Introducing Amazon Managed Blockchain Access Bitcoin
Builders in the blockchain space are often burdened with the undifferentiated heavy lifting involved in managing a resilient fleet of blockchain node clients to access one or more public blockchains. Configuring, provisioning, and maintaining a multitude of public blockchain nodes can be prohibitively resource intensive, both in infrastructure costs and in the human hours required to operate these nodes in a highly available, resilient, and performant manner. In a resource-constrained environment, it’s increasingly important for Amazon Web Services (AWS) customers to optimize costs and resource expenditures wherever possible. This has driven interest in serverless, API-based access patterns for public blockchains that offer a pay-as-you-go model rather than dedicated nodes that have higher single-organization costs regardless of usage.
In response to this prevalent challenge and to customer demand, Amazon Managed Blockchain has expanded its fully managed blockchain infrastructure service, Amazon Managed Blockchain (AMB) Access, to support access to the Bitcoin network (mainnet and testnet). Through Amazon Managed Blockchain Access Bitcoin, developers will be able to work with Bitcoin JSON-RPC APIs through easily accessible endpoints that offer predictable pay-as-you-go pricing to build a variety of applications that interact with the Bitcoin network. AMB Access Bitcoin features a fleet of non-mining Bitcoin Core nodes serve JSON-RPC requests in a highly available and reliable way. For use cases that need highly available access to Bitcoin JSON-RPC APIs without requiring a local, dedicated Bitcoin node, or use cases that necessitate intermittent access to the Bitcoin network, AMB Access Bitcoin is an ideal choice.
In this post, we provide an overview of the new AMB Access Bitcoin offering, its key features and benefits, and several examples of how the service can be used. You can find more details and resources about how to get started building on Bitcoin in the Amazon Managed Blockchain Access Bitcoin developer guide.
NOTE: The Bitcoin Core nodes operated by AWS are not mining nodes, meaning they are not participating in Bitcoin mining through proof-of-work.
AMB Access Bitcoin – Key Features
There are a variety of features that support builders in developing applications to interact with the Bitcoin blockchain with the Bitcoin offering on Amazon Managed Blockchain Access. Among these, there are three key features that highlight the core value of the service.
Build on Bitcoin without managing node infrastructure
One of the key features of using AMB Access Bitcoin is that it lowers the barrier to entry for developers to build on Bitcoin. Without provisioning any infrastructure, managing configuration, or waiting for node synchronization, developers can instantaneously interact with the Bitcoin mainnet or testnet using the AWS-provided endpoints in supported AWS Regions. By relying on underlying Bitcoin node infrastructure managed by AWS, you can focus on the use-case specific aspects of your project rather than provisioning and maintaining Bitcoin nodes.
AMB Access Bitcoin offers mainnet and testnet endpoints that load balance requests against a fleet of Bitcoin Core full nodes (non-mining) under the hood. These nodes are used to handle JSON remote procedure call (RPC) requests made to the Amazon Managed Blockchain Access endpoints, and support most of the JSON-RPC APIs available in Bitcoin Core. You can review a full list of supported JSON-RPC APIs in the Amazon Managed Blockchain Access Bitcoin developer guide.
Predictable pricing and lower total cost of ownership
Most commonly, Bitcoin Core node clients used in applications run as a full node, which is a configuration that dictates that the node client software maintain a full copy of the Bitcoin blockchain ledger. As such, this node client requires consistent internet connectivity capable of handling several hundred gigabytes (GB) of upload traffic per month, as well as expandable storage to accommodate the approximately 500 GB size of the Bitcoin ledger and its growth of around 16–22 GB per month. Ideally, a Bitcoin full node should run continuously—24 hours a day, 7 days a week—to continue to sync with the rest of the network. In a situation where a single node isn’t sufficient to serve requests to read data from Bitcoin or submit transactions, as is increasingly common for most applications scaling for mainstream user traffic, you might choose to operate several nodes. In this scenario, the costs associated with running a Bitcoin node are multiplied by the number of nodes in the fleet. Furthermore, the human hours required to configure, provision, and maintain these nodes add to the cost. For example, production-grade fleet of Bitcoin nodes running on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances with the necessary load balancing, storage, and authorization/authentication infrastructure could cost between $1000 and $1500 per month to operate. This cost also grows with compute demands for complex RPC requests, data transfer costs to interact with the nodes, and expanding storage requirements.
With AMB Access Bitcoin, you can build on Bitcoin without managing your own nodes for a fraction of the cost. You can remove the fixed costs associated with maintaining one or more Bitcoin Core node clients and simply access Bitcoin JSON-RPC APIs on demand, only paying for actual usage. With transparent pricing for each JSON-RPC API, you can easily predict what your workload will cost to operate while reducing the total cost of ownership for an application that must access the Bitcoin mainnet or testnet. For example, an application that makes 10 million getblock (verbosity =1) calls, 1 million getblockstats calls, creates and broadcasts 10 thousand transactions in a month would cost approximately $176 based on API pricing.
