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Layer 2 & the Virtual Machine - Unveiling the Future of Scalability


As the world continues to embrace the transformative potential of blockchain technology, the need for scalable, efficient, and interoperable solutions has never been more crucial. Layer 2 solutions and virtual machines are two key components in addressing these challenges, enabling the advancement of decentralized applications (dApps) and digital currencies. This article delves into the intricacies of Layer 2 and virtual machines, exploring their role in enhancing the capabilities of blockchain networks and how they will shape the future of decentralized systems.

Understanding Layer 1 and Layer 2

The Foundation of Blockchain: Layer 1

In the rapidly evolving world of decentralized technology, Layer 1 plays a pivotal role as the foundational infrastructure upon which various blockchain networks are built. Serving as the backbone for secure, transparent, and efficient distributed ledgers, Layer 1 provides the bedrock for countless applications, from cryptocurrencies to decentralized finance (DeFi) and smart contracts.

At its core, Layer 1 encompasses the consensus mechanisms, cryptographic protocols, and data storage techniques that enable decentralized networks to maintain integrity, reliability, and security. With various blockchain architectures such as Proof of Work (PoW), Proof of Stake (PoS), and Delegated Proof of Stake (DPoS) falling under its purview, Layer 1 has become the cornerstone for facilitating trustless and permissionless transactions on a global scale.To appreciate the significance of Layer 2 solutions, it's essential to understand the foundation on which they're built - Layer 1. Layer 1, or the base layer, is the fundamental protocol of a blockchain network. It encompasses the core elements, such as consensus algorithms, cryptographic methods, and data structures, that enable the secure and decentralized functioning of a blockchain.

Some well-known Layer 1 blockchains include Bitcoin & Ethereum. These platforms form the basis for a vast array of applications and cryptocurrencies, each boasting unique features and capabilities. However, Layer 1 blockchains often face limitations in terms of transaction throughput, latency, and scalability.

Layer 2: Enhancing Scalability and Efficiency in Blockchain Networks

As blockchain technology continues to revolutionize various industries, the demand for faster, more efficient, and scalable networks has never been greater. Enter Layer 2 solutions, an innovative set of protocols designed to address the limitations of Layer 1, the foundational infrastructure of blockchain networks.

Layer 2 solutions operate on top of existing blockchain networks, such as Ethereum or Bitcoin, and are specifically designed to improve transaction throughput, reduce latency, and lower costs without compromising the security and decentralization of the underlying Layer 1 protocols. By utilizing innovative techniques like state channels, sidechains, and rollups, Layer 2 seeks to alleviate network congestion, enabling a new generation of high-performance, decentralized applications (dApps).

Overcoming Limitations: Layer 2

Layer 2 solutions have been designed specifically to address the limitations inherent in Layer 1 blockchain networks, such as scalability, latency, and transaction costs. By operating on top of the existing blockchain networks, Layer 2 solutions can enhance these networks' performance without compromising their security and decentralization.

Here are some of the key ways Layer 2 solutions help overcome Layer 1 limitations:

Increased Scalability: Layer 2 solutions allow for more transactions per second (TPS) than most Layer 1 blockchains, which often suffer from network congestion due to limited transaction throughput. Techniques such as rollups, sidechains, and state channels enable off-chain processing of transactions, which reduces the burden on the main chain and allows for greater scalability.

Reduced Latency: Layer 2 solutions can enable faster transaction processing and confirmation times by handling transactions off-chain or on sidechains. These off-chain transactions can be settled quickly without waiting for the main chain's block confirmation, thus improving the overall user experience.

Lower Transaction Costs: As Layer 2 solutions process transactions off-chain or on sidechains, they can help minimize the transaction fees associated with Layer 1 networks. This is particularly useful for micropayments and other use cases where high transaction fees would otherwise be prohibitive.

Enhanced Privacy: Some Layer 2 solutions, such as zero-knowledge rollups and state channels, can provide improved privacy features by keeping certain transaction details off the main blockchain. This enables confidential transactions and can be particularly useful for privacy-sensitive applications.

