2022-08-04 21:44:30 UPDATED


Powerful for developers. Fast for everyone. Solana is a decentralized blockchain built to enable scalable, user-friendly apps for the world.







What is Solana ?

Solana is an open source project implementing a new, high-performance, permissionless blockchain. The Solana Foundation is based in Geneva, Switzerland and maintains the open source project.

It is possible for a centralized database to process 710,000 transactions per second on a standard gigabit network if the transactions are, on average, no more than 176 bytes. A centralized database can also replicate itself and maintain high availability without significantly compromising that transaction rate using the distributed system technique known as Optimistic Concurrency Control [H.T.Kung, J.T.Robinson (1981)]. At Solana, we are demonstrating that these same theoretical limits apply just as well to blockchain on an adversarial network. The key ingredient? Finding a way to share time when nodes cannot rely upon one another. Once nodes can rely upon time, suddenly ~40 years of distributed systems research becomes applicable to blockchain!

Perhaps the most striking difference between algorithms obtained by our method and ones based upon timeout is that using timeout produces a traditional distributed algorithm in which the processes operate asynchronously, while our method produces a globally synchronous one in which every process does the same thing at (approximately) the same time. Our method seems to contradict the whole purpose of distributed processing, which is to permit different processes to operate independently and perform different functions. However, if a distributed system is really a single system, then the processes must be synchronized in some way. Conceptually, the easiest way to synchronize processes is to get them all to do the same thing at the same time. Therefore, our method is used to implement a kernel that performs the necessary synchronization--for example, making sure that two different processes do not try to modify a file at the same time. Processes might spend only a small fraction of their time executing the synchronizing kernel; the rest of the time, they can operate independently--e.g., accessing different files. This is an approach we have advocated even when fault-tolerance is not required. The method's basic simplicity makes it easier to understand the precise properties of a system, which is crucial if one is to know just how fault-tolerant the system is. [L.Lamport (1984)]

Furthermore, and much to our surprise, it can be implemented using a mechanism that has existed in Bitcoin since day one. The Bitcoin feature is called nLocktime and it can be used to postdate transactions using block height instead of a timestamp. As a Bitcoin client, you would use block height instead of a timestamp if you don't rely upon the network. Block height turns out to be an instance of what's being called a Verifiable Delay Function in cryptography circles. It's a cryptographically secure way to say time has passed. In Solana, we use a far more granular verifiable delay function, a SHA 256 hash chain, to checkpoint the ledger and coordinate consensus. With it, we implement Optimistic Concurrency Control and are now well en route towards that theoretical limit of 710,000 transactions per second.

Why Solana?

What are SOLs?

A SOL is the name of Solana's native token, which can be passed to nodes in a Solana cluster in exchange for running an on-chain program or validating its output. The system may perform micropayments of fractional SOLs, which are called lamports. They are named in honor of Solana's biggest technical influence, Leslie Lamport. A lamport has a value of 0.000000001 SOL.

A Solana cluster is a set of validators working together to serve client transactions and maintain the integrity of the ledger. Many clusters may coexist. When two clusters share a common genesis block, they attempt to converge. Otherwise, they simply ignore the existence of the other. Transactions sent to the wrong one are quietly rejected. In this section, we'll discuss how a cluster is created, how nodes join the cluster, how they share the ledger, how they ensure the ledger is replicated, and how they cope with buggy and malicious nodes.

Creating a Cluster#

Before starting any validators, one first needs to create a genesis config. The config references two public keys, a mint and a bootstrap validator. The validator holding the bootstrap validator's private key is responsible for appending the first entries to the ledger. It initializes its internal state with the mint's account. That account will hold the number of native tokens defined by the genesis config. The second validator then contacts the bootstrap validator to register as a validator. Additional validators then register with any registered member of the cluster.

A validator receives all entries from the leader and submits votes confirming those entries are valid. After voting, the validator is expected to store those entries. Once the validator observes a sufficient number of copies exist, it deletes its copy.

Joining a Cluster#

Validators enter the cluster via registration messages sent to its control plane. The control plane is implemented using a gossip protocol, meaning that a node may register with any existing node, and expect its registration to propagate to all nodes in the cluster. The time it takes for all nodes to synchronize is proportional to the square of the number of nodes participating in the cluster. Algorithmically, that's considered very slow, but in exchange for that time, a node is assured that it eventually has all the same information as every other node, and that that information cannot be censored by any one node.

