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2X the difference: Why the right node deployment matters

Blockchain technology has dramatically transformed different sectors, introducing a new level of transparency, security, and efficiency in processing transactions and data management. At the core of these advances is the critical function of nodes, which serve the vital role of maintaining, verifying, and enhancing blockchain networks.

More specifically, Ethereum archive nodes constitute a central element in Ethereum’s blockchain network. These heavyweight nodes provide the most comprehensive data access, storing the full history of transactions and allowing for a full reconstruction of the network’s state at any time. Whether for research, data analysis, block exploration, or even running a DApp, Ethereum archive nodes prove essential.

However, the process of running an Ethereum archive node on-premise can appear daunting, especially when it comes to understanding cost implications. Concerns range from deciding on the hardware configuration to account for utility expenses and hiring qualified engineers to manage the system.

We aim to unravel this complexity by carefully cataloging individual cost elements and providing an overview of various cost scenarios, which could help blockchain enthusiasts, potential node operators, and decision-makers.

In the forthcoming sections, we explore the infrastructure requirements for operating an Ethereum archive node, actual operating costs including human resource expenses, and how these costs come together and compound in different scenarios—from operating a single, unstaffed node to running a dozen nodes with a full team of engineers.

Running an Ethereum archive node

Ethereum archive nodes on-premise run with a combination of robust hardware, persistent utility, and intense human resources. This explanation sheds light on the associated costs, dissecting each cost element to provide a comprehensive understanding of what goes into managing such a complex operation.

Minimum hardware requirements

Discussing the infrastructure, the first significant outlay, reveals how critical the setup is. The infrastructure directly affects the performance and reliability of the Ethereum archive node. The hardware configuration that we’ll examine in this context forms the minimum requirements for running an Ethereum archive node.

It involves managing harmoniously an 8-core CPU, a 32GB RAM, along with a Hard Disk Drive (HDD) boasting a capacity of more than 3.5TB, although 4TB is the preferred capacity. For improved performance, Solid State Drives (SSDs) are recommended.

Storage3.5TB+ HDD (SSD recommended)
Figure 1: Ethereum archive node minimum hardware requirements; Source: Chainstack / Chainstats

Building a sample server configuration

To put these requirements into perspective, let’s consider an example: a sample server rig configuration. Essentially, it is a single server rig that incorporates a double 3.00Ghz E5-2623v3 quad-core CPU, ending up with a total of 8 cores, and an aggregation of quadruple 16GB PC4-2133P RAM, consequently totaling 64GB RAM. Further, it entails a 6.4TB SSD with eight incorporated 800GB SSD SAS 2.5” drives.

This example adheres to the minimum hardware criteria for running an Ethereum archive node on-premises, forming the foundation for the subsequent cost calculations and estimates. You can anticipate the cost of such a fitting server rig at approximately $1,600 for a refurbished model and within the range of $2,000-$2,500 for a new model, although the rates can vary in real-time based on the market dynamics.

CPU8-core (2x 3.00Ghz E5-2623v3 4x Core CPUs)
RAM64GB (4x 16GB PC4-2133P RAM)
Storage6.4TB (8x 800GB SSD SAS 2.5”)
Cooling7x 80mm fans
Price (refurbished)$1,600
Price (new)$2,000 to $2,500
Price (article case)$2,200
Figure 2: Sample hardware configuration and pricing for running an Ethereum archive node

Counting the utility costs

Next, there are the often-overlooked utility costs. Running Ethereum archive nodes necessitates significant utility resources. For instance, electricity is a recurring expense. With the average U.S. kWh price hovering around $0.16, the cost implication for powering the nodes is approximately $330 per year. Moreover, considering the indispensable need for a reliable internet connection, a Gigabit Internet plan, estimated at $80 per month, is advisable.