Interoperability: Layer 2 solutions can also facilitate cross-chain communication and asset transfers between different blockchain networks. This interoperability can foster greater collaboration and innovation within the blockchain ecosystem.

By addressing these limitations, Layer 2 solutions have the potential to unlock new possibilities for decentralized applications (dApps) and drive mass adoption of blockchain technology. While Layer 2 is not a one-size-fits-all solution, its various approaches offer a range of possibilities to enhance the performance, efficiency, and user experience of existing Layer 1 networks.

The Mechanics of Layer 2 Solutions

Channels and State

Layer 2 solutions can be broadly categorized into state channels and sidechains, each with its own set of characteristics and use cases. State channels allow for off-chain transactions between parties. Essentially, state channels enable users to transact with one another without the need to broadcast every transaction to the underlying blockchain. This is achieved by locking up a specific amount of funds in a multi-signature wallet, after which multiple transactions can be conducted off-chain. Once the parties involved in the channel are ready to close it, they submit the final state of the channel to the blockchain, effectively reducing the number of on-chain transactions.


Sidechains, on the other hand, are separate, parallel blockchains that run alongside the main blockchain. They are interconnected via two-way pegs, allowing for the seamless transfer of assets between the main chain and the sidechain. Sidechains can employ their own consensus mechanisms and can be customized for specific use cases, thus enhancing the overall scalability and flexibility of the blockchain ecosystem.

Prominent Layer 2 Solutions

The Lightning Network

The Lightning Network is perhaps the most well-known Layer 2 solution, designed to improve the scalability of the Bitcoin network. It employs state channels for off-chain transactions, enabling faster and cheaper transactions while maintaining the security of the underlying blockchain. The Lightning Network has shown promising results, with thousands of nodes and channels currently in operation.

Plasma and Optimistic Rollups

Plasma is a Layer 2 scaling solution for Ethereum, primarily focusing on increasing throughput for smart contracts. Plasma creates child chains (sidechains) that are attached to the main Ethereum blockchain, enabling multiple transactions to be processed off-chain before being submitted as a single transaction on the main chain.Optimistic Rollups, another Layer 2 solution for Ethereum, use a similar approach to Plasma. However, they utilize a technique called "rollup" to bundle multiple transactions together and submit them as a single transaction on the main chain. Optimistic Rollups leverage smart contracts to provide a high degree of security and trust, while still maintaining the benefits of off-chain processing.


zk-Rollups are another Layer 2 scaling solution for Ethereum, focusing on increasing throughput and enhancing privacy. zk-Rollups employ zero-knowledge proofs, a cryptographic technique that allows for the validation of transactions without revealing the underlying data. This ensures privacy while still allowing for off-chain transactions to be bundled and submitted as a single transaction on the main chain. zk-Rollups also provide a significant improvement in transaction throughput, making them an attractive choice for various applications.

The Role of Virtual Machines

What is a Virtual Machine?

A virtual machine (VM) is a software-based emulation of a physical computer system, enabling the execution of programs and applications in a virtual environment. A VM is also a crucial component of many blockchain networks, particularly those designed to support smart contracts and decentralized applications (dApps).In the context of blockchain, a VM is an execution environment that allows developers to create and deploy smart contracts, enabling programmable, self-executing code on the blockchain. The most well-known example is the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM).

The Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) is perhaps the most well-known example of a blockchain-based virtual machine. The EVM is responsible for executing smart contracts on the Ethereum network, allowing for the creation and deployment of decentralized applications (dApps). It is a Turing-complete system, meaning it can execute any algorithm given enough time and resources. The EVM plays a crucial role in the Ethereum ecosystem, as it enables developers to build a wide variety of applications on the platform.

VM & EVM differences

A VM is a general term that refers to an abstract computing environment that enables the execution of programs or code, typically by emulating a specific computer architecture or operating system. VMs are widely used in various fields of computing, including software development, cloud computing, and operating system virtualization.

