Robust smart contracts are essential for the efficient performance of blockchain solutions. But how do you decide which smart contract platform best suits your needs?
Blockchain technology can now be found in lots of different spheres, from finance and healthcare to sports and logistics. Its many benefits, such as decentralization and immutability, have helped to secure the technology’s steady growth — blockchain’s market value is estimated to shoot up from $7.18 billion in 2022 to $163.83 billion by 2029.
To ensure the smooth functioning of a blockchain solution, you need to develop reliable smart contracts. A smart contract is a computer program that runs on blockchain and automatically executes predetermined actions. These programs are deployed with smart contract platforms.
A smart contract platform is a blockchain that offers smart contract programming and testing services. It is used as a framework for building dApps.
But which smart contract platform should you opt for and how do you work out if it will cater to your requirements more effectively than the others? Let’s find out.
What are the benefits of smart contracts?
There are several benefits that make smart contracts so valuable:
- Decentralization — since smart contracts are self-executing programs, they require no authority or middlemen, achieving a high level of decentralization.
- Error prevention — smart contracts leave no room for human error, as they function according to a strictly determined plan.
- Security and transparency — smart contracts are blockchain entities thus they are immutable, meaning no one can tamper with them without being detected straightaway.
- Speed — transactions made with the help of self-executing smart contracts are fast, with no time being wasted on intermediaries’ decision-making or on manual paperwork.
- Expense reduction — no middlemen equals no extra spendings.
List of the top 5 smart contract platforms
Over the years in blockchain development, we have worked with many smart contract platforms and examined both their strengths and weaknesses. So now we are well qualified to highlight the top 5 smart contract platforms: Ethereum, Solana, Avalanche, Algorand, and Hyperledger Fabric.
Let’s take a closer look at these platforms.
Ethereum is the first smart contract platform. It has recently switched to the Proof-of-Stake consensus mechanism, improving the transaction speed — at present, Ethereum processes 20-40 tps, but it is estimated to achieve 100,000 transactions per second (tps) once the platform completes the next upgrade and leverages sharding.
The transition also drastically reduces the environmental toll, lowering energy consumption by 99%. What’s more, transaction fees have also plummeted. At the time of writing, the average translation fee is $2.35.
Ethereum has a powerful community and lots of documentation and manuals. This ties in with the fact that the majority of smart contract developers have experience of deploying Ethereum-based smart contracts.
Ethereum’s smart contracts are written in its own smart contract programming language — Solidity. It comes with detailed guidelines on how to implement smart contracts, making it easy for developers to build on it.
Ethereum has a smart contract execution environment called Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM). EVM is compatible with other blockchains such as Solana and Avalanche, allowing developers to transfer their smart contracts to other platforms.
There are, however, some drawbacks of Ethereum. First, as there is a massive amount of users, the network can get overloaded, resulting in longer processing time and higher transaction fees.
Second, some experts say that the transition from Proof-of-Work to Proof-of-Stake consensus may make the blockchain more vulnerable to security breaches.
Take a look at our detailed overview of Ethereum Merge
Solana can boast the fastest transaction speed — 65,000 tps. The blockchain uses a combination of Proof-of-Stake and Proof-of-History consensus algorithms and is able to process transactions in parallel, thus significantly boosting the network’s performance. Solana also offers a low transaction fee, just $0.00025.
Smart contracts built on Solana are written in Rust, C++, and C. These are popular programming languages, so there is no need for a developer to learn a completely new one.
Solana offers a range of smart contract development tools such as frameworks and SDKs. What’s more, developers can also use the Solana Program Library — a collection of tried and tested smart contracts that can be readily integrated into the dApps.
In addition, Solana is compatible with EVM, thanks to the cross-chain Neon EVM solution. It means that developers can run Ethereum-based smart contracts on the Solana ecosystem.
Unfortunately, Solana has experienced a number of security violations and network outages. For example, in September 2021 the network was offline for almost 18 hours. However, the founders claim that they are actively working on solutions that will fix these issues.
Despite issues with security violations, Solana is commonly referred to as one of Ethereum’s key competitors. Therefore, we compared both in our Solana vs Ethereum video. Check it out to better understand their differences and similarities, and choose the one that suits your business case.
Avalanche has a three-chain subnet architecture which gives developers maximum flexibility and control over applications. One of the subnets, C-Chain, is focused exclusively on smart contracts.
Another benefit of Avalanche is EVM compatibility, meaning that developers can leverage all the tools offered by Ethereum and its programming language and then seamlessly transfer their dApps to Avalanche.
One more tangible perk is that the platform is able to withstand the “51% attack”. To take control of Avalanche, fraudsters will need to hold 80% of the validation authority.