ItemCost (1 unit)Cost (12 units)
Electricity$28 / month$330 / month
Internet (Gigabit connection)$80 / month$80 / month
Figure 3: Hardware and utilities costs for running the sample Ethereum archive node server rig

Taking in the human factor

Lastly, you can’t underestimate the role of human capital. Industrial-scale operations need a team of specialists for smooth operation, maintenance, and prompt resolution of node anomalies. At ideal strength, such a team could handle 12-15 nodes around the clock.

Usual roles and compensations include a Senior Cloud Engineer who earns around $190K per year or $16K per month, a Mid-level Cloud Engineer with a yearly take of $120K or $10K monthly, and two Junior Cloud Engineers raking in an annual $68K each, summing to about $6K each monthly, resulting in a $12K monthly total for the two.

PositionSalary (p.m.)Salary (p.a.)
Senior cloud engineer$16,000$192,000
Mid cloud engineer$10,000$120,000
Junior cloud engineer (x2)$12,000$144,000
Figure 4: Human capital costs for running 1-12 Ethereum archive nodes; Source: ComputerCareers

This broad interpretation of costs, alongside the selected server configuration, lays a valuable groundwork for individuals, groups, or companies looking to invest in Ethereum node infrastructure and seeking a better understanding of the financial commitment required.

Exploring possible short-term scenarios

To provide a deeper understanding of costs, let’s explore different scenarios of utilizing Ethereum node infrastructure. The variations in these scenarios lie in the degree of staffing and the node capacity.

At the same time, they are all based on the example server rig setup that we defined earlier, as well as the utility costs involved in powering it. As the scenarios unfold, we’ll be factoring in additional manpower-related costs little by little for a more granular look and explore ‘hacky’ approaches too.

Scenario 1: No humans involved

Firstly, let’s start with a scenario that excludes the biggest spend for any organization—staff payroll. We will be taking into consideration only costs associated with hardware acquisition and utilities. In doing so, we can extend this estimate to other regions of the world, considering it will not be tied to the salaries of US workers.

In its minimum capacity, running a single node, you’ll incur a one-time cost of $2,200 for the hardware purchase. Of course, utility expenses aren’t a one-off, and you’d be setting aside $108 per month—$28 for electricity and $80 for internet services, bringing the total upfront cost to $2,200 while the monthly recurring costs stand at $108.

Now, if you opt to maximize the capacity by running 12 nodes, the one-time cost for hardware installation escalates to $26,400. Monthly utility costs would now amount to $416, a sum of $336 meant for electricity and the previously mentioned $80 for internet connection. Thus, the total upfront cost equals $26,400, while the monthly recurring costs rise proportionately to $416.

Scenario 2: Bare minimum staff

Here, we will explore a scenario that does include some payroll costs but in their absolute minimum. This means that when it comes to staff, there will be a single employee taking care of the entire deployment (don’t ask how!), so to make things balanced, we will consider them a senior.

For minimum capacity or a single node, the expenses largely remain the same as the unstaffed option at $2,200 for the one-time rig purchase and $108 monthly utility cost. However, you’ll now need to factor in staff costs and allocate $16,000 per month for a senior engineer. Again, the total upfront cost is capped at $2,200, but the monthly recurring expenses have significantly increased to $16,108 due to the added expenses of human capital.

Maximizing to 12 nodes, the one-time purchase cost for the rigs reaches $26,400. Monthly utility bills rise to $416, and, considering the senior engineer’s presence, $16,000 monthly staff cost is sustained. This brings your total upfront purchase to $26,400, but the monthly recurring costs sit higher at $16,416.

Scenario 3: Fully staffed deployment

Finally, let’s consider a more realistic scenario, where the entire operation is staffed accordingly. In this alternative, the whole team is involved with a senior, an intermediate, and two junior cloud engineers. This allows for a 24/7 weekly covered, while still letting employees take their time to rest, after working a typical 40-hour work week. No weekend slacking though!

Running at minimum capacity, the single node will set you back $2,200 as a one-time cost for the rig. The usual $108 utility bill is accompanied by a much larger monthly staff cost of $38,000 to pay the complete team, making the total upfront cost $2,200 and the monthly recurring costs rising up to $38,108.

