Most people believe to properly interact with distributed ledger technology, they need to operate a blockchain node themselves. It is unclear whether this misunderstanding stems from strict IT policies that enterprises believe can only be met with self-hosted infrastructure, the high demand for control over their tools from computer scientists, or if other options are simply unknown. In either case, with this article, we would like to introduce you to alternatives that do not require you to run self-hosted setups and still enable you to fully participate in the decentralized Web3. It is our concern to communicate this because we are convinced that the decision whether to make or buy critical infrastructure should be about achieving your desired outcome as straightforward as possible. And also, that the outsourcing of a blockchain operation to a specialized service provider almost always presents the best option in that regard. As we explained in one of our previous articles, this among others is due to how much effort and follow-up costs are involved in running self-hosted nodes. Also, practically speaking, you would not maintain a web server just to operate a single website either, right? Therefore, instead, we will focus on the Software as a Service (SaaS) that is JSON-RPC API access as well as Node as a Service (NaaS) and based on different use cases will discuss which option is most suitable for you.

JSON-RPC: API to leverage blockchain data

No matter if you are a developer, data scientist, wallet provider, custodian, or an IT-department providing the aforementioned with the required resources. When you or your customers are directly interacting with DLTs and the primary use case is to query data from or write information to a public blockchain, JSON-RPC API access is the best option for you.

Usually starting in a single network, chances are you will soon need to deploy newly developed code to a testnet first before it can be approved for the respective mainnet, or you want to investigate certain block states for some in-depth data science to make better decisions, e.g. a Historical Ethereum Gas Price Analysis. Furthermore, your customers could demand insights into the performance of their digital assets and the status of their transactions or the network your business is built on gets sharded into several interoperable yet independently operated main and side chains.
 
Additional benefits of blockchain RPC as Software-as-a-Service

If not for multi-chain JSON-RPC API access supporting a wide range of protocols and providing both up-to-date as well as historical data for all the relevant networks, you would quickly need to run a whole arsenal of nodes. Most of which would need to sync and permanently store multiple giga- up to a few terabytes of data. We believe that as a blockchain service provider or data professional instead of wasting time with maintenance, you should be able to focus on your core competencies and let an infrastructure provider like Anyblock Analytics, Alchemy, Infura, or Quiknode make sure your operations work as smoothly as possible. In this regard, JSON-RPC API access is an attractive offer because by being run on several load-balanced nodes it not only is faster and more reliable than a single self-hosted machine but by being deeply embedded in the provider’s infrastructure stack it also can provide additional value. Some of these benefits are the indexing and enrichment of data through the interpretation of blockchain ABIs, translation of hashed information in a human-legible form, availability of historical block states that light and full nodes do not store by the operation of complementary archive nodes as well as the support of various clients like Go Ethereum (Geth), OpenEthereum (formerly Parity), Nethermind and Hyperledger Besu. Particularly the last aspect is often overlooked, even though it significantly improves the resilience of the operations, as became apparent just recently after the Ethereum “Berlin” hard fork. We at Anyblock Analytics offer you JSON-RPC API access to 20+ main and testnets with all the features described above and the freedom to choose from three pricing plans, to tailor our services exactly to your needs while keeping costs low.

Node-as-a-Service: enterprise-grade hosting and operations management

If, on the other hand, due to the popularity and constant queries to your services you need a more performant setup than the shared infrastructure of a Node API, you and your partners want to initiate a permissioned or private enterprise consortia blockchain like a Quorum instance, you want to help decentralize a network by operating an individual node or are elected as a body of governance and security e.g. a validator, you should instead consider booking a Node-as-a-Service.

