BLOCK CHAIN – A DATA STORE BUT NOT A DATABASE
The Blockchain is an undeniably ingenious invention – the brainchild of a person or group of people known by the pseudonym, Satoshi Nakamoto. But since then, it has evolved into something greater, and the main question every single person is asking is: What is the difference between blockchain and database ?
“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.” Don & Alex Tapscott, authors Blockchain Revolution (2016)
The blockchain is defined as “a system that’s secure without a higher authority, distributed across many strangers’ computers, yet tamper-proof, and promises a mechanism for trust mediated directly between individuals”. Essentially, by providing a distributed means to guarantee and verify transactions, the blockchain offers the ultimate opportunity to cut out the middleman. If trust and robustness aren’t an issue, there’s nothing a blockchain can do that a regular database cannot.
A data store is a stripped-down data storage medium that can sometimes serve in the place of a database, depending on the use case. Data stores tend not to adhere, at least not strictly, to ACID (Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, Durability) principles for reasons of simplicity and scaling. So they have advantages in certain use cases not requiring immediate consistency. Keep in mind that vendors will call the data stores they offer “databases”, and they do keep adding features to them, so over time they become less data store-like.
When most people think of a “database”, what they’re referring to is something along the lines of Oracle, MySQL or SQL Server—a relational database that assumes a tabular data model and a bias toward transactional, often numerical data. These databases are chock full of features and are still evolving, but aren’t all things to all people.
Basically what’s happened over the last decade has been the proliferation of database and data store types for a range of different purposes. Blockchains (another data storage concept that could eventually belong under the database umbrella, really) just assign a higher priority to certain features that allow distributed ledger sharing, shared immutable recording and consensus building—quite valuable capabilities traditional databases haven’t yet been designed to offer.
It’s hard to imagine a future where Blockchains stay separate from other data storage types. More blurring seems inevitable as designers try to serve a broadening range of purposes along the lifecycle continuum. But more and more of the data being generated is on the less permanent and persistent end of the continuum. Blockchains allow permanent, immutable recordkeeping and are much slower than data stores designed to handle and distribute more perishable data. More data will become more or less “permanent”, but permanence comes at a cost that not all data warrants.
Out of many differences, the greatest difference between a blockchain and a database is that a blockchain is decentralized.
The core function of both a blockchain and a database is to store information. While a database is usually stored on a centralized server, a blockchain is spread out across the globe on volunteers computers (keep in mind the blockchain is on each one of these volunteers computers not just a piece of said blockchain). The volunteers do this by running nodes. Nodes connect with other nodes in the network and talk to each other. The broadcast transactions and continue to ensure their blockchain is valid. All these nodes working together in addition to miners create a decentralized consensus and in the case of Bitcoin that consensus is who has how much bitcoin and where did they get it from.