Decentralized & Distributed Databases Explained

Explaining the concept of a database can already be a difficult task, but explaining a decentralized and distributed database is a whole different ballgame. So let’s take it slow and in the right order to help you understand as much as possible in as little time as possible.

What Is A Decentralized and Distributed Databas?

Before we go any further, let’s identify exactly what the word database means. In the simplest terms possible a database is a structured collection of information or data. Generally, this information is stored on a computer within a hard drive or multiple hard drives.

During the early years of the technological evolution, data was somewhat small; nowadays the amount of data out there is huge. The challenge is accessing all of this data quickly and whenever you need it. All of the data out there is located inside of databases, of which there are three different types:

Centralized

This is a type of database that is located, maintained, and stored in one single location. In order to access data on this type of a database, you have to connect to a server, which is the main computer of this database. The data in this type of a database is usually processed by the main computer.

Decentralized

This type of database is a bit more complex than the previous one. A decentralized database doesn’t have a single location, and instead, pieces of information are stored in different locations which are all connected to each other. Processing of the data in this type of database is distributed between different nodes.

Distributed

In this type of a database, the storage devices which contain data are not connected to a single processing unit, and instead, this data may be located on different devices in the same location or spread across networks of interconnected computers. Each node that contains information has its own set of data and equal rights.

Classic Database Applications in Life

We have been using classic databases for a long time and still do. However, as we continue to rely more and more on databases, the issues that they present are becoming more problematic and transparent.

One of the biggest challenges of a classic database is security. If anyone has the credentials to any server that contains your data in it, they have the ability to add data, remove it, and change it. This means that you have to dedicate quite a bit of trust to the database of your choice.

Reliability is also a huge aspect of any database. You have to remember that these databases are located on computers similar to the ones we use at home, although most are much more expensive and are designed for constant operation. At the end of the day, each of these servers is still located on a mechanical computer which can host a vast amount of data. This means that when too many clients attempt to access this data it might fail and become inaccessible.

Accessibility can also be a huge problem. If there is a mechanical problem with the central storage computer there is no way for you to access your data until the issue is solved. You also have to keep in mind that some users have specific needs but storage servers are usually uniform, which can cause issues for different clients.

The speed of data access is another potential issue. If your specific node is located in a different country, accessing your data can take a long time or become impossible because of potential problems in the route to your node. Add in all the other clients that are trying to access their own data on the same node and you have a potential for many various delays.

Finally, scalability is another problem that many centralized networks are faced with. As the amount of data is increased, more work has to occur to access it for each server. This means that the traffic on each server is limited since more users equal more work which equals more data. Once you reach a certain amount of users or data, you are done.

The solution to many or even all of these problems is decentralized and distributed databases.

Security Within Decentralized Databases

The biggest security problem that centralized databases face is that all the information is located in one space. With a decentralized network, all of the data is distributed amongst multiple nodes. If any part of the data is altered in any way, this change is reflected on all other nodes. At any moment if any amendments need to take place and prevent data from being modified or edited, this information is spread to all other users on the network. If everything is in order, all data is backed up on multiple nodes and constantly protected.

This effectively eliminates vulnerability to attack. In order to destroy any of the data on a decentralized network, all of the nodes that hold this data would have to be hit at the same time, which is nearly impossible in most situations. The same goes for accidental changes. If something is done erroneously it can be easily reverted since the data is being backed up on multiple nodes.

Speed, Accessibility, And Reliability

The number one reason why users are affected by speed, accessibility, and reliability issues is that centralized data is located on one server in one location.

On a decentralized network, all the nodes have the data which is being accessed by the clients stored on each individual server. This means users can access each node to get the data they need. So if there are users who are close to certain nodes they can use them to access their data quickly and reliably.

The same can be said about accessibility. Since the data is located on multiple devices, it is nearly impossible to bottleneck each server at the same time and make your data inaccessible. The load on a decentralized network is instantly being spread across the whole network so no single computer is being overloaded at any given time. This pretty much makes attacks like DDoS (distributed denial of service) impossible, or at least extremely expensive.

Lastly, since we are dealing with many different mechanical computers which each have the data stored on them individually, if something were to happen to any of these devices the other nodes can assist the clients with the data they need while the damaged node is being replaced or fixed. None of this is possible with a single centralized database.

Scalability

There is a limit to the amount of data or the amount of work a single centralized database can do. The same is not true for a decentralized network. All requests for editing, deleting, or adding data can be distributed amongst different nodes.

This effectively means that a decentralized network can be infinite in resources, which means that any amount of requests can be handled at any time. As more data is being added to the network, you can add more computers as well to distribute the load for accessing this data.

Decentralized and Distributed Database Application

The simple way to explain how a decentralized and distributed database can help is by looking at an assembly line of any type.

Whenever anything is manufactured or produced and eventually ends up being used by the consumer, there are many stages that it has to go through. Products like vehicles have to be authorized, verified, and tested against a variety of different documentation.

Each of these verifications and authorizations produces data and information that has to be stored and approved. If something has to be double checked or re-verified, you have to send requests to many different authorities to get all this information. All of this can be applied to any stage of delivering products to a customer, starting from production and ending with sales.

With blockchain technology, all of these issues can be easily avoided. Information for every single product can be stored on the decentralized network which is secure and can only be modified with participants’ consent. The best part is that this information can be accessed at any time and from anywhere. Add in the use of smart contracts and your possibilities become endless.

Furthermore, each modification or transaction can be checked at any time without the need to request any type of authorization from the parties who have access to the network. The amount of money that can be saved by using decentralized and distributed databases is staggering.

Every single one of us already has a smart device in our pocket; imagine using these devices to verify information for products such as cars being manufactured and sold every day without having to go directly to the manufacturer.

Final Words on Decentralized & Distributed Databases Explained

The blockchain offers something that no other databases are capable of and in today’s world, with technology advancing at the rate that it’s currently growing at, it is about time to make some changes to our outdated databases. Imagine complete security, stability, scalability, and accessibility, all without any problems within a system that is fully self-sustaining and efficient.

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