In its maximum capacity of 12 nodes, the initial cost required for rig installation sits at $26,400. Once the utilities are accounted for ($416 per month), along with the monthly wage bill ($38,000), the total upfront cost stands at $26,400. In contrast, the monthly recurring costs have escalated to a substantial $38,416.

This thorough examination of costs under different circumstances hammers home the importance of staff and the scale of Ethereum node infrastructure in cost implications. Furthermore, it drives the point that, while upfront investments may appear quite steep in every scenario, operating expenses can significantly add to the ongoing cost, especially when considering human resources.

Expanding to a five-year timeframe

Understanding the cost implications over a longer period forms an important part of any investment plan. For instance, envisioning these expenditures over a span of five years, a typical hardware lifecycle, allows the possibility of more informed decision-making.

This consideration becomes even more critical given the potentially significant outlays, especially those related to staffing a full team. Let’s narrate how these costs compile for different scenarios over a five-year lifecycle.

Scenario 1: Infrastructure-only

Going back to the outline of our previous first scenario, which estimates the costs for an operation that involves zero human capital. This time, however things will be a bit more different, considering a longer time-frame that eliminates the potential bias, caused by the initial hardware purchase costs having higher impact on the short-term bottom-line.

At the minimum capacity, running a single node incurs an upfront cost of $2,200 (one-time hardware cost). Facility-related expenses will pile up over the five years to around $6,480. Hence, the operation cost circles around a total of $2,200 upfront and $6,480 spread over five years.

Maximizing to 12 nodes, the upfront cost winds up at $26,400, which covers the hardware for all nodes. Having these 12 nodes demands a facility cost of $24,960 over the subsequent five years. The total investment, therefore, rises to an upfront payment of $26,400 and $24,960 spanning the five years.

Scenario 2: The one-man army

Next, we return to the single-employee scenario #2, detailing projections for an operation, manned by a single senior engineer, regardless of how cruel that may sound if it was real. Once again, to keep things relatively realistic still, the engineer would be a senior.

For a single node operation, the upfront cost for the rig remains at $2,200. The five-year facility expense is equivalent to the previous scenario—$6,480. However, you must acknowledge the considerable staff costs over these five years, amassing to a massive $960,000. The total investment spikes to an upfront expenditure of $2,200 and an enormous 5-year expense of $966,480.

Let’s stretch these specifications to fit a 12-node setup. The upfront cost for the rigs equals $26,400. Facility expenses rise to $24,960, while staff costs hold at $960,000. Thus, the total of your investment for this five-year period would be an upfront cost of $26,400 and an impressive total 5-year expenditure of $968,680.

Scenario 3: Full-blown operation

Finally, we circle back to examine scenario 3, expecting a fully staffed node operation. Like before, the roster here is composed of a balanced set of four team members with a single senior and mid, as well as the two junior engineers supporting them in the process.

With minimum capacity, that is, a single node, the upfront cost ticks all the same boxes—the rig costing $2,200. While the facility expenses over five years add up to $6,480, staffing costs—with the full team on board—escalate to $2,280,000. Your final calculation results in a total upfront cost of $2,200, coupled with a monumental 5-year expense of $2,288,680.

When you opt for maximum capacity, catering to 12 nodes, the upfront cost for the rigs counts to $26,400. The five-year facility costs total $24,960. However, the five-year staff cost remains static at a grand $2,280,000. The total cost to keep in mind, therefore, is an upfront investment of $26,400 and a significant sum of $2,331,360 over five years.

TimeframeNo staffMin staffedFully staffed
Monthly (1 node)$2,308$18,308$40,308
Monthly (12 nodes)$26,816$42,816$64,816
Yearly (1 node)$3,496$195,496$459,496
Yearly (12 nodes)$31,392$223,392$487,392
5-year (1 node)$8,680$968,680$2,288,680
5-year (12 nodes)$51,360$1,011,360$2,331,360
Figure 5: Sample scenarios costs breakdown

These long-term estimations under various circumstances highlights the potentially significant impact of human resources on the cost side of the ledger over the long haul. While upfront investments might echo previous expenditures, the long-term perspectives, especially factoring in staff wages, can mound to considerable heights. Hence, planning for the long term is crucial.

