Demystifying RPC Nodes & Why Decentralization Matters

What is an RPC node?

Remote Procedure Call (RPC) nodes are like libraries for data on a blockchain. You can’t access that data without them. They act as the connection for communication across different chains, and the RPC endpoint is a developer’s access point to those connections. 

Let’s dig into the concept of RPC nodes and endpoints, their importance in the development of decentralized applications, and how Pocket Network is contributing to more robust and reliable data access for web3 developers.

What is an RPC Endpoint?

An RPC endpoint, or Remote Procedure Call endpoint, serves as the bridge that connects users and applications to the nodes that are in communication with a blockchain network. They enable seamless interaction and exchange of information. RPC endpoints play a key role in managing and executing different tasks on the network.

Let’s take a closer look at the key functions and features of RPC endpoints.

Gateway for Information and Actions

RPC endpoints act as the entry point for users and applications to access a blockchain network. They let users request information, such as account balances, transaction history, or block data, and execute actions like submitting transactions or invoking smart contract functions.

Let’s say a user wants to check their account balance on a blockchain network. To accomplish this, a developer needs to ensure that their wallet application sends an RPC transaction request, via a chain specific endpoint specifying the desired action (in this case, retrieving an account balance) and the associated account address, to an RPC node. The node then processes the request, retrieves the relevant data from the network, and returns the data as an RPC response. This lands on the frontend for the end-user.

Standardized Protocols and Formats

To ensure interoperability and efficient communication, RPC nodes rely on standardized protocols and formats. Some of the most commonly used protocols are JSON-RPC, HTTP, and WebSocket. JSON-RPC is a remote procedure call protocol encoded in JSON. HTTP and WebSocket, on the other hand, are the channels (think of them like cables) over which RPC transactions are transmitted.

HTTP is a widely-used protocol that allows clients and servers to exchange information. In the context of RPC nodes, HTTP acts as a transport mechanism for JSON-RPC requests and responses.

WebSocket is different from HTTP in that it is a two-way communication channel over a single, long-lived connection. This allows for real-time updates and faster data exchange. In turn, this benefits blockchain applications that require continuous updates or monitoring.

For example, via a WebSocket connection, a DeFi platform can establish a two-way communication channel between users’ web browsers and the backend servers. When a new trade is executed, the backend server can instantly broadcast the updated order book and price information to all connected users via the WebSocket connection. This allows users to see real-time changes in the market, enabling them to react quickly.

Pocket Network specifically supports JSON-RPC as its protocol for communication between nodes, using HTTP as the transport mechanism. While WebSocket offers advantages like real-time updates and faster data exchange, we’ve chosen to focus on HTTP for its simplicity, widespread adoption, and ease of integration with existing infrastructure. By choosing HTTP, we prioritize a user-friendly and approachable experience for developers and users alike, without compromising on efficient communication between nodes. This decision not only streamlines the development process but also accelerates the adoption of our infrastructure across different blockchain ecosystems.

Multi-Platform Compatibility

RPC endpoints are designed to support a wide range of platforms and programming languages (web3.js, mobile platforms, node.js, etc). This makes it easier for developers of all sorts to integrate blockchain functionality into their applications. By offering compatibility with various platforms, RPC endpoints enable more streamlined development of diverse blockchain-based solutions, like wallets, decentralized applications (dApps), and data analytics tools, among many others.

Scalability and Performance

As the number of users and applications interacting with a blockchain network grows, so does the demand for efficient and scalable RPC endpoints. Through load balancing and caching techniques, RPC nodes can handle increased traffic. This ensures that the network remains responsive and performant even under high workloads.

Security and Authentication

To protect the integrity of the blockchain network and its users, RPC endpoints often incorporate security measures like encryption, access control, and authentication. These measures help prevent unauthorized access and ensure that only trusted parties can interact with the network.

The Importance of Decentralized RPC Nodes

Decentralization is a key factor that contributes to the security, transparency, resiliency, and performance of a network. A decentralized system, like Pocket’s, relies on multiple independent participants operating or running nodes. This reduces the risk of single points of failure and enhances the overall reliability and performance of the network. Decentralized RPC nodes play a critical role in this process for several reasons: redundancy and high availability, performance optimization, censorship resistance, load balancing, and security and privacy.  

Redundancy and High Availability Through Globally Distributed RPC Nodes

Decentralized RPC nodes ensure that the network remains functional even if single or multiple nodes fail. With numerous nodes distributed across different geographic locations, the system maintains high availability and consistent performance. Plus, a decentralized network helps to prevent downtime that may be caused by node maintenance, system updates, or other types of outages.

Optimized Performance of RPC Nodes

If incentivized properly, a decentralized network of RPC nodes can bring optimal quality of service and low latency to users. By rewarding nodes that consistently deliver maximum uptime and fast service, a decentralized network can match or surpass the quality of service of centralized alternatives.

