An Alternative Paradigm for Developing and Pricing Storage on Smart Contract Platforms

Christos Patsonakis, Mema Roussopoulos

Smart contract platforms facilitate the development of important and diverse distributed applications in a simple manner. This simplicity stems from the inherent utility of employing the state of smart contracts to store, query and verify the validity of application data. In Ethereum, data storage incurs an underpriced, non-recurring, predefined fee. Furthermore, as there is no incentive for freeing or minimizing the state of smart contracts, Ethereum is faced with a tragedy of the commons problem with regards to its monotonically increasing state. This issue, if left unchecked, may lead to centralization and directly impact Ethereum's security and longevity. In this work, we introduce an alternative paradigm for developing smart contracts in which their state is of constant size and facilitates the verification of application data that are stored to and queried from an external, potentially unreliable, storage network. This approach is relevant for a wide range of applications, such as any key-value store. We evaluate our approach by adapting the most widely deployed standard for fungible tokens, i.e., the ERC20 token standard. We show that Ethereum's current cost model penalizes our approach, even though it minimizes the overhead to Ethereum's state and aligns well with Ethereum's future. We address Ethereum's monotonically increasing state in a two-fold manner. First, we introduce recurring fees that are proportional to the state of smart contracts and adjustable by the miners that maintain the network. Second, we propose a scheme where the cost of storage-related operations reflects the effort that miners have to expend to execute them. Lastly, we show that under such a pricing scheme that encourages economy in the state consumed by smart contracts, our ERC20 token adaptation reduces the incurred transaction fees by up to an order of magnitude.

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