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What is the Ethereum Virtual Machine? EVM Explained

What is the Ethereum Virtual Machine? EVM Explained
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tl;dr

  • The EVM is crucial for executing smart contracts on Ethereum and processing them in a decentralized manner.

  • It runs any Turing-complete script, making it versatile and contributing to Ethereum's dominance.

  • EVM operates with opcodes, achieving consensus on outcomes through validators and nodes.

  • EVM compatibility is important for blockchain interoperability, enabling easy deployment of Solidity-based smart contracts on compatible chains.

  • ChainPort emerges as a leading bridge for token transfers across 20+ EVM-compatible blockchains and non-EVM, Cardano.

Introduction

Ethereum, introduced in 2015, stands as the pioneer of "smart" blockchains, significantly altering the landscape of blockchain technology. This innovative platform brought forth the concept of smart contracts. Ethereum's entry marked a departure from the simplistic transactional capabilities of its predecessor, Bitcoin.

The introduction of smart contracts opened a realm of possibilities for DApps and blockchain-based projects. Many of the earliest and most groundbreaking blockchain initiatives, spanning DeFi, NFTs, and more, chose Ethereum as their foundation. This began Ethereum's dominance as the go-to platform for blockchain innovation.

However, Ethereum's success sparked competition, leading to the emergence of rival smart chains. Networks like EOS, BNB, Polygon, Solana, and others launched in response to address some of the challenges faced by Ethereum, such as scalability and high transaction fees.

What is an Ethereum Virtual Machine or EVM?

The Ethereum Virtual Machine or EVM is a critical component of the Ethereum blockchain that plays a pivotal role in the execution of smart contracts. It is a runtime environment that enables the processing of smart contracts in a decentralized manner. Smart contracts on Ethereum are written in high-level programming languages like Solidity and are compiled into bytecode, which is then executed by the EVM.

What sets the EVM apart is its capability to run any Turing-complete script, making it a universal engine for executing arbitrary computations. This versatility is a key factor that has contributed to Ethereum's dominance in the blockchain space.

Moreover, the concept of EVM compatibility is crucial for the interoperability of blockchain networks. Many rival blockchains, recognizing the widespread adoption and developer ecosystem of Ethereum, have designed their platforms to be EVM-compatible. Therefore, smart contracts written for Ethereum can be deployed on these EVM-compatible chains with minimal modifications. 

EVM compatibility also simplifies the process of porting projects and tokens between different chains, creating a more interconnected web3 space. Chains like BNB, Polygon, and others have embraced EVM compatibility.

How Does EVM Work? 

The EVM is the central processing engine of the Ethereum blockchain, acting as a decentralized computer for executing smart contracts. In essence, it's a virtual environment where smart contract code is executed, ensuring consensus on outcomes across the network. Developers write smart contracts in languages like Solidity, compile them into machine-readable bytecode, and users deploy this bytecode through transactions. Validators add these transactions to new blocks, and each node in the network runs the EVM to execute the smart contracts within these blocks.

The EVM operates with a set of instructions called opcodes, reading bytecode step by step and performing corresponding actions. It has components like a stack for temporary calculations, memory for data storage, and storage for permanent data. Consensus is achieved as all nodes run the EVM on the same transaction and bytecode, ensuring a unanimous agreement on outcomes. This consensus mechanism guarantees the immutability of the blockchain, where once a transaction is executed and recorded, it cannot be changed.

In analogy, envision the EVM as a giant, decentralized computer, each node acting as a processing unit. Smart contracts are programs submitted to this computer, and bytecode is the machine-readable language it understands. Validators execute transactions, with all nodes verifying the execution for unanimous agreement. This outcome is then permanently recorded on the blockchain.

Key features of the EVM include decentralization, determinism (consistent outcomes given the same input), security (protected by blockchain's cryptographic features), and flexibility (supporting a wide range of smart contract functionalities). Its evolving capabilities continue to drive innovation in DeFi, NFTs, and various applications within the Ethereum ecosystem.

EVM Compatible Blockchains

There is a large number of EVM-compatible blockchains, with the number increasing constantly. Below is a list of all notable EVM compatible blockchains, and their type of chain.

Layer 1 Blockchains:

Layer 2 Rollups:

  • Optimism: An optimistic rollup offering low transaction fees and security similar to Ethereum.
  • Arbitrum: Another optimistic rollup with fast transaction speeds and a growing DeFi ecosystem.
  • Boba Network: An optimistic rollup focused on scalability and user experience.

Read more about Layer 1 vs. Layer 2 in Blockchain.

Other Notable EVM Chains:

  • xDAI: A stablecoin-backed chain offering Ethereum compatibility with low fees.
  • Celo: A blockchain focused on financial inclusion with EVM compatibility.
  • Harmony: A high-speed, sharded blockchain with EVM compatibility.

Conclusion

In the rapidly evolving landscape of blockchain technology, the future holds a promising surge in EVM-compatible blockchains. As the demand for DApps and smart contracts grows, developers are exploring innovative ways to leverage the EVM across diverse ecosystems. 

Anticipating this wave, ChainPort emerges as a bridge facilitating smooth token transfers. With compatibility across 20+ EVM-compatible blockchains and non-EVM platforms, including the notable addition of Cardano, ChainPort stands at the forefront of interoperability. 

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