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Sui-Related Research Papers

This document contains a list of research papers that are relevant to Sui and have been co-authored by at least one member of the team. Some of the ideas of these papers are currently being integrated into Sui, others are in our roadmap, and others are not in our roadmap but could be integrated in the future. Start with the Sui Smart Contract Platform white paper, which contains our latest design inspired by previous works below.

FastPay: High-Performance Byzantine Fault Tolerant Settlement

  • Link:
  • Publication: ACM Conference on Advances in Financial Technologies (AFT), 2020
  • Relevance: FastPay describes the core protocol at the heart of Sui.
  • Summary: FastPay allows a set of distributed validators, some of which are Byzantine, to maintain a high-integrity and availability settlement system for pre-funded payments. It can be used to settle payments in a native unit of value (crypto-currency), or as a financial side-infrastructure to support retail payments in fiat currencies. This is not the protocol Sui uses, yet it proposes the basic safety mechanism that Sui extends. FastPay is based on Byzantine Consistent Broadcast as its core primitive, foregoing the expenses of full atomic commit channels (consensus). The resulting system has low-latency for both confirmation and payment finality. Remarkably, each validator can be sharded across many machines to allow unbounded horizontal scalability.

Narwhal and Tusk: A DAG-based Mempool and Efficient BFT Consensus

  • Link:
  • Publication: EuroSys, 2022
  • Relevance: The consensus system that we will likely use to support shared-objects in Sui.
  • Summary: We propose separating the task of reliable transaction dissemination from transaction ordering to enable high-performance Byzantine fault-tolerant quorum-based consensus. We design and evaluate a mempool protocol, Narwhal, specializing in high-throughput reliable dissemination and storage of causal histories of transactions. Narwhal tolerates an asynchronous network and maintains high performance despite failures. Narwhal is designed to easily scale-out using multiple workers at each validator, and we demonstrate that there is no foreseeable limit to the throughput we can achieve. Composing Narwhal with a partially synchronous consensus protocol (Narwhal-HotStuff) yields significantly better throughput even in the presence of faults or intermittent loss of liveness due to asynchrony. However, loss of liveness can result in higher latency. To achieve overall good performance when faults occur we design Tusk, a zero-message overhead asynchronous consensus protocol, to work with Narwhal. We demonstrate its high performance under a variety of configurations and faults. As a summary of results, on a WAN, Narwhal-Hotstuff achieves more than 130,000 tx/sec at less than 2-sec latency compared with 1,800 tx/sec at 1-sec latency for Hotstuff. Additional workers increase throughput linearly to 600,000 tx/sec without any latency increase. Tusk achieves 160,000 tx/sec with about 3 seconds latency. Under faults, both protocols maintain high throughput, but Narwhal-HotStuff suffers from increased latency.

Zef: Low-latency, Scalable, Private Payments

  • Link:
  • Publication: Not published yet (under submission)
  • Relevance: Extends the FastPay design to support objects (rather than accounts), what Sui actually uses. An additional contribution of this paper is to add strong