Zilliqa Technical Update 13 August 2019 — Strengthening our Mainnet: an in-depth report

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    Aparna Narayanan

    Greetings all,

    Zilliqa is at all times joyful to witness cases the place our expertise is in excessive use and demand. Lately, we skilled an all-time excessive on variety of sensible contract transactions on our blockchain as Unstoppable Domains went reside on July ninth, 2019 receiving overwhelming demand from the group.

    Such an occasion additionally creates heavy sensible contract processing necessities on the Zilliqa mainnet. On this case, it resulted in a number of incidents of instability. This technical replace addresses these latest points, outlines the fixes applied, and upcoming technical enhancements which can strengthen our mainnet. In any case, as we’ve at all times stated, fixed enrichment of the platform is vital to development and improvement.

    Understanding sensible contract states

    Each sensible contract has its personal state. As an illustration, let’s have a crowdfunding sensible contract that information every donor’s contribution. A easy sensible contract state will be represented as follows:

    So long as the crowdfunding contract continues to be accepting new donors’ contributions, we are able to anticipate it to develop larger with time.

    As you’ll be able to see, the sensible contract state is anticipated to develop larger over time. Typically, we anticipate most sensible contracts to carry out fairly quick on Zilliqa mainnet. Nonetheless, Unstoppable Domains state dimension has elevated very quickly, leading to stalled community availability on our blockchain whereas processing these sensible contract transactions.

    Within the Zilliqa blockchain, there are a number of cases when sensible contract processing is lower off:

    1. When the gasoline restrict of a microblock is reached
    2. When the time restrict for transaction processing for a microblock is reached

    On this case…

    • Because the Unstoppable Domains sensible contract state grew, we observed a linear improve within the time wanted to course of every transaction. It was noticed that the sensible contract processing time elevated from negligible processing time to 500ms, 700ms and at last exceeding 1s
    • As a result of heavy sensible contract processing, we hit the time restrict at every node degree, after which no transaction might be processed

    A deep-dive into the incident

    In a super world, if all nodes lower off sensible contract processing precisely on the identical transaction, there wouldn’t be any points. Nonetheless, within the decentralized blockchain world, nodes do have differing machine specs. Because of this every node might course of completely different quantities of sensible contracts per microblock — and that is the place it might have an effect on the efficiency of Zilliqa mainnet.

    As it’s possible you’ll know, Zilliqa makes use of PBFT for consensus. As a part of the consensus protocol (on this case for microblock), the chief first proposed a microblock with all of the sensible contract transactions processed for that microblock. The backup validates what has been proposed. In such a state of affairs, if greater than ⅓ of the backup within the community shard disagree with what the chief proposes, no consensus will likely be reached for that microblock.

    That is what we’re at the moment observing.

    The impression of such incidents is dependent upon the extent it happens at. If it happens on the shard degree, the microblock from that particular shard is not going to be fashioned for that remaining block. The community will transfer on with a brand new shard chief on the subsequent Tx Epoch. If it happens on the DS committee, view change will happen to elect a brand new chief. Nonetheless, after the election of a brand new chief, an analogous subject might reoccur, leading to one other view change to re-elect one other chief.

    What’s the root trigger?

    There are two principal causes this occurred, as detailed beneath:

    1. Chopping off sensible contract processing must be dealt with first by the gasoline restrict. On this case, the gasoline restrict we set was too excessive: This setting signifies that the time restrict will at all times be hit first. It will trigger the time restrict to at all times be hit first. If the gasoline restrict was hit first, we is not going to face this subject as all nodes will course of precisely the identical set of sensible contract transactions as an alternative of differing from one another, leading to no consensus attain for that microblock.
    2. Inefficient state entry: Because the state dimension for Unstoppable Domains sensible contract state grows, the processing time will likely be linearly elevated. This was as a result of an inefficient implementation on our Scilla interpreter’s backend. At present, on this specific sensible contract, the majority of the information saved inside a map. The node might want to load in the complete map (which was rising in dimension), deserialize it and at last replace the map. That is the principle cause why the sensible contract course of is taking extra time to course of because the sensible contract state dimension will increase.

    Applied fixes and upcoming upgrades

    1. Discount of gasoline restrict constants (since model v4.7.1)

    We’ve got considerably decreased the gasoline restrict such that it will likely be hit earlier than the time restrict for sensible contract execution. We’ll step by step improve it again up once more after Scilla IPC and environment friendly state entry (defined beneath) is finished.

    2. Automated discount of gasoline restrict after view change (will likely be launched in v4.8.0)

    View change is a crucial part within the Zilliqa blockchain protocol. There is just one goal for view change — preserve the community alive and operating. View change entails the altering of a non-performing or malicious chief to a brand new chief. This permits the protocol to renew operations after view change has occurred.

    Nonetheless, on this specific nook case, after a view change occurred, the brand new chief along with the backups didn’t agree on a brand new microblock. This occurred quite a few occasions. Once more, that is as a result of time restrict of the sensible contract processing being reached first (as defined on this blogpost).

    Within the upcoming v4.8.Zero improve, we will likely be introducing the automated discount of gasoline restrict through exponential back-off. Merely put, this implies the gasoline restrict will likely be decreased by half every time the view change happens.

    As an illustration, if there are 5 consecutive view adjustments with out progress within the community, the gasoline restrict will likely be decreased by half every of the 5 occasions. That’s 2⁵, which is 32 occasions. For that specific Tx Epoch, the brand new gasoline restrict for the microblock is “the gasoline restrict divided by 32”. By exponentially lowering the gasoline restrict, the community will have the ability to ultimately attain a consensus on the microblock because the gasoline restrict will likely be triggered ultimately. It will permit the community to progress.

    After a profitable consensus, the unique gasoline restrict will likely be restored in order to make sure community processing functionality is not going to be affected on the subsequent Tx epoch.

    3. New environment friendly state entry for Scilla (slated for launch subsequent month)

    This will likely be one of many subsequent massive updates for the Scilla sensible contract processing.

    Recall that within the Unstoppable Domains sensible contract, loading in such knowledge would require loading the JSON file, deserializing it and at last processing it. With this new enhancement, there is no such thing as a have to load in the complete state of the contract. Slightly, solely the file(s) that can change should be learn. It will vastly scale back the overhead of loading pointless knowledge for sensible contract processing.

    4. Scilla inter-process communication (IPC) protocol (slated for launch subsequent month)

    That is one other massive replace scheduled for sensible contract processing. At present, to run the Scilla sensible contract, the node must invoke the Scilla interpreter binary to learn within the current states, execute the contract and output the brand new states. The method of invoking binary nonetheless, incurs some efficiency overhead. With the upcoming enhancement, we are going to transfer this means of invoking the binary to interprocess communication, thereby lowering pointless overhead.

    To sum up, whereas we hit speed-bumps on the trail to decentralising the world, the technical crew stays as dedicated as ever to delivering a strong and high-performance platform to assist purposes resembling Unstoppable Domains. Such points have given the technical crew a very good perception into points which can floor, and we are going to proceed to make enhancements with every model we launch. Our work is rarely performed.. Because of our wonderful crew, we proceed enhancing and enriching the Zilliqa blockchain, day after day.

    For additional data, join with us on considered one of our social channels:

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