Unlike the use cases described in the JSON-RPC section, it is indeed necessary to run dedicated nodes for the cases listed above, but again there is no need to bother yourself with self-hosting. In fact, there are good reasons why to outsource the operations to a service provider. First of all, your accounting and compliance departments may be reluctant or raise concerns about the new-to-them handling of cryptocurrencies and the not-yet-finally-defined DLT regulations. Especially concerning blockchain-specific mechanisms such as token-based validator compensations in Proof-of-Stake (PoS) protocols. Furthermore, particularly for companies from traditional industries whose IT departments are not yet familiar with blockchain node operations, there is the risk that their services will become unreliable due to unexpected system failures and consequently they will be financially penalized by the networks for technical misbehavior and avoidable downtime. The so-called slashing of the token stake, which must be deposited as collateral. Fortunately, this can be prevented by working with specialized hosting providers, as they will help you understand the subtleties of blockchain operations and how to deal with cryptocurrency transactions. Their experienced DevOps teams will proficiently provision your nodes,  immediately intervene in the event of technical difficulties and the SLA will guarantee you the availability of support and the infrastructure running your services. If you choose a European provider, you will also benefit from data processing that complies with the GDPR. In the case of Anyblock Analytics, we additionally offer you seamless integration with the services of our partner Tangany, which provides white-label blockchain custody supervised by the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) to dispel any last doubt of your accounting and compliance departments. On top of that, you get continuous monitoring of your nodes and the capability to visualize the metrics e.g. on the professional analytics platform Grafana. Finally, we prepared various automated alerting options for you to choose from but also give you the freedom to define your own. To make sure you will never miss critical events like when your account balance falls below a threshold that ensures your service remains functional in the face of high transaction fees (“gas prices”).

Comparing self-hosted node vs. JSON-RPC API vs. Node-as-a-Service

Self-hosted node JSON-RPC API Node-as-a-Service
Operations Effort Very high None None
Sync Time (depending on network & client type) Long
Syncing from the genesis block
None
Instant access to current & historic data
Moderate
Syncing from a backup state
Infrastructure Performance Low
Consumer-grade hardware & network
High
Shared enterprise-grade hardware & network
Very High
Dedicated enterprise-grade hardware & network
Reliability Low
Single point of failure
Very high
Load-balanced with multiple proxies & nodes
Case-specific
Professionally managed custom setup according to your requirements
Supported Clients Single client per setup Simultaneous operation of multiple client types for maximum resilience Custom setup according to your requirements
Supported Blockchains Separate setup needed for each blockchain Multi-chain service for simultaneous access to 20+ public main and testnets Choose from 20+ public and your private enterprise consortium blockchain
Professional Support None – get up at 3 am yourself 😉 Working hours 24/7 SLA available
Value-added Services None Human-legible archive data & real-time alerting Custom setup according to your requirements & Virtual Appliance for on-premise data center installation available
Self-hosted node
Operations Effort Very high
Sync Time (depending on network & client type) Long
Syncing from the genesis block
Infrastructure Performance Low
Consumer-grade hardware & network
Reliability Low
Single point of failure
Supported Clients Single client per setup
Supported Blockchains Separate setup needed for each blockchain
Professional Support None – get up at 3 am yourself 😉
Value-added Services None
JSON-RPC API
Operations Effort None
Sync Time (depending on network & client type) None
Instant access to current & historic data
Infrastructure Performance High
Shared enterprise-grade hardware & network
Reliability Very high
Load-balanced with multiple proxies & nodes
Supported Clients Simultaneous operation of multiple client types for maximum resilience
Supported Blockchains Multi-chain service for simultaneous access to 20+ public main and testnets
Professional Support Working hours
Value-added Services Human-legible archive data & real-time alerting
Node-as-a-Service
Operations Effort None
Sync Time (depending on network & client type) Moderate
Syncing from a backup state
Infrastructure Performance Very High
Dedicated enterprise-grade hardware & network
Reliability Case-specific
Professionally managed custom setup according to your requirements
Supported Clients Custom setup according to your requirements
Supported Blockchains Choose from 20+ public and your private enterprise consortium blockchain
Professional Support 24/7 SLA available
Value-added Services Custom setup according to your requirements & Virtual Appliance for on-premise data center installation available

Conclusion

There is a persistent belief among crypto-enthusiasts and enterprises that the self-hosted operation of a node is required to participate in a blockchain network. We have shown that this is not true and that it is possible to outsource to a blockchain infrastructure service provider without suffering a loss of capabilities. Through exemplary use cases, we have demonstrated that JSON-RPC API access and Node-as-a-Service are not mere alternatives to self-hosting a node. On the contrary, the sophisticated and functionally highly integrated services offer developers, data scientists, and blockchain service providers on the one hand, and operators on the other, a whole range of practical benefits in their daily work with decentralized networks. We hope this article has helped you decide which option is right for you and are happy to answer any of your questions.

Interested or questions?

 

Freddy Zwanzger
(Co-Founder & Chief Data Officer)
freddy@anyblockanalytics.com
+49 6131 3272372

    

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