Solana Goes Forth with extrnode’s Open-Source Load Balancer by@extrnode
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Solana Goes Forth with extrnode’s Open-Source Load Balancer

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A new open-source load balancer will simplify testing and releasing apps on the mainnet, leaving more time to develop excellent ideas and ensuring steadier operation of dApps.

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Despite what many would probably remember for years as the most shocking month for Solana, the ecosystem has withstood the shock and moved forward, haven’t lost either developers or their dApps.

As this transpires, Everstake offers its own contribution to the further progress of Solana with extrnode, a major project aiming at fixing the RPC layer in Web3 ecosystems, especially Solana. The project's first outing is the extrnode open-source load balancer, a solution that redirects requests from faulty PRC nodes to operational ones. extrnode’s creators opted to have it beta-tested by the community before releasing production-suitable versions and now only recommend using the solution for testing purposes.

Any feedback is welcome on the official Discord, with the source code available here and a ready-made Docker image here.

RPC is the backbone of Web3

While the blockchain layer is sufficiently decentralized, this can’t be said about the RPC layer despite its crucial importance for the proper operation of the crypto ecosystem.

When your application, say, a wallet, communicates with the blockchain, it actually sends your commands in the form of code to an RPC node designated by the developer so that the blockchain can record and verify your actions. No communication is possible if something goes wrong with the RPC node, and your application becomes futile.

This situation is hardly imaginary. This very November, the hosting provider Hertzner killed all Solana nodes on its services, paralyzing dozens of dApps and cutting off 22% of the network’s nodes in a single blow. Even though this is not enough to strangle an entire ecosystem, it is still a valuable lesson about the fundamental vulnerability of the RPC layer that can go south on a whim of a hosting provider or regulator.

An obvious solution to this problem is to run your own RPC nodes and never depend on a third party. Still, it’s an expensive way out, with bills starting at around $1,000 per month. This leaves most dApp developers in the hands of major providers like the aforementioned Hertzner or even bigger fish like Amazon Web Services or Google Cloud.

None of this is a secret, so many dApp developers find a way to bypass this bottleneck with scripts, modules, or just automatic switching to an alternate RPC endpoint in case of a failure. This, however, is not a remedy, as the developer would be forced back to square one if the alternate node goes down. And that’s where extrnode comes in.

extrnode’s open-source load balancer in a nutshell

Right now, there are several options that developers face when it comes to ensuring steady operation on the RPC layer. They either have to pay for a decentralized balancer in project tokens whose price always varies or have to rely on third parties with centralized balancers, which is risky. Finally, as we pointed out earlier, they may launch their own balancer, but it is quite costly as it requires a dedicated team of DevOps and working agreements with numerous validators.

With extrnode, there is a fourth option on the table. The open-source load balancer distributes requests among several public RPC nodes forming a cluster and automatically reroutes all requests should the designated node fail for whatever reason. In practice, it means that no matter what happens, a dApp will stay operational as long as at least one RPC node is active. Notably, it is free to use and requires only running it on Docker. A developer can then configure it as they please.

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This, however, is just the beginning, as the current iteration of extrnode is subject to public testing and is not recommended for production use. Still, it is quite suitable for testing applications on the mainnet.

In a short while, Everstake will release a free-to-use version of extrnode that would comply with the safety and reliability requirements of a typical dApp and use Everstake’s battle-tested infrastructure. It will be followed by a premium version for solutions requiring higher degrees of security, in which only the validators with the highest uptime will participate.

While the solution currently focuses on Solana, it will be scaled up to other prominent PoS blockchains. For now, however, everyone is welcome to try the open-source load balancer so that we can boost the decentralization of the RPC layer sooner.

Subscribe to extrnode on Twitter and join Discord to be the first to see new announcements, ask questions, and enjoy online parties.

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by extrnode @extrnode.extrnode is a public load balancer to allow developers to connect their dApps to a cluster of public RPC nodes
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