Negosentro.com | Blockchain vs. relational database: Which to choose for your application? | Announcement: When choosing whether to build your app on a blockchain or a relational database, you shouldn’t rely exclusively on the hype that surrounds the blockchain technology. In this article, you’ll find impartial pros and cons of both options that will help you to make a reasonable choice.
Some developers want to know how to create a blockchain database simply because the term “blockchain” has become a catchphrase. Blockchain projects are known to be innovative, forward-thinking and, in some cases, highly lucrative. Certain entrepreneurs believe that building an app on blockchain will grant their product immediate success. In this article, we’ll try to understand whether this statement is true and what are the objective perks of a blockchain database if compared to a relational one.
The Costly Price of Disintermediation
As Forte Group experts point out, one of the reasons why cryptocurrencies running on blockchain attract so many people is their self-sufficiency. They don’t rely on third-party infrastructure, so no one can interfere with their blockchain distributed database from the outside, including governmental bodies. For financial systems, that’s a significant advantage. But it’s unlikely that regular commercial enterprises should need such a level of independence — or, as they call it in professional blockchain terms, disintermediation.
If you don’t resort to external resources to maintain your product once it’s released, be ready to invest large funds yourself. In most cases, the app’s maintenance would cost roughly as much as its development. Think twice: will the very fact of self-sufficiency justify the expenses? Five years ago it might have been perceived as an efficient marketing tool, but today there are simply too many blockchain solutions on the market. Proclaiming the disintermediation of your project would hardly give it a competitive edge.
So in this aspect, a conventional database is the definite winner.
Trading Speed for Reliability
If high speed is your priority, you should discard the idea of implementing blockchain database technology. Bitcoin network, for instance, is notoriously slow. The miners of this cryptocurrency are paid to introduce updates. If not for this monetary motivation, they probably wouldn’t bother to handle this clumsy, unwieldy network.
In the case of Bitcoin, the sacrifice is explicable. The network efficiently prevents double-spending, withstands hacking attacks and guarantees the maximum transparency of all transactions. But its performance inevitably degrades. Moreover, if you build your app on the same principle, you’ll invariably have trouble scaling it.
With respect to this criterion, a relational database would be a wiser choice because it allows the app to promptly process client requests.
Excessive Fault Tolerance
As it seems, the Bitcoin network will survive almost any technological disaster. Even if hundreds of computers go out of order and servers keep crashing, users will still be able to complete financial transactions. But such an outstanding fault tolerance might be excessive for a relatively small app. An app should be ready to cope with real-life troubles — and it doesn’t require the monumental power of blockchain.
Most likely, you will be able to achieve the desired level of fault tolerance with the help of a conventional relational database, so it beats the blockchain once again.
For Bitcoin, transparency is a plus. But for most apps, privacy is crucial. Your customers will hardly be happy if you disclose their names, contact data or spendings in the blockchain. But to add an extra security level to your app, you might use blockchain to save encrypted hashes of all transactions. If a dispute arises, you’ll be able to verify that a certain record hashes to the value stored in the blockchain.
In the network of the first and largest cryptocurrency, each new block is cryptographically linked to the previous ones, so it becomes impossible to cheat or modify data. Likewise, relational databases are capable of logging SQL commands received from users. So all data in a relational database gets digitally signed, and thanks to cryptographic assurance it won’t be possible to discreetly alter it.
By the way, there is an analog to smart contracts in relational databases as well. The term “smart” refers to contracts that are automatically executed. The analog of this phenomenon in conventional databases is known as “stored procedures”.
To establish an optimum balance between data transparency and data security, it would be reasonable to rely on the traditional approach and use blockchain only as an assistance tool.
Why your application should be built with blockchain
Blockchain is here to stay, but this new technology will hardly replace all the existing ones. Blockchain might secure unprecedented transparency for financial transactions, real estate deals, parliamentary elections voting and gambling in online casinos. Moreover, applications built using blockchain can ensure safe, transparent, and secure operations. But for small-scale projects such as web or mobile apps the impressive capabilities of blockchain might be excessive — at least at the current stage of technological progress.
When selecting between blockchain vs database of a conventional type, you shouldn’t be misguided by the marketing appeal of the term “blockchain”. First, this appeal has slightly faded in recent years. Second, each advantage of blockchain technology has its flipside. Yes, blockchains are reliable, self-sufficient and guarantee the maximum transparency of all transactions — but at the same time, they are costly, unwieldy and might disclose confidential data on public display, if you don’t encrypt it. Think twice about your priorities and build your app on such a base that will help it to fully unlock its potential.