Explore the Future of Web3: Shardeum's Whitepaper Released!

Shardeum’s Pioneering Resilience With Network Safety Mode

Promoting Innovation & Education in Web3

On behalf of the Shardeum engineering team, we are excited to gradually unveil a series of blog posts that reveal the behind-the-scenes efforts to build the world’s first auto-scalable smart contract platform that scales horizontally. Through these revelations, our goal is to inspire both the community and the broader Web3 ecosystem and foster future innovations. Many of the features we’re introducing with Shardeum are groundbreaking, setting new standards in blockchain technology. Achieving a feature-complete status for Shardeum isn’t just about checking off items on a list—it’s about tackling the industry’s biggest challenges, making blockchain accessible and affordable, and bringing it into the mainstream. Stay tuned—you won’t want to miss these updates!

In this blog post, we will focus on one of the latest breakthroughs on Shardeum – as we completed the implementation of network modes, notably the “Safety Mode” in late 2023. Much like a biological immune response, safety mode ensures that application transactions can be paused temporarily if suboptimal network conditions arise and that Shardeum will continue to thrive and pulse with life, processing transactions, and syncing data as long as we have active nodes. This milestone marks another significant step in our journey to bring decentralization to the masses, underscoring the advanced technology and thorough preparedness that make it possible.

We recently published an article about the network modes with a focus on "Recovery Mode" that allowed Shardeum to easily overcome a major betanet crash making it the first sharded blockchain network to self-restore all its data. Check it out now here!

Understanding the Network Modes on Shardeum

With this Shardeum upgrade, network modes (of which safety mode is a key one) are now successfully integrated into the Shardus network. Network modes, in essence, are the different network states that collectively ensure that the network can manage its lifecycle effectively, from formation and operation through potential crises and even into a recovery mode, thus ensuring network stability in the case suboptimal network circumstances arise.

It is important to stress that even with the benefits that network modes bring, some of the modes such as restart or shutdown mode, may never actually arise on Shardeum. For instance, it would take all (or nearly all) validators to be lost to trigger restart mode. But Shardeum has modes like restart in order to prepare for even the most unlikely of scenarios.

Shardeum’s Seven (Wonders!) Network Modes

Similar to traffic signals directing vehicular flow, these modes guide our network’s behavior in response to the number of active validators and other key thresholds. From a technical perspective, network modes on Shardeum are designed to respond dynamically to the needs and conditions of the network. They guide how validators interact, ensuring both performance and resilience. Let’s break down what each mode means for Shardeum:

  1. Forming: This initial phase allows new nodes to join and synchronize their state data until a specified minimum number of active nodes is achieved, preparing the network for its operational phase.
  2. Processing: In this mode, the network is fully operational, processing application transactions. Nodes can join, leave, or be replaced as needed, ensuring continuous network functionality. This is the default mode of operation on Shardeum.
  3. Safety: Triggered when the network’s operational stability is in question. This mode restricts activity to only protocol transactions, halting application transactions to safeguard the network’s integrity.
  4. Recovery: Initiated when the active node count falls below a certain threshold. This mode stops application transaction processing and application data syncing. It aims to quickly add standby nodes to restore the network’s minimum required nodes by focusing on syncing protocol data and creating new cycle records.
  5. Restart: This mode is activated when the network needs to be rebooted, often after a complete shutdown or when too many nodes are lost. Nodes join the network without syncing application data, relying on Archivers for essential network information. The goal is to reach the minimum required nodes quickly to transition to restore mode.
  6. Restore: Nodes focus on syncing state data from Archivers and other nodes to become active. This mode is critical for transitioning from a state of recovery or restart to fully operational, ensuring all nodes are synchronized and active.
  7. Shutdown: This final mode can be triggered by administrative action or a significant drop in active nodes. It halts all transactions and prepares nodes to exit the network, ensuring Archivers have a record of the shutdown for potential future network restarts.

Each mode has its time and place, even in the event of suboptimal network conditions, and the modes in their entirety ensures the network is resilient, strong and can always live on. Firstly, let’s explore the safety mode, before turning our attention to the general benefits of having this level of preparedness in the context of distributed and decentralized technology. Note, we will explore the remaining modes in detail in the upcoming posts.