Reliable and highly available Bitcoin APIs
With a fleet of Bitcoin Core full nodes serving JSON-RPC request traffic in each supported Region, AMB Access Bitcoin offers the same reliability and high availability you rely on with other AWS managed services. Rather than relying on a single provisioned node that may not scale with your needs, you can make requests against a horizontally scalable fleet of Bitcoin nodes that are monitored and replaced if unhealthy. Furthermore, you no longer have to guess if the nodes will be able to handle your JSON-RPC request volume at sub-second latency, as the JSON-RPC APIs used by AMB Access Bitcoin scale with your needs. AMB Access Bitcoin is also highly available. With Bitcoin endpoints available in multiple Regions and individual nodes in each region deployed across Availability Zones, you can expect 99.9 percent availability from the service.
Whether you’re building a proof-of-concept or a high-scale production workload, AMB Access Bitcoin can support your Bitcoin JSON-RPC request traffic.
AMB Access Bitcoin use cases
There are a variety of use cases that require Bitcoin network access, which can be achieved with the AMB Access Bitcoin offering. A few of these use cases are listed below.
Bitcoin Spot ETF management
Established financial services institutions have continued to apply for approval of a Bitcoin (BTC) spot exchange-traded fund (ETF) to offer a Bitcoin investment product to retail and institutional investors that enable them to gain exposure to digital assets without directly owning the underlying assets. The implementation and management of a spot Bitcoin ETF, a product that offers Bitcoin investment at its present cash cost rather than its presumed future value, would require consistent access to the Bitcoin mainnet to broadcast transactions that move actual Bitcoin on the network, verify historical transactions, and more.
Digital asset exchanges
Retail investors who wish to gain access to Bitcoin as an investment or medium of exchange turn to cryptocurrency exchanges to purchase Bitcoin with fiat currency (for example, USD, CAD, GBP, or EUR). Cryptocurrency exchanges rely on large fleets of public blockchain nodes to service their customers’ transaction volume, track asset balances, and perform data analytics across multiple different blockchains, but not every exchange wants to manage its own nodes for every blockchain and cryptocurrency it supports. AMB Access Bitcoin offers a mechanism for exchanges to facilitate Bitcoin transactions, read data from the Bitcoin network, and more without provisioning or managing nodes on their own. Exchanges also offer custody, or the management of a digital asset wallet on behalf of a customer, which also necessitates the use of public blockchain nodes.
Digital asset custody
The development of digital asset custody services that help secure Bitcoin on behalf of users, such as Coinbase Custody, Fireblocks, and BitGo, require direct access to the Bitcoin blockchain through nodes in order to send transactions on behalf of users, verify deposits of Bitcoin, read information related to historical or pending transactions, and more. With AMB Access Bitcoin, custody services can reduce their infrastructure footprint by performing Bitcoin JSON-RPC operations through the on-demand APIs rather than managing several Bitcoin core full node clients.
Borrowing and lending on DeFi applications
For holders of Bitcoin, it’s possible to trustlessly lend or borrow funds through decentralized finance (DeFi) applications that run on other public blockchains such as Ethereum. Bitcoin can be wrapped by sending units of Bitcoin on the Bitcoin network to be held effectively in escrow by a custodian and then minting (creating) the equivalent units on another blockchain to be exchanged or used as collateral in DeFi applications. For example, wrapped Bitcoin (WBTC) can be deposited into a liquidity pool for a lending protocol like Aave to earn yield (interest) as a reward for supplying liquidity used for borrowing on the platform. Upstream, these WBTC custodians must be able to verify signed messages and Bitcoin transactions and facilitate Bitcoin transactions on behalf of users during unwrapping events, that is, where the WBTC is destroyed on Ethereum and withdrawn back to native Bitcoin. This action requires access to the Bitcoin JSON-RPC API, making AMB Access Bitcoin a compelling option. In addition, Amazon Managed Blockchain Access also offers fully managed, dedicated Ethereum full nodes, which would allow customers to similarly verify the balance of WBTC on the Ethereum network as it’s minted and to interact with the aforementioned DeFi applications. With Amazon Managed Blockchain Access Bitcoin and Ethereum, you can create a single application service that connects to both Bitcoin and Ethereum, reducing architectural complexity for cross-chain applications.
With the release of the new Amazon Managed Blockchain Access Bitcoin, you can quickly and reliably develop powerful applications that rely on the Bitcoin blockchain and do so at a lower cost. Interested in diving deeper into the technical aspects of the AMB Access Bitcoin offering? Stay tuned for a follow-up blog post that provides more technical detail, sample code and insight into how to integrate AMB Access Bitcoin into your application! If you are interested in building with public blockchain data, check out Retrieve Bitcoin and Ethereum Public Blockchain Data with Amazon Managed Blockchain Query, which details AWS’ new blockchain data service that provides developer-friendly REST APIs to access data from multiple public blockchains.
About the authors
Forrest Colyer manages the Web3/Blockchain Specialist Solutions Architecture team that supports the Amazon Managed Blockchain (AMB) service. Forrest and his team support customers at every stage of their adoption journey, from proof of concept to production, providing deep technical expertise and strategic guidance to help bring blockchain workloads to life. Through his experience with private blockchain solutions led by consortia and public blockchain use cases like NFTs and DeFi, Forrest helps enable customers to identify and implement high-impact blockchain solutions.
William R. Tolbert IV is a Solutions Architect based in Austin, Texas (AUS16). He is a New York native and United States Air Force veteran, with over 3 years of experience in the cloud space. Currently, William is active in the Blockchain Aspiring Area of Depth TFC. William prides himself on introducing customers to the Amazon Managed Blockchain service and providing value in the cloud.