However, Avalanche still has a long way to go to catch up with its more firmly established counterparts, such as Ethereum and Solana. Also, some experts fear that Avalanche can be subjected to some degree of centralization since its nodes may delegate their tasks to third parties, creating the conditions for node hoarding.
Algorand’s consensus algorithm, Pure Proof of Stake (PPoS), provides each user with an equal chance of being selected as a validator. Thus it ensures the highest possible degree of security, since no one knows who the next block validators are.
Developers can write Algorand smart contracts in Transaction Execution Approval Language (TEAL) or in Python. Plus, the platform has its own smart contract execution environment — Algorand Virtual Machine (AVM).
The main disadvantage of Algorand is its low level of adoption and the very intense competition. Also, there are centralization concerns, due to the fact that 60% of Algorand’s token supply is controlled by founders and private insiders.
Hyperledger Fabric is an enterprise-oriented smart contract platform, leveraged by giants such as Walmart, Hitachi, and Amazon.
There is a good reason why it has attracted this attention: in contrast to the other platforms we have mentioned, which are public blockchains, Hyperledger is a permissioned one. It means its transaction records are only accessible to authenticated users, which is a very important consideration for a range of industries, from supply chain to healthcare. Moreover, it is possible to create private channels for selected users if the data and transactions are highly sensitive.
The platform is capable of processing 20,000 transactions per second at a zero transaction fee.
Hyperledger Fabric utilizes Crash Fault Tolerant (CFT) consensus algorithm that can withstand system failures, such as crashes and network partitioning, while correctly processing transactions and reaching consensus.
When it comes to the drawbacks, Hyperledger Fabric doesn‘t have a token system: this limits the types of smart contracts that can be deployed via its platform. Also, it has a complicated architecture, and not many programmers have the necessary skills to work with Hyperledger.
Get acquainted with Echo — blockchain ecosystem for smart contracts and dApps development
How to choose a smart contract platform for your project?
There is no one-size-fits-all option, so to choose a suitable smart contract platform you should carefully weigh up your blockchain project’s requirements and functionality.
The key aspects you need to consider are:
- Transaction speed
- Transaction fee
- Programming language and the tools a smart contract platform offers
- Consensus algorithm
You can lean towards Ethereum if you want a time-tested solution that offers robust tools and comprehensive documentation. Yet it might not be the perfect option if you need the fastest and the cheapest transactions.
In this case, try Solana, Avalanche, or Algorand. These platforms don’t lag behind Ethereum in terms of smart contract development tools, and they offer swift transaction execution at a very low cost. However, be very aware of security and take all possible measures to shield your smart contracts from any fraudulent activity.
If your project deals with sensitive data, consider Hyperledger Fabric, because you can then be sure that no unauthorized user will have access to it. However, this framework won’t serve you well if you need smart contracts for token management.
The pool of smart contract platforms is not limited to these 5 options. Depending on your project aims and requirements, some other blockchain may serve your needs better. Thus we highly recommend turning to seasoned blockchain consultants before choosing a smart contract platform. These specialists have an in-depth knowledge of many platforms and understand their strengths and limitations and will suggest the most suitable solution specifically for your business.
Creating smart contracts: Mantra DAO use case
Mantra DAO, a community-governed DeFi platform, turned to us searching for blockchain specialists who would assist them in transitioning from Ethereum to a smart contract platform in order to provide better scalability and lower transaction costs.
After a thorough analysis of smart contract platforms, we concluded that Solana meets Manta DAO’s requirements best. PixelPlex tech specialists worked out 3 different migration options, evaluating the pros and cons of each scenario.
Eventually we decided to rewrite all the existing smart contracts in Rust (+ fixed existing security bugs). This allowed us to achieve better flexibility and increase the smart contracts’ performance.
The transition facilitated Mantra DAO’s successful growth and user acquisition. Now the platform can boast 46.7 million native tokens staked and a large community of users from more than 100 countries.
Find out how PRISM NFT marketplace managed to enhance their smart contracts after our thorough analysis and security check
Choosing the right smart contract platform is one of the most vital aspects that will determine speed, security and overall success of your blockchain solution. There is a great variety of platforms with Ethereum, Solana, and Avalanche taking the lead.
Each smart contract platform comes with its advantages and drawbacks that are to be discussed with regard to your blockchain project and its specific needs. The main features we recommend paying attention to are security, transaction speed and cost, and programming tools.
At PixelPlex, we have gained great experience over a decade spent building blockchain solutions, including smart contracts. Feel free to contact us with any questions: our well-versed specialists will provide you with valuable insights and guide you through every aspect of smart contract implementation.