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Deep Dive into Substrate Storage - Part 2

Data on the blockchain is eventually stored in various forms at different points in its lifecycle. From transactional data temporarily held in the transaction pool, to blocks that are gossiped through the network, and eventually stored by nodes, all data on the blockchain is eventually stored in a database. This ensures data durability and isolation.

This is the second part of the series on Substrate storage. We will have an overview of the data lifecycle within the scope of Substrate (from transaction data to storage in a key-value database), develop an understanding of how the Substrate database (backend) works, and how data read and write is optimized by Substrate. We will also explore code implementations to further buttress understanding of relevant concepts.

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General overview of data storage in Substrate

It is important to have a good understanding of the basics of data storage in the context of Substrate and by extension blockchains. The previous part of this series provides in-depth descriptions of these basic concepts, however, we will take a brief overview of the basics.

In a nutshell, Substrate provides storage items that enable developers to create custom data types easily. These storage items and the subsequent data types created from them are built on top of a storage abstraction called Trie. Substrate uses Patricia Trie to package transactions into blocks, abstract the key-value database, and provide efficient data handling within nodes and gossiping with other nodes.

Check out part of this series here to have a deeper understanding of the basics.

Data Lifecycle - From Transaction Data to Key-Value DB

Transaction Data

The lifecycle of data on the blockchain begins from a transaction. Transaction also called Extrinsic frequently contains data relevant to a runtime function call; for example the destination address for a token transfer.

You can conceptualize an extrinsic with its data like so:

type Extrinsic {
pub_key: AccountId, // senders pub-key
method: RuntimeCall, // method name
param: Option<ParamType> // method parameters
signature: Option<Signature>, // senders signature
data: SignedExtra, // extra data

It is also important to note that before the completion of transaction execution, transaction data are stored in the transactional storage layer. The transactional storage layer temporarily stores transaction data and changes to the underlying state change in memory. This ensures transaction atomicity, preventing failed transaction state from being persisted in the blockchain state and the state of only successfully executed transactions that are persisted in the blockchain state.


Block is an important data structure in blockchains, they form the heartbeat of a blockchain. They provide an efficient medium for processing, validating, and storing transactions. We have provided a detailed description of blocks and transactions in a previous guide.

Blocks can be conceptually visualized like so:

type Block {
inherent: u8,
block_header: Hash,
transactions: Vec<ValidTransactions>,

Blocks undergo complex processes to ensure their validity following the consensus mechanism of the blockchain before they eventually get stored by full nodes. It is important that although data on the blockchain is transported and validated as blocks, the Block data structure is not the storage form of data. Data on the blockchain is stored in the key-value database, and the Block is only a data abstraction for efficient data processing.


Substrate provides a key-value database (KVDB) which eventually records valid data on the blockchain. This KVDB forms the basis of storage on a blockchain, providing a solid foundation for different abstractions including Tries and Blocks.

By default, Substrate uses Rocks DB, for persisting data. Alternatively, you can port any key-value database that caters to your use case, or explore using Parity DB

In the subsequent section, we will dive into the blockchain backend that handles data storage.

Deep dive into KVDB - Data Backend and Outer Client



In this guide, we developed an understanding of how data is eventually stored in Substrate.

We developed an understanding of the following:

  • What data lifecycle entails in Substrate.
  • How the outer client manages the KVDB for data storage.

To learn more about Substrate storage items and Merkle trie, check out these resources:

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