The Ethereum network runs on nodes and clients, which are responsible for validating transactions and ensuring the integrity of the blockchain.
In order to run an Ethereum node, you need to download an Ethereum client application. An Ethereum client is any type of software that helps users connect to the Ethereum network. While there are many different types of clients available, they all serve the same purpose: they allow users to interact with other types of software or services provided by servers.
An Ethereum node is simply an instance of one or more running instances of this client application that have been configured to connect directly or indirectly with other nodes within the network.
What are Ethereum nodes?
When it comes to the Ethereum network, there are three types of nodes: full nodes, light nodes and archive nodes. Full nodes store the entire blockchain in order to interpret data and offer fast synchronization capabilities. Light nodes only keep track of commonly accessed parts of the blockchain; they are useful for wallets but not dapps. Archive nodes don't even bother keeping a copy of the blockchain; they're useful for archiving information but not much else.
Let's take a closer look at the types of nodes:
- A Full node is a computer that performs a certain function on the Ethereum network and runs client software in order to do so. Full nodes download all blocks from the blockchain and store them on their hard drive. This allows users to verify transactions on their own without having to trust other parties involved in confirming transactions. It also prevents miners from altering existing blocks as they are downloaded directly from other miners who have already downloaded them themselves. Full nodes are also able to directly interact with smart contracts on the public blockchain, which allows them to deploy smart contracts into the public blockchain. Running a full node is an important way to help strengthen the Ethereum network. However, this comes at a cost. Full nodes can be taxing on your computer’s hardware and bandwidth resources. Retrieving full data can also be very time consuming, sometimes taking multiple days to sync your data when the node is first deployed. Then, you must maintain, upgrade and keep your node online in order not to have to repeat the full synchronization process each time software updates are released.
- Light nodes are a type of Ethereum client that does not download all blocks from the blockchain. Instead, they only download those pertaining to their own account balance. This means that light clients do not need much disk space nor bandwidth as they only need to keep track of recent transactions affecting their own account balance rather than everything that has ever happened on the blockchain. The most important thing to understand about light clients is that they are not completely trustless. They still use a full node as a gateway to the network, and therefore must trust it not to lie or cheat them in any way. This can be a problem for some people who want absolute privacy, but for most users it's fine because they don't need absolute privacy when using an Ethereum wallet anyway.
- Archive nodes are another type of node that stores all data from every block ever created and builds an archive of historical blockchain states. Archive nodes will retain historical data even after a client has finished synchronization, making them useful for applications like block explorers or chain analytics services. In the case of Ethereum, these nodes can be run on any machine but are generally run on servers with lots of disk space. The more storage you have, the longer your archive will remain accessible!
What is an Ethereum client?
The Ethereum Foundation maintains several different clients for different programming languages. These clients can be useful for developers because they let them interact with the network and other network nodes using various programming languages. The Foundation's most common clients include Go, Rust, Java and C#. Various third-party developers have also created Ethereum clients for further language support. The most common uses for Ethereum clients include transaction and mining interfaces, but its use cases can go far beyond basic blockchain interactions.
The Foundation's clients include:
Developers who use Ethereum have options for implementing their projects. If your preferred language isn’t supported by the Ethereum Foundation, you can use one of the third-party clients available to provide additional language support.
Types of Ethereum client
A full client stores the entire Ethereum blockchain, which can take several days to synchronize and requires more than 1 Terabyte of disk space. Full clients allow connected nodes to perform all tasks on the network, including mining, transaction and block validation and running smart contracts.
A third type of client exists called a remote client. Remote clients are similar to light clients, except they do not store their own copy of the blockchain, nor do they validate transactions or block headers. Instead, remote clients rely on full or light clients to provide them with access to the Ethereum blockchain network. These types of clients are predominantly used as a wallet for sending and receiving transactions.
The difference between nodes and clients
Nodes and clients are both significant parts of the Ethereum network, but they operate independently. One part is like an operating system and the other is like a computer accessing the internet. The node is like Windows or iOS, giving you access to the internet, which means you can access an Ethereum network when you acquire that operating system.
In this article, we examined the differences between nodes and clients. With this information in mind, you can select and configure the best client for your current needs. Make sure to look at all of your options with an open mind so you say something perfect for your application.