On the other hand, the EVM is a specific type of VM designed for the Ethereum blockchain network. The EVM is a decentralized virtual machine that facilitates the execution of smart contracts on the Ethereum network. It allows developers to write and deploy self-executing code (smart contracts) using Ethereum's native programming languages, such as Solidity or Vyper. The EVM is a type of VM, specifically designed to support the development and execution of smart contracts on the Ethereum platform.

The Importance of Virtual Machines in Layer 2 Solutions

Virtual machines are an integral component of many Layer 2 solutions, particularly those focused on smart contract scalability. By offloading smart contract execution to a separate virtual machine or sidechain, these Layer 2 solutions can significantly increase throughput and reduce the strain on the main blockchain.

For example, Optimistic Rollups and zk-Rollups both utilize virtual machines to execute smart contracts off-chain before submitting the final results to the main chain. Similarly, sidechains like xDai and Polygon (formerly Matic Network) employ their own virtual machines to facilitate smart contract execution, effectively increasing the overall scalability of the Ethereum ecosystem.

Below we discuss the possible interactions of EVM with Layer 1 & Layer 2 solutions.

Interaction with Layer 1:

a. Smart Contract Deployment: Developers deploy smart contracts onto the Layer 1 blockchain using the VM. The VM compiles the source code into bytecode, which is then stored on the blockchain and executed as transactions occur.

b. Transaction Processing: When a transaction involving a smart contract is submitted, the VM processes the transaction by executing the relevant smart contract code. This may involve updating the blockchain's state or triggering events based on the smart contract's logic.

c. Consensus Mechanisms: The VM operates within the Layer 1 blockchain's consensus framework (e.g., Proof of Work, Proof of Stake) to ensure that smart contract execution results are consistent and agreed upon by network participants.

Interaction with Layer 2:

a. Off-Chain Computation: Layer 2 solutions often involve off-chain computation, which can include executing smart contracts. In such cases, the VM may interact with Layer 2 protocols to perform off-chain smart contract execution, thereby reducing the computational load on the Layer 1 blockchain.

b. Integration with Layer 2 Scaling Solutions: Some Layer 2 solutions, such as optimistic rollups and zk-rollups, have their own VMs that are compatible with the Layer 1 VM (e.g., EVM-compatible rollups). In these cases, the Layer 1 VM interacts with the Layer 2 VM to enable seamless execution of smart contracts across layers.

c. Cross-chain Communication: VMs can also facilitate communication between different Layer 1 or Layer 2 networks. For example, smart contracts on one chain may interact with those on another chain using cross-chain bridges and interoperability protocols.

By providing an execution environment for smart contracts, virtual machines play a vital role in enabling programmable functionality and automation within blockchain networks. As the bridge between Layer 1 and Layer 2 solutions, VMs are integral to the seamless functioning and scaling of decentralized applications and blockchain ecosystems.

The Future of Layer 2 and Virtual Machines

As blockchain technology continues to mature, the need for scalable and efficient solutions will only grow. Layer 2 solutions and virtual machines are poised to play an increasingly important role in the development of decentralized applications and digital currencies, enabling a new wave of innovation and adoption.

Furthermore, the rise of interoperable blockchains and cross-chain communication will likely necessitate the development of new Layer 2 solutions and virtual machines capable of facilitating seamless interactions between different networks. This advancement will pave the way for a truly interconnected and scalable decentralized ecosystem, unlocking the full potential of blockchain technology.


Layer 2 solutions and virtual machines are instrumental in addressing the scalability and interoperability challenges faced by blockchain networks today. By offloading transactions and smart contract execution to secondary layers, these technologies enable significant improvements in throughput, latency, and efficiency, while maintaining the decentralized and secure nature of blockchain systems. As the demand for scalable, decentralized applications grows, Layer 2 solutions and virtual machines will be at the forefront of the evolution of the blockchain landscape.