Censorship Resistance

Additionally, decentralization ensures that users have multiple access points to a blockchain, making it more resistant to censorship or control by a single entity.

Load Balancing Between RPC Nodes

The presence of multiple RPC nodes allows incoming requests to be distributed optimally among those available nodes. This load balancing helps prevent overloading of individual nodes and improves the overall network efficiency.

Load balancing is the process of evenly distributing network traffic across multiple servers or nodes. This ensures that no single node becomes overwhelmed, and improves the overall network efficiency.

By evenly distributing the workload, a decentralized system with multiple RPC nodes can maintain a higher level of performance and responsiveness, even as the number of users and applications interacting with the network increases. On the other hand, centralized RPC nodes can become isolated points of failure. As the load on these centralized nodes increases, they may struggle to handle the growing volume of requests. This can cause slower response times, increased latency, and even downtime. In the case of web3 gaming, for example, this negatively affects the user experience. Players may experience delays or interruptions in their gameplay, and might get frustrated and ditch the game entirely.

Security and Privacy

Decentralized RPC nodes make it more difficult for malicious actors to manipulate or compromise the network. The distributed nature of the nodes adds an extra layer of security, reducing the likelihood of a successful attack or breach.

Decentralized networks like Pocket often use cryptographic techniques, such as digital signatures, to authenticate and validate the identity of nodes and the data they transmit. This helps ensure that only authorized and legitimate nodes can participate in the network, preventing malicious actors from injecting false information or tampering with the data that’s being exchanged.

How Pocket Network Utilizes Decentralized RPC Nodes

By offering a decentralized network of RPC nodes, our protocol enables the above benefits and addresses the challenges associated with centralized infrastructure. 

Pocket’s unique approach provides the most resilient and reliable access to web3 ecosystems, and does so at a cost that enables developers to scale their application efficiently while maintaining performance.

Cost-Effective Infrastructure

Our decentralized infrastructure gives developers a cost-effective and accessible way to connect to a network of RPC nodes, eliminating the need for costly in-house infrastructure maintenance. This allows developers to focus their resources on other important aspects of their projects, like building innovative features, improving user experience, and delivering on security and privacy.

By connecting to Pocket Network’s decentralized network of RPC nodes, developers can avoid the expenses associated with setting up, maintaining, and scaling their own infrastructure.

Developer Friendly

Pocket is built to support the widest range of chains, including Ethereum, Polygon, Avalanche, Arbitrum, and 40 other L1s, L2s, and other types of chains. This broad range of compatibility, including unmatched support for EVMs, enables developers to build dApps that can interact with multiple blockchains, tapping into the unique features and strengths of each.

In the context of RPC nodes, SDKs (Software Development Kits) are collections of tools, libraries, and documentation that help developers build on and interact with a particular protocol or platform. Meanwhile, APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) are sets of rules and specifications that allow different software applications to communicate with each other. In our case, the SDKs are used more for developing the protocol itself, while the APIs are more useful for developers building applications that need to interact with the network and its decentralized RPC nodes.

Pocket’s SDKs and APIs simplify the process of integrating with different blockchains, allowing developers to create and deploy dApps. By offering these developer-friendly tools, we’re bringing seamless cross-chain collaboration and powering a multi-chain future. This accelerated development process allows developers to focus on building innovative features and enhancing the user experience. This ultimately drives the success of their projects at scale.

These developer tools are compatible with many programming languages. This makes it easier for developers to integrate their projects, whatever their preferred language might be. This language-agnostic approach ensures that a diverse range of developers can leverage Pocket Network’s tools to build and deploy dApps across different use cases.

Incentivizing RPC Nodes

Pocket Network also naturally incentivizes node operators to maintain high-quality RPC nodes. This ensures a reliable and consistent experience for both end-users and developers.

By incentivizing node providers to provide high quality of service in exchange for POKT – the Pocket Network native token – the protocol lets developers benefit from nodes competing for the best chance to service relay traffic.

Building an Infrastructure-Specific Blockchain for the Future

On top of all this, the protocol team has their heads down building v1: a game-changing Mainnet that is purpose-built specifically for providing the most reliable and performant decentralized infrastructure. v1 will be a huge step towards solving something we’ve coined the “RPC Trilemma”. The RPC Trilemma is the challenge of building an RPC service that is optimized for all three aspects of reliability, performance, and cost.

With the four modules that will make up the foundation of v1 (Utility, Consensus, Peer-to-Peer, and Persistence), our new Mainnet will empower developers and end users with an even stronger focus on quality of service and unstoppable access to any blockchain they want to build on.

Wrapping Up

Understanding the role and importance of decentralized RPC nodes is important for developers working with data on a blockchain. By decentralizing access points to different networks, we are making the entire web3 ecosystem more reliable and redundant, while slashing costly infrastructure expenses for projects of all types. The Portal – powered by Pocket Network – is your decentralized infrastructure solution, tapping into the power of decentralized RPC nodes, and unstoppable web3 access.