Ethereum network awaits Berlin update in April 2021

Ethereum is the largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization after Bitcoin. And although the scale of the project already exceeds the equivalent of $ 200 billion, it continues to develop and improve. The last time the developers massively updated the Ethereum network was in January 2020.

In April this year, the blockchain is waiting for another update. Explains what he will change and how it will affect the owners of the ETH cryptocurrency.

First, let’s clarify an important detail. On December 1, 2020, Ethereum 2.0 phase 0, also known as Beacon Chain, was launched. This chain works on the Proof-of-Work consensus mechanism and has significantly higher performance – that is, it handles a large number of transactions per second. In this case, the full launch of eth2 still needs to wait.

The Berlin update does not concern it, but the current Ethereum 1.0 network, in which miners with video cards work. It follows the previous Istanbul and Muir Glacier updates in December 2019 and January 2020, respectively. Recall that the latest update postponed the so-called difficulty bomb and saved the Ethereum network from slowing down.

Berlin update details for Ethereum

Here are the highlights of the Berlin update:

  • update block number – 12,244,000;
  • update date – approximately April 14, 2021;
  • the list of improvement proposals (EIP) in the update – EIP-2565, EIP-2929, EIP-2718 and EIP-2930;
  • improvement direction – optimization of gas utilization in the network and prevention of DoS attacks.

Initially, the update suggested including EIP-2315, which affected the Ethereum virtual machine (EVM) routines. However, in the end, its implementation was abandoned, and in the update program there were only four proposals for improving the network.

When will the Berlin for Ethereum update take place?

As we have already noted, the update will take place on block 12,244,000. It is worth focusing on April 14, however, since the time of block creation in the Ethereum network changes, this may happen sooner or later.

The update was originally scheduled for the summer of 2020, but has been postponed several times. The reasons were different, and once the reason for the transfer was fears of possible centralization and «critical dependence» on the Geth client.

By tradition, the update will be activated in advance in the Ethereum test networks. The first was Ropsten, in which Berlin was implemented on March 10, the second – Görli, where the update was launched the day before. The last network will be Rinkeby, where the update will be activated on March 24th.

Note that the details of the next update after Berlin are already known. It will be called London, and the update will be activated approximately in July 2021. It contains EIP-1559, which will introduce dynamic block size, change how fees are formed, and start flaring ETH. As a result, the fees for conducting transactions on the network should be significantly reduced, and the network will better cope with user activity during peak loads.

What will change after the Berlin update in Ethereum

Berlin consists of four EIPs, that is, proposals for improving Ethereum. Some of them touch on the topic of interacting with the Ethereum virtual machine and can be difficult to understand.

EIP-2565 details

First on the list of upgrades is EIP-2565, which is also referred to as a gas price change proposal for modular exponentiation. Overall, it re-evaluates the previous EIP-198, known as modular large integer exponentiation. Its author is Vitalik Buterin, and EIP-198 itself is a modular exponentiation function that implements a wide range of cryptographic algorithms to validate RSA signatures. RSA itself is a separate public key cryptographic algorithm. You can read more about it at the link.

At the same time, EIP-2565 reduces gas consumption for the previous EIP-198 to match the cost of other operations.

EIP-2929 details

At the same time, Berlin is including EIP-2929, which increases some of its gas costs to keep the network safe. We are talking about certain opcodes – SLOAD, * CALL, BALANCE, EXT * and SELFDESTRUCT – which will now cost more on the first interaction.

As a reminder, opcodes or opcodes are a set of instructions that are used to interact with the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). Since smart contract programming languages ​​like Solidity cannot be executed directly by the EVM, low-level machine instructions are required to perform certain tasks. That is, the result is something like commands in the simplest possible form, with the help of which the Ethereum virtual machine can understand us.

In particular, ADD is an example of an arithmetic opcode, and STOP, RETURN, SELFDESTRUCT, and so on can be referred to as stop codes. There are currently 140 opcodes in total. Moreover, each of them requires a different volume of gas.

EIP-2929 increases the cost of executing certain opcodes. For example, for the functions of the CALL department, the gas consumption will increase from 700 to 2600 gas. However, this will only happen the first time for a specific address. On further calls, they will cost 100 gas units.

The reason for the increase in these gas costs is to reduce the risk of DoS attacks on the Ethereum network. This vector is the largest of the remaining threats to the blockchain.

EIP-2718 details

When Ethereum first launched on the mainnet – that is, the mainnet – there was only one type of transaction. It included “To” fields, where the transaction was sent, and “Data”, which could include any desired information. Over time, the need for different types of transactions became apparent – especially for the creators of smart contracts.

The EIP-2718 will be the first step in this direction. It will prove to be a kind of envelope – or base – for the issuance of new types of transactions. One of them is expected to be launched in the summer along with the implementation of the EIP-1559 proposal.

EIP-2930 details

The main idea of ​​EIP-2930 is to fix breaking changes in existing smart contracts and mitigate, in some cases, the increase in gas prices that will happen due to the implementation of EIP-2929. EIP-2930 will add a new type of transaction containing a so-called access list, that is, a list of addresses and keys of the store that the transaction plans to access. Providing an access list will simplify transaction processing and safely reduce gas costs.

Things to do before updating Berlin to Ethereum

Preparation for the network update is traditional. If you just keep Ether on cryptocurrency exchanges or hardware wallets, you don’t need to do anything.

The exceptions are miners and node operators. They need to update to the latest Ethereum clients. Here are the latest software releases.

  • Geth – Gemini Sigma (v1.10.1);
  • OpenEthereum – OpenEthereum v3.2.0;
  • Nethermind – v1.10.31;
  • Besu21.1.2 .

The Berlin update will be an important step in the evolution of Ethereum. And although in fact the update is an intermediate step for larger-scale improvements, at the moment it is considered the most relevant. So let’s hope everything goes well. There is less than a month to wait for the update.

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