Putting costs into perspective

Running an Ethereum archive node is an indispensable activity for many businesses, especially those heavily relying on blockchain technology. However, the costs associated with operating these nodes independently, both upfront and over time, can demand significant resources. In addition to the substantial financial commitments, businesses are also subject to the additional burdens related to infrastructure setup, ongoing maintenance, and human capital management.

In comparing costs of making such an investment independently, it is vital to also explore the topic from the angle of utilizing a Node-as-a-Service (NaaS) platforms like our very own at Chainstack. In doing so, you, as a reader can get a much more balanced perspective into what each option brings to the table and what it asks for in return.

That is why, in the following sections, we will be looking into the Chainstack subscription plans that allow for node deployment that fits our criteria so far and then compare costs accordingly. The two plans in question are the Growth and Business plans, which give you the ability to deploy Ethereum archive nodes without the overhead of managing a full in-house infrastructure.

Why choose a Nodes-as-a-Service provider?

Naturally, the provisions that each subscription plan offers empower Chainstack users to run Ethereum archive nodes. At the same time, however they do keep the burden of infrastructure management and human resource expenses that come with operating these nodes independently off the user’s shoulders. Less energy and resources spent on side tasks, means more pooling toward core factors and most importantly toward BUIDLing a product for your clients to fall in love with.

In essence, much of the value derived from Chainstack’s pricing plans arises from eliminating the direct cost elements inherent in managing an Ethereum archive node independently. Not only is there a potential reduction in costs, but users can also reap significant benefits and flexibility from indenting the costs to flexible monthly payments based on the scale of usage.

What’s in the box for each plan?

The Growth plan, tailored towards accommodating lesser capacity requirements, is priced at a modest $49 per month. This cost includes 20 million request units that come as part of the package. With this level of service, customers get additional perks.

They enjoy access to regional elastic archive nodes, a provision for dedicated nodes, and they can deploy up to 10 nodes and 10 subgraphs. If the level of usage scales beyond the included request units, an extra cost will apply, amounting to $15 per one million additional request units.

Priced at $349 per month, the Business plan features expanded capabilities for subscribers, allowing for a whopping 140 million request units. Beyond the comprehensive offerings in the Growth plan, this tier accommodates even more nodes and subgraphs, allowing users to deploy up to 20 apiece.

PlanCost p.mCost p.a.Cost p.m. (-16%)Cost p.a. (-16%)
Growth plan$49$588$40$480
Business plan$349$4,188$290$3,480
Figure 6: Chainstack Growth and Business plans costs breakdown; Source: Chainstack

In the event of usage exceeding the bundled request units, the extra cost for this plan is lowered to $10 per one million additional request units.

Chainstack vs the staffless scenario

Let’s dissect the cost comparisons for varying durations, starting with a zero-staff deployment scenario operating at its maximum capacity. Independently managing this operation would levy an upfront cost of $26,400 for the infrastructure. Additionally, over a five-year timeline, utility expenses would accumulate to $24,960, bringing the total investment to $51,360.

Growth plan comparison

In stark contrast, consider the Chainstack Growth plan. The quoted pricing is $49 per month, which totals to $2,940 when distributed across 60 months, or five years. However, our platform facilitates an annual payment scheme, offering a 16% discount, reducing the yearly cost to approximately $480 and summing to a total of $2,400 over five years.

The prospect of user savings is even more significant. With the Growth plan’s monthly or discounted annual payment scheme, savings amount to an impressive 94% to 95% for 12 nodes, or 64% to 73% for a single one, slashing the total cost you would have incurred running an Ethereum archive node independently.

Business plan comparison

Now, draw your attention to the Business plan, quoted at $349 per month or $20,940 over the five-year span. The same 16% discount applies for annual payments, reducing the yearly cost to approximately $3,480, yielding a total five-year cost of $17,400.

