum to supporting hundreds of millions of users globally."
  • Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of Ethereum

Other Complementary Solutions

  • Data compression - Reduces the size of transaction data through techniques like zero-knowledge proofs
  • Plasma - Scaling solution that uses sidechains anchored to Ethereum
  • State channels - Allows off-chain transactions between two parties that are later settled on-chain

Together with improvements like the transition to proof-of-stake consensus, these solutions offer tremendous promise for Ethereum's ability to scale. Ethereum is well-positioned to achieve the transaction speeds, throughput and low costs needed to become the world's decentralized computer supporting a wide range of blockchain-based applications.

What are the main benefits of using rollups for Ethereum scaling?

Rollups provide a scaling solution that can be implemented relatively quickly and cheaply compared to alternatives like sharding. Some of the main benefits of using rollups include:

  • Much greater transaction throughput - Rollups can increase transactions per second up to 100x
  • Lower gas fees for users - Gas fees can be reduced by over 100x using rollups
  • Requires no major changes to Ethereum protocol - Easier to implement than sharding
  • Data availability - Rollup transaction data is posted on Layer 1 Ethereum
  • Leverages Layer 2 scaling - Keep high security guarantees of Layer 1 while scaling with Layer 2

By rolling up transaction batches together, rollups substantially cut down on expensive data storage on Layer 1 Ethereum. This makes transactions much cheaper and faster, allowing Ethereum to scale to accommodate more users and applications. Rollups are one of the most promising solutions that can scale Ethereum in the near-term.

How does sharding work to improve Ethereum's scalability?

Sharding enhances Ethereum's scalability by partitioning the blockchain into multiple shards that can process transactions in parallel. This distributes the workload across many shards, allowing more transactions to be processed per second overall.

Some key ways sharding improves scalability:

  • Splits network into shards containing transactions and data
  • Shards process transactions independently in parallel
  • Allows many more transactions to be processed per second
  • Reduces congestion and bottlenecks on Ethereum network
  • Requires base layer protocol changes to Ethereum

Sharding presents a longer-term scalability solution for Ethereum because it requires fundamental changes to the core protocol. But it offers massive increases in throughput by rearchitecting Ethereum into a sharded system. This will eventually allow Ethereum to scale for worldwide adoption as a decentralized application platform.


Ethereum has incredible potential and useful real-world applications, but it needs to overcome scaling difficulties to reach mainstream adoption. Sharding and rollups are two promising solutions that can improve Ethereum's transaction speeds, throughput and costs. By implementing these in combination, Ethereum will be able to efficiently scale to become the global decentralized computer underpinning a new generation of innovative blockchain-based apps and services. The community is hard at work developing these solutions to unlock Ethereum's true capabilities.

Subscribe to BTC Peers

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.