Education | Article

What is Shadow Drive? Solana Layer 2

By Handsome Bob | OCT 04, 2022

What is Shadow Drive? Solana Layer 2 7:49 Min Read

What is Shadow Drive? Solana Layer 2

‘Shadow Drive’ is a product from GenesysGo and if you follow the web3 storage wars you will most likely be hearing a lot more about them soon. If you are more active in the Ethereum and EVM-compatible blockchain ecosystem you will most likely not have heard of this very interesting, decentralized, file storage protocol.

 Although in the future -GenesysGo envisions a complete Shadow ecosystem called the ‘Shadow Net’; they want to offer much, much more than just file storage.

GenesysGO is a Solana-based blockchain infrastructure company that runs Remote Procedure Call (RPC) servers to aid Solana validators. They are better known these days for their innovative Shadow Drive. 

Decentralized file storage has been a bit of the holy grail for crypto since Early 2021. More recently file storage has been developed in the Arweave-style where you interact with Arweave’s blockchain-like system called the blockweave. They charge you a fee and will store your data forever -the rates do change a fair bit over time -whereas Amazon Web Services (AWS) charges a cheap lowest-tier price, but it’s per month. 

Before these systems such as IPFS and Filecoin (Buy Filecoin) attempted to fine-tune the system with more permanent long-term storage, although this was attempted through incentives, rather than a rule, and the incentives seemed to create a rather unreliable long-term storage solution. This is in conjunction with rumors that Filecoin was allegedly more of a multi-level marketing strategy, less a serious file storage developer. All these systems provide niche storage solutions in web3 now, but none have managed to crack a significant market share out of the AWS majority hold on the data storage market.

Another way of explaining this incentive-style system that IPFS and Filecoin (FIL / USDT) run on is that the incentives assume that files will be stored by honest nodes if there is reasonably-timed access to said file. Simply put, if files are consistently accessed there will be reasons to store them in order to earn payment, but this does not allow a guarantee that your files will be permanently stored; since if access is not consistent, or too slow, the file will disappear as no node will store, or point to it due to no revenue being worthwhile to store said file. 

Enter GenesysGo and the Shadow Drive with their Shadow Ecosystem.

‘Shadow Drive was created to prove that a decentralized storage network can deliver performance equal or greater to cloud providers while still retaining the ability to scale horizontally and avoid bottlenecks.’ 

Shadow Drive has a bit of a unique method of dealing with file storage. Running as a Layer 2 on the Solana blockchain they provide a unique set of solutions albeit it only for Solana projects now.

The story of Shadow $SHDW according to GenesysGo:

‘GenesysGo was founded by Frank & Steven in February 2021 and was originally meant to be just two friends who have a passion for hardware running a validator.’

‘On November 3rd, 2021, GenesysGo released the Shadowy Super Coder NFT collection on Solana!’ (The Shadow Book)

Judging from the different NFT owners there are currently at writing about 200 different holders of the Shadowy Super Coder NFTs.

Shadowy SuperCoder NFTs have a very special relationship to the Shadow protocol.

‘All royalties from the SSC NFT also go towards providing the Solana ecosystem with high throughput RPC network access at no cost.’ 

‘SSC holders had the privilege of receiving 10,000 GenesysGO tokens on every NFT they have purchased, meaning having 2 SSCs also means having 20,000 tokens in their wallets. These generous rewards were tapped from the platform’s” Seed Token” allocation meant to reward early backers of a project through discounted tokens.’ (

All royalties from the SSC NFTs go towards providing the Solana ecosystem with high throughput RPC network access at no cost. It is one of the most creative NFT projects regarding its obvious utility and future earnings, not to mention interesting infrastructure ownership potential. I know of a few developers that own more than 10+ of these NFTs.

Since GenesysGo is attempting to create a layer 2 on Solana that is an ecosystem, they have also matched up their $SHDW token with the same unit system as the Solana lamports. Lamports are a sub-unit of $SOL -each $SOL is made up of 1,000,000,000 lamports.

With the Shadow Ecosytem the same is true with $SHDW. Shades are a fraction of $SHDW. 

1,000,000,000 Shades= 1 $SHDW

This is in line with 1b lamports equaling 1 SOL as a measure of the cost computational units.