The Business plan enhances these savings further. Whether opting for the monthly or discounted annual payment, you could save around 59% to 67% of the costs related to independently running an Ethereum archive node, or 12 respectively.

Beyond the five-year horizon, these disparities become evident on the monthly and annual scales as well. Operating independently, while feasible, could usher in recurring costs, including utilities and potential maintenance or upgrade fees.

In contrast, the Chainstack Growth or Business plans distribute these costs evenly on a monthly or annual basis, adhering to a predictable fee structure and eliminating hidden or unexpected costs.

Chainstack vs the bare minimum scenario

Let’s now have a look at one-man-band scenario where there’s a single senior engineer maintaining your Ethereum archive node at its maximum capacity. This setup inherently complicates the task at hand and necessitates a significant investment.

The upfront cost for the infrastructure is $26,400. Factoring in the steady monthly wage of the senior engineer, over five years, staffing cost amasses a hefty $960,000. Joining up these expenses with the five-year facility cost of $24,960, the total expenditure culminates in a striking $1,011,360.

When you draw these comparisons crystallizing the cost savings, the percentages are as astounding as the raw figures. Against the independent one-man-band operation, the Chainstack offerings of the Growth and Business plans confer savings peaking to nearly 98-99%.

This pattern holds on narrower timescales too, with similar savings being observable whether we look at monthly or yearly comparisons.

Chainstack vs the optimally-staffed scenario

Investing in Ethereum archive nodes incurs considerable costs that are further amplified over extended periods, whether monthly, annually, or over a typical hardware lifecycle of five years. That is especially the case, when considering the scenario, involving the entire team of four engineers.

In this particular case, running this setup independently at its maximum capacity would require an upfront expenditure of $26,400, and over five years, the total costs add up to a mind-boggling $2,331,360, meaning you would be investing over $2.35M.

Comparing the Chainstack plans to the independent operation costs, it’s clear that the savings are quite phenomenal. With the Growth or Business plan, the costs drop by almost 99.9%, nearly covering the full outlay.

Wrapping up the cost comparisons

These comparisons truly underline the enormous value that we deliver through the Chainstack platform. Besides spreading costs over manageable monthly or annual payments, you also eliminate significant upfront expenses, reduce ongoing costs dramatically, and enjoy the convenience and efficiency of the Chainstack platform.

And with the assurance of these reduced costs, businesses can better channel resources into their core operations, reaping the benefits of running Ethereum archive nodes without incurring the hefty costs that would have otherwise been necessary.

Besides the absolute figures, we should consider the convenience and effectiveness of Chainstack’s plans. The Growth and Business plans seamlessly accommodate needs scaling from 10 to 20 nodes.

With automatic infrastructure and personnel-related burdens offloaded, users experience a smooth, scalable cost approach aligning with actual needs instead of dealing with costly upfront investments and substantial ongoing costs.

Overall, these patterns demonstrate the vast differences between the costs of independently running Ethereum nodes versus leveraging the services of a platform like Chainstack, with savings ranging from 59% to almost total relief.

