VM Matters: A Comparison of WASM VMs and EVMs in the Performance of Blockchain Smart Contracts

Shuyu Zheng, Haoyu Wang, Lei Wu, Gang Huang, Xuanzhe Liu

WebAssemly is an emerging runtime for Web applications and has been supported in almost all browsers. Recently, WebAssembly is further regarded to be a the next-generation environment for blockchain applications, and has been adopted by Ethereum, namely eWASM, to replace the state-of-the-art EVM. However, whether and how well current eWASM outperforms EVM on blockchain clients is still unknown. This paper conducts the first measurement study, to measure the performance on WASM VM and EVM for executing smart contracts on blockchain. To our surprise, the current WASM VM does not perform in expected performance. The overhead introduced by WASM is really non-trivial. Our results highlight the challenges when deploying WASM in practice, and provide insightful implications for improvement space.

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