1,000,000,000 bytes = 1 gigabyte


1 byte stored = 1 Shade

The whole system has been set up with hardware support for serious Solana developers in mind. When you follow the creation of $SHDW for decentralized storage, the full development of a token program that includes Shades, and everything in between; this is a serious attempt at harnessing the power of the Solana blockchain to facilitate real progress in the realm of (encrypted!) data storage, hosting of web sites, and the future of blockchain technologies. Another step forward will be further development of ‘Shadow Realms’ -these are private Solana (SOL / USDT) instances, whereas instead of paying transaction fees in $SOL, you pay in $SHDW.

The team seems to be consistently delivering quality software within the confines of an extremely competitive crypto workspace. The Shadow Drive works, and I inquired when it would be more widely available as I’d much rather use it than Dropbox for example.

GenesysGo replied that Shadow Drive PRO was in the works as a downloadable dApp, and I couldn’t be more excited. One of the major reasons I focus a lot of my attention on the Solana blockchain, and the rest basically on EMV-compatible chains is that there is a push-and-pull between established future blockchain tech such as ZKrollups and such, versus newcomers like Solana who attempt to push a more telecom style proof-of-history vision where scaling progress can be made with different methods leaning on their potential ability to find product-market-fit with future Solana dApps harnessing the power of software such as ‘Shadow Net’, ‘Shadow Realms’, and so on.

All over the Internet, and especially on Twitter we can see discussions regarding the general use cases of web3 vs. web2. 

You could generally boil this war down to AWS vs. decentralized file storage and SQL access. Blockchains are attempting to present a free market alternative to AWS (Amazon Web Services). For example, these days if AWS goes down for even an hour -basic world financial services, software, and even your doorbell can go down. Decentralized systems are hypothetically more resistant to these sorts of downtimes but have yet to be proven in large-scale applications. ‘Akash Network’ is working on this, but that’s an article for another time.

The timeline has gone from:

 IPFS -> Filecoin -> Arweave -> Shadow Drive & Akash Network.

The argument for Shadow Drive for Solana runs along the lines of a decentralized storage solution, native to the blockchain it serves, as opposed to another blockchain. Ethereum (ETH / USDT) runs into this problem, since Arweave is its blockchain(blockweave) it must communicate cross-chain with Ethereum, and/or EVM-compatible chains, but this adds unnecessary complexity to systems that by default should be as lightweight and flexible as possible.

We currently exist in a future-forward blockchain timeline, and it is unclear what solution will be the clear winner, not to mention what solution will be profitable. Achieving product-market fit is one thing, turning a profit is quite another.

The Shadow ecosystem also supports new developers on Solana with their RPC nodes and Validator systems. They provide thousands of dollars of services to new devs that would not normally be able to afford the sort of speed and access to the Solana network that would be required to properly test their products. 

The GenesysGo plan is not your typical VC-funded v1, v2, vX business plan. They have lofty goals and have chosen to buy Solana as their battleground for better blockchain technology. I’ve watched them grab the attention of the founders of Solana and it would be dishonest to say that anyone was even thinking of a layer 2 for Solana, or that it was even possible, or necessary.

Solana recently announced their new ‘Saga’ phone, and it’s being manufactured by one of the most based individuals I’ve ever heard interviewed @OSOMKeats! With GenesysGo and the Shadow ecosystem offering web hosting, file storage, encrypted file storage, and RPC nodes, it’s no wonder that they have a lot of momentum right now. 

People during the bull market in 2021 used to always joke that bear markets were for building, and it seems that GenesysGo and the Shadow Operators took this to heart. I’m excited by a lot of the web3 technologies currently exploring unique use cases, and the infrastructure built on Solana seems to provide a lot of value even to web2 users.

Defi and Infrastructure took a bit of a backseat in 2021 to NFTs and Layer 1s, but it seems like we might finally see movement back to the underpinnings of a new web3 world where AWS doesn’t dominate all the data on the Internet.

Regardless of the success, or failure of the Shadow ecosystem, the ability to spin up high-quality developer environments alone -with encrypted data storage; Is a win. Let us all hope that the upcoming maturity of all Layer 2s -includes the Shadow Drive.

Author: Handsome Bob

The older and wiser Bob of the duo. He chooses to spend his time buried in history books to further understand mankind and the various ways he is governed. He’s determined to apply this worldly knowledge to its decentralized autonomous counterpart but must finance this through his writing.

Education: Masters in Cardano

Crypto Class of: 2021

Fun Fact: Older than sand



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