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Bringing Full-Stack Infrastructure to Zero Knowledge Networks


Web3 Infra_Web3 Era (1)


As far as Web3 networks go, it’s been a zero knowledge (“ZK”) year. Billions of dollars have poured into a bevy of ZK networks and tooling, in pursuit of exciting applications related to privacy and more. Against this backdrop, we at Validation Cloud have observed a scarcity of consensus-critical infrastructure for zero knowledge networks, specifically as it relates to the splitting of the traditional validator role into two distinct roles — computationally-intensive “provers” and “sequencers.” Identifying and solving hard problems in Web3 infrastructure is in our company DNA, so in response to the deficit of ZK foundational infrastructure, we created the only full-stack infrastructure solution for ZK networks.

In this post, we’ll provide a primer on zero knowledge technologies, noteworthy ZK ecosystems, and the challenges inherent in running ZK infrastructure.

History & Concepts of Zero Knowledge Technologies

Zero Knowledge Proof (“ZKP” or “ZK”) technologies — specifically ZK rollups — infuse scalability, modularity, and privacy-preserving principles into decentralized consensus. In short, ZK rollups are the most formidable attempt to solve the “blockchain trilemma. ” The blockchain trilemma is the notion that to achieve a truly effective blockchain, it must be thoroughly decentralized, secure, and scalable. Decentralization and security refer to how trustlessly you can confirm data on a blockchain to be true and unchangeable, without needing to rely on a single point-of-failure (or censoring) middleman. Scalability relates to how fast a transaction can be considered “final” on a blockchain.

ZK principles aren’t new. Encryption, for example, has been around since the 1980s, and it forms the basis of multiple protocols used by billions of people every day. In fact, you are utilizing the underlying principles of ZK tech right now in order to have secure access to this blogpost (secure connection between web browsers and servers, enabled by SSL/TLS).

As ZK tech continues to evolve, it may soon form the basis of the next generation of blockchain applications, such as confidential smart contracts and private dApps.

Brief Rundown of the ZK Ecosystem Today

Thanks to Ethereum’s Byzantium upgrade (aka Ethereum’s Metropolis Stage 1) in 2017, the possibility of incorporating ZK technology into the Ethereum layer 1 became a reality. Since then, the ecosystem has been hard at work developing new types of chains that can integrate with Ethereum, and by doing so make an already very decentralized and secure layer become significantly more scalable with minimal sacrifices. Here are some examples of the latest ZK cryptonetworks and their underlying proving mechanisms, in no particular order:


ZkSync employs zk-SNARKs, which are a widely-used ZKP system known for its compact proofs and fast verification times. ZkSync emphasizes user experience, with features such as account-based models and native meta-transactions that simplify interaction with the platform for end users.


StarkNet utilizes zk-STARKs, which are a highly scalable and transparent zero-knowledge proof system that does not require a trusted setup. To write smart contracts on StarkNet, a developer would work with their custom framework, Cairo, which is a highly performant smart contract language tailored to work with STARKs. To deploy and manage the execution of your StarkNet dApps, you might consider using their Rust-based SDK “StarkNet Core.” (To read in more technical detail on the meaning of a “trusted setup,” see Vitalik’s article from 2017.)


Aleo is a privacy-focused Layer 1 blockchain platform that utilizes “Marlin” (a zk-SNARK construction based on the PLONK framework) to create efficient ZKPs, with improvements to parallelization and recursivity. Aleo offers a developer-friendly platform for building privacy-focused dApps.

Why ZK Hardware is Hard

Zero-Knowledge proving hardware faces multiple challenges, primarily due to the computational complexity and resources required to generate and verify proofs. zk-SNARKs and zk-STARKs, two popular types of ZK proofs underpinning ZK rollups, have different trade-offs that impact the hardware requirements for proving and verifying large amounts of transactions.

Another challenge for some rollups is achieving full EVM compatibility. This is a goal for many layer 2 systems, as it allows the chain to easily tap into the existing Ethereum developer, user, and DeFi ecosystems. However, ZK Rollups involve specific cryptographic constructions that require circuits to be expressed in a very particular form. Implementing EVM-compatible execution within these constraints necessitates the development of specialized compilers and proof systems that can map EVM operations to ZK-friendly circuits — while also maintaining a usable level of developer efficiency.

While zk-STARK-based proofs are generally larger than SNARKs, both proving systems face difficulties. Specifically, memory and computationally intensive operations are required in order to:

a. Create the proof(s), and/or generate all the relevant parameters required for the proof(s)

b. Perform arithmetic operations on polynomials (multiplication, division, Fast Fourier Transforms, etc…) on large data sets

c. Perform complex operations over elliptic curves

In summary, generating Zero-Knowledge proofs for thousands of blockchain transactions per second is difficult due to the computationally intensive nature of the proving process. Both zk-SNARKs and zk-STARKs involve complex arithmetic operations on polynomials and other resource-intensive computations, which require significant GPU power and specialized hardware to perform efficiently. Additionally, each type of ZK proof comes with its own set of trade-offs, such as proof size, computational complexity, and scalability, which further impacts the hardware requirements.

Validation Cloud’s Full-Stack Solution For ZK

Web3 infrastructure organizations should aspire to make the process of building on a blockchain seamless and frictionless. This is crucial for creating the foundations for builders to build, and for users to interact.

As it relates to ZK networks, Validation Cloud has been hard at work creating the only full-stack infrastructure solution for ZK networks. This represents a massive unlock for ZK networks and their communities, offering a turnkey solution for bootstrapping consensus and empowering faster time to market. To that end, by bringing this solution directly to ZK networks, Validation Cloud acts as an experienced sounding board for networks as they navigate their critical infrastructure decisions; in some cases acting as an extension of the network’s own team.

Our full-stack solution ranges from running the infrastructure to the node-API level. The Validation Cloud platform maintains streamlined infrastructure access to vast GPU resources on demand throughout North America, designed specifically for ZK proof-generating use cases. These resources can easily be plugged into our platform to support any new network or team looking to offload their expensive prover workloads for a fraction of the time and cost. Our sequencer solution for teams is analogous in architecture and usage to our node platform. In the context of ZK rollups or other Layer 2 scaling solutions, sequencers aggregate and order multiple transactions off-chain before submitting them as a single, verifiable, compressed batch to the underlying blockchain (e.g. Ethereum).

The two primary roles for infrastructure providers as it pertains to ZK are as follows:

  1. Provers — are primarily responsible for generating ZK proofs (e.g., zk-SNARKs or zk-STARKs) that validate the correctness of a set of transactions without revealing the details of the transactions themselves.
  2. Sequencers — are responsible for collecting, aggregating, and ordering transactions in off-chain environments and allow users to access transaction history

While we are still in the early innings of ZK networks, the lack of consensus-critical infrastructure supporting these networks is a major hurdle to the launch and commercialization of zero knowledge technologies. Our team at Validation Cloud is proud to be working with networks and developers to unlock the promise of ZK and to lead the way in next-generation infrastructure.

We hope you’ll join us on this journey of making the world a more decentralized place.

About Validation Cloud

Validation Cloud is a Web3 data streaming and infrastructure company that connects organizations into Web3 through a fast, scalable, and intelligent platform. Headquartered in Zug, Switzerland, Validation Cloud offers highly performant and customizable products in staking, node, and data-as-a-service. Learn more at | LinkedIn | X