TimeframeNo staffMin staffedFully staffed
Monthly (1 node)$2,308$18,308$40,308
Monthly (12 nodes)$26,816$42,816$64,816
Growth monthly (1 node)$40-$49$40-$49$40-$49
Growth monthly (12 nodes)N/AN/AN/A
Growth monthly savings (1 node)97.88%-98.26%99.73%-99.78%99.87%-99.90%
Growth monthly savings (12 nodes)N/AN/AN/A
Business monthly (1 node)$290-349$290-349$290-349
Business monthly (12 nodes)$290-349$290-349$290-349
Business monthly savings (1 node)84.87%-87.44%98.09%-98.41%99.13%-99.28%
Business monthly savings (12 nodes)98.69%-98.91%99.18%-99.32%99.46%-99.55%
Yearly (1 node)$3,496$195,496$459,496
Yearly (12 nodes)$31,392$223,392$487,392
Growth yearly (1 node)$480-$588$480-$588$480-$588
Growth yearly (12 nodes)N/AN/AN/A
Growth yearly savings (1 node)83.18%-86.27%99.69%-99.75%99.87%-99.90%
Growth yearly savings (12 nodes)N/AN/AN/A
Business yearly (1 node)$3,480-$4,188$3,480-$4,188$3,480-$4,188
Business yearly (12 nodes)$3,480-$4,188$3,480-$4,188$3,480-$4,188
Business yearly savings (1 node)-19.79%-0.49%97.85%-98.21%99.08%-99.28%
Business yearly savings (12 nodes)86.65%-88.91%98.12%-98.44%99.14%-99.28%
5-year (1 node)$8,680$968,680$2,288,680
5-year (12 nodes)$51,360$1,011,360$2,331,360
Growth 5-year (1 node)$2,400-$2,940$2,400-$2,940$2,400-$2,940
Growth 5-year (12 nodes)N/AN/AN/A
Growth 5-year savings (1 node)66.12%-72.35%99.69%-99.75%99.87%-99.90%
Growth 5-year savings (12 nodes)N/AN/AN/A
Business 5-year (1 node)$1,450-$1,745$1,450-$1,745$1,450-$1,745
Business 5-year (12 nodes)$17,400-$20,940$17,400-$20,940$17,400-$20,940
Business 5-year savings (1 node)79.89%-83.29%99.82%-98.85%99.92%-99.93%
Business 5-year savings (12 nodes)59.22%-66.12%97.92%-98.27%99.10%-99.25%
Figure 7: On-premise vs Chainstack Growth and Business plans node deployment costs full breakdown

Beyond cost considerations, enterprises also benefit from the flexibility, scalability, and convenience delivered by Chainstack’s infrastructure, making it an attractive proposition for a wide range of users. And when it comes to going cross-chain, with Chainstack, handling multiple blockchains is a breeze.

You can set up nodes on over 20 blockchains, without fussing over new equipment for each one like Arbitrum or Solana. No big upfront costs, no ongoing hassles. Think of us as your easy button for all things blockchain.

Comparison highlights

  • Infrastructure: The initial setting up of an Ethereum archive node requires specific hardware criteria, with an example setup potentially costing between $1,600 (refurbished model) to $2,500 (new model) per node. A median value for a new rig of $2,200 was selected for the case.
  • Utilities: Running Ethereum archive nodes require substantial utility resources such as electricity and internet, with costs estimated to be $28 per year for electricity and $80 per month for internet.
  • Human capital: The inclusion of human resources, varying from one senior engineer to a full team, escalates costs significantly with engineer wages ranging between $16,000 and $38,000 per month.
  • Long-term estimates: The total cost of operating a node, when projected over a typical hardware lifecycle of five years, can range from a few thousand to over $2M, heavily dependent on the node capacity and the degree of staffing.
  • Chainstack plans: Our platform offers Growth and Business plans that are significantly more affordable than running an Ethereum archive node independently. These plans range from $49/month to $349/month and provide a significant number of request units and other perks.
  • Percentage savings: Using Chainstack to deploy the nodes over operating an Ethereum archive node independently can offer savings between 59% and 99.9% over a 5-year span, depending on the scenario—unstaffed, minimally staffed, or fully staffed for single or a dozen nodes.
  • Chainstack efficiency: Beyond the significant cost savings, Chainstack offers convenience and scalability, allowing users to adjust their costs according to actual need and eliminating the burden of dealing with infrastructure and personnel management.

Bringing it all together

Running an Ethereum archive node on-premise requires a significant financial commitment spanning hardware, utility costs, and human capital. From our calculations, it’s evident that staffing forms the lion’s share of costs, especially when functioning at full capacity.

Therefore, decision-makers must thoroughly consider these financial implications to evolve sustainable strategies to run Ethereum archive nodes. Still, the potential returns, depending on your blockchain application’s success and scale, could be well worth it.

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