Features and Benefits of Safety Mode

1. Safety First

Safety Mode guarantees that if there’s a significant drop in active validators, Shardeum will pivot into a protective state, prioritizing data synchronization over application transaction processing.

2. Network Stability & Integrity

Safety mode is designed to maintain the network’s stability when the number of active nodes fall below a certain threshold. By limiting the network to processing only protocol transactions, it reduces the load and complexity of operations, helping to ensure that the core functions of the network remain intact and secure.

3. Prevention of Data Corruption or Loss

In shard-based systems, losing a significant number of nodes can risk data integrity, especially if these nodes are responsible for specific shards. By entering safety mode, the system can prevent scenarios where transactions might be incorrectly processed or where data could be lost due to insufficient node coverage.

4. Automatic Response to Network Stress

Safety mode acts as an automatic response mechanism to sudden drops in node participation. This automated switch can be crucial in preventing cascading failures that could occur if the network continued to operate under normal conditions despite a significant reduction in active nodes.

5. Facilitates Network Recovery

By focusing only on protocol transactions, safety mode allows the network to operate in a reduced capacity, which is easier to maintain and manage. This simplified operation makes it easier for new or recovering nodes to sync and participate in the network, aiding in the overall recovery process.

6. Ensures Consensus Integrity

In decentralized systems, maintaining consensus is vital. Safety mode helps preserve the integrity of the consensus process by reducing the network’s operational complexity and ensuring that remaining nodes can continue to agree on the state of the network.

7. Protects Against Potential Attacks

In some scenarios, a sudden drop in active nodes could be due to a coordinated attack. By switching to safety mode, the network reduces its vulnerability, as only essential protocol transactions are processed, leaving less room for malicious activities to exploit a weakened network state.

8. Maintains Essential Operations

Even in a reduced capacity, safety mode ensures that essential network operations continue. This means that critical updates, necessary maintenance tasks, and basic network functionalities are preserved, ensuring that the network doesn’t completely halt.

In summary, safety mode in a system like Sharduem provides a critical safety net that ensures network stability, prevents data loss, aids in recovery, and maintains the integrity of consensus mechanisms during periods of stress or reduced node activity. This mode is essential for the resilience and long-term sustainability of a decentralized, shard-based network.

Advantages of Network Modes in Shardeum: An Insight

So now that we have a comprehensive understanding of the benefits of safety mode, what benefits do the other major modes bring to Shardeum?

  • Rapid Forming: During the forming phase, the network grows at an impressive rate, quickly reaching operational capacity.
  • 🔄 Efficient Rotation: During the processing phase, validators are rotated efficiently, balancing network demand and validator availability seamlessly.
  • 🚦 Dynamic Adaptability: Also during the processing phase, the network can grow or shrink based on demand, ensuring optimal performance.
  • 🔒 Sturdy Recovery: Even if the overall amount of required active validators dip considerably, Shardeum’s recovery mode kicks in to stabilize, regroup and rebuild.
  • 🤝 Seamless Collaboration: In the restart phase, thanks to the role of Archivers, the network can recover even in the event that all active validators are lost
  • 🚀 Quick Restarts: Also during the restart phase, in the unlikely scenario of total validator loss, the restart mode ensures a rapid resurrection of the network – this means Shardeum will always be able to bounce back, even in extremely unlikely scenarios.
  • 🔄 Swift Syncing: As we transition between modes, syncing processes are expedited to bring nodes up to speed.
  • 💡 Continuous Learning: The implementation teaches us to adapt and evolve, leading to future innovations.

Shoutout to the Stellar Shardians

To our passionate Shardians, dedicated node operators, ecosystem collaborators, and invaluable partners: THANK YOU! 🌍 Your unwavering support, energy, and commitment makes every line of code and every implemented feature truly worth the effort. You’re the heartbeat of Shardeum, and together, we’re shaping the future!

Conclusion

So, what have we unraveled today? Shardeum’s latest implementation of network modes, with a spotlight on the Safety Mode, equips our network with resilience, adaptability, and the prowess to thrive amidst challenges. As much as it is about safeguarding operations and assets; it’s also about ensuring every Shardian’s experience remains top-notch. As we march ahead, know that Shardeum is more robust, resilient, and ever-evolving, all thanks to our collective efforts. Here’s to a safer, swifter, and stronger smart contract platform! 🚀


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