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What a Blockchain is and what a Blockchain isn't

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Ronald GD Davis's picture
Director of Mechanical Engineering

6 Years Military Service in which Time I took an EE correspondence course .. Spent the next 13 years in technical positions between manufacturing and engineering .. Advanced problem solving...

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  • Sep 27, 2019

This item is part of the Blockchain in Utilities - Fall 2019 SPECIAL ISSUE, click here for more

There are two types of block storage I am going to talk about, Blockchain Blocks and Block Storage blocks.

Understanding what Blocks are:

They are often mistaken with one another because in both cases we are talking about databases. Both have ledgers like all databases. The difference is that block chain blocks are fixed and cannot be changed. 

Block Storage blocks can be recalculated and rewritten / updated.  

What are blocks comprised of: 

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Blocks have shards or parts they are assembled with. What makes up the shards is data / files. These shards comprise redundant data so if a small portion becomes corrupted the block can be rebuilt and restored. 

This is true about blockchain blocks and block storage blocks.  

Difference between Blockchian Blocks and Block Storage Blocks: 

Blockchain blocks have data that comes from a proprietary mathematical algorithms that generate a large block file which is unique. Each of these highly encrypted blocks are linked in the chain and the chain grows in strength as it becomes longer. Because it costs money / electricity to calculate blocks miners who generate blockchain blocks are paid for their work. This is why blocks have and initial value. 

 Blocks in Block Storage on the other hand are comprised of data and files. They are compressed and encrypted and made into shards which comprise the block. The shards have redundant data and a proprietary algorithm encrypts, compresses, forms the shards and then the block the shards comprise. If a part of the block is corrupted, the remaining shards can be used to generate a new uninterrupted block. 

This redundancy within the blocks comes at a price as it uses more disc space. Each company that makes block storage equipment has their own proprietary engine which is used to create blocks and fetch blocks to retrieve them to fix catastrophic errors cause by disc failures. These disc failures can be at the user level or at the corporation / government level. It depends on how the system was designed. 

Block Storage blocks are sometimes called "Warm Storage" as the data which they store is not directly readable. It must be disassembled to be read. The value of block storage is realized because of its inherent strength to survive system failures. To add resilience entire block databases are copied in one or more places spread over large geographies. The reason for this is that if a massive failure such as a fire or explosion or space energy event occurs, the hope would be that the data might be far enough away from these events to weather said events. There are companies who have Petabyte per day data transport facilities that can move massive amounts of data. One company has tested this and has a 100Gbps links that in one hop / POP can move that data from San Jose to Washington D.C. So safeguarding block storage data is much easier because of these new ideas in safeguarding data. In essence: Block Storage all came about because of the Idea of safeguarding data.   

Where it become confusing: 

Some systems and terminology can use blocks as shards because the blocks act as shards which comprise very large pieces of data. In these systems it takes a much longer time to rebuild blocks when other blocks are used as shards because of the amount of data that is being regenerated from the redundancy. In this way some have called this kind of block storage "Blockchain" Storage which is in fact not true. This is my opinion because they can call it anything they like but the issue is that it is not being used for digital currency which is why I call Blockchain Block digital currency.  

I believe it is very important to separate the two terms Block Storage and Blockchain Digital Currency Blocks. 

The two types of data sets are disparate. 

Ronald GD Davis's picture
Thank Ronald GD for the Post!
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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 27, 2019

Thanks for this handy explainer. Those of us not in the IT and IT-like fields sometimes struggle with terminology and these concepts generally, so having it explained so clearly is quite helpful!

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