Sending Transactions to a Cluster#

Clients send transactions to any validator's Transaction Processing Unit (TPU) port. If the node is in the validator role, it forwards the transaction to the designated leader. If in the leader role, the node bundles incoming transactions, timestamps them creating an entry, and pushes them onto the cluster's data plane. Once on the data plane, the transactions are validated by validator nodes, effectively appending them to the ledger.

Confirming Transactions#

A Solana cluster is capable of subsecond confirmation for thousands of nodes with plans to scale up to hundreds of thousands of nodes. Confirmation times are expected to increase only with the logarithm of the number of validators, where the logarithm's base is very high. If the base is one thousand, for example, it means that for the first thousand nodes, confirmation will be the duration of three network hops plus the time it takes the slowest validator of a supermajority to vote. For the next million nodes, confirmation increases by only one network hop.

Solana defines confirmation as the duration of time from when the leader timestamps a new entry to the moment when it recognizes a supermajority of ledger votes.

Scalable confirmation can be achieved using the follow combination of techniques:

  1. Timestamp transactions with a VDF sample and sign the timestamp.

  2. Split the transactions into batches, send each to separate nodes and have each node share its batch with its peers.

  3. Repeat the previous step recursively until all nodes have all batches.

Solana rotates leaders at fixed intervals, called slots. Each leader may only produce entries during its allotted slot. The leader therefore timestamps transactions so that validators may lookup the public key of the designated leader. The leader then signs the timestamp so that a validator may verify the signature, proving the signer is owner of the designated leader's public key.

Next, transactions are broken into batches so that a node can send transactions to multiple parties without making multiple copies. If, for example, the leader needed to send 60 transactions to 6 nodes, it would break that collection of 60 into batches of 10 transactions and send one to each node. This allows the leader to put 60 transactions on the wire, not 60 transactions for each node. Each node then shares its batch with its peers. Once the node has collected all 6 batches, it reconstructs the original set of 60 transactions.

A batch of transactions can only be split so many times before it is so small that header information becomes the primary consumer of network bandwidth. At the time of this writing (December, 2021), the approach is scaling well up to about 1,250 validators. To scale up to hundreds of thousands of validators, each node can apply the same technique as the leader node to another set of nodes of equal size. We call the technique Turbine Block Propagation.

A Solana Cluster

Solana Economics Overview

Subject to change.

Solana’s crypto-economic system is designed to promote a healthy, long term self-sustaining economy with participant incentives aligned to the security and decentralization of the network. The main participants in this economy are validation-clients. Their contributions to the network, state validation, and their requisite incentive mechanisms are discussed below.

The main channels of participant remittances are referred to as protocol-based rewards and transaction fees. Protocol-based rewards are generated from inflationary issuances from a protocol-defined inflation schedule. These rewards will constitute the total protocol-based reward delivered to validation clients, the remaining sourced from transaction fees. In the early days of the network, it is likely that protocol-based rewards, deployed based on predefined issuance schedule, will drive the majority of participant incentives to participate in the network.

These protocol-based rewards are calculated per epoch and distributed across the active delegated stake and validator set (per validator commission). As discussed further below, the per annum inflation rate is based on a pre-determined disinflationary schedule. This provides the network with supply predictability which supports long term economic stability and security.

Transaction fees are participant-to-participant transfers, attached to network interactions as a motivation and compensation for the inclusion and execution of a proposed transaction. A mechanism for long-term economic stability and forking protection through partial burning of each transaction fee is also discussed below.

First, an overview of the inflation design is presented. This section starts with defining and clarifying Terminology commonly used subsequently in the discussion of inflation and the related components. Following that, we outline Solana's proposed Inflation Schedule, i.e. the specific parameters that uniquely parameterize the protocol-driven inflationary issuance over time. Next is a brief section on Adjusted Staking Yield, and how token dilution might influence staking behavior.

An overview of Transaction Fees on Solana is followed by a discussion of Storage Rent Economics in which we describe an implementation of storage rent to account for the externality costs of maintaining the active state of the ledger.


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