Ethereum dev addresses node centralization concerns in runup to the Merge

A few weeks are left before Ethereum officially moves to a proof of-stake (PoS), mining consensus, from its current proofs-of-work(PoW). Although the official transition is called the Merge, it will take place on Sept. 15. However, Ethereum node centralization has been a hot topic in the lead-up to the major upgrade.

Cointelegraph reported last Wednesday that the majority of the 4,653 active Ethereum nodes run through centralized web services like Amazon Web Services (AWS). Experts believe this could expose the Ethereum blockchain’s central point of failure after Merge.

Distribution of Ethereum nodes by web service providers Source: Ethernodes

Maggie Love, cofounder of Web3 infrastructure company W3BCloud, raised the same concern. She stated that centralization of nodes within the Ethereum PoS network could be a major concern that is not being addressed.

Peter Szilagyi, Ethereum’s lead developer, addressed the growing centralization concerns. He claimed that they had been trying to reduce the size of the Ethereum database since Devcon IV. “Pruning” is the process of reducing the size and reliability of the blockchain so that developers can create reliable registry with a specific size.

Since Devcon IV, we have been repeating it. Either the state is pruned or there will be no one running the home nodes. The idea of state rent drove everyone crazy. Alexey nearly got crucified because he researched it. Now you can see the effects of no pruning. -\_(tsu)_/-
— Peter Szilagyi (karalabe.eth) (@peter_szilagyi) August 26, 2022

Szilagyi said that the original idea was met with strong opposition at the time, and that the current centralization of nodes is a result. For people to be in control of their own nodes, the Ethereum state must be constant in size.

Related: ETH whales transfer holdings onto exchanges prior to Merge

An Ethereum state is a large data structure that contains all accounts and balances. It also includes a machine state which can change block to block according a pre-defined set rules. Szilagyi explained:

“The Ethereum state must be ‘constant in size. This will allow it to run for ever. It can be increased to the block gas limit, but it cannot grow unbounded. There is no light at the other end of the tunnel until that problem is solved.

While he acknowledged that there are active efforts being made by many parties to resolve the problem, he said that the public shouldn’t be blamed “not wanting an ever larger “infrastructure”, which is necessary to run a node.

The cost of running an individual node at the moment is extremely high. This was something Mesari, a crypto analytics firm, highlighted in its report. People often use AWS as a cloud infrastructure provider to reduce infrastructure costs. But, excessive centralization could be a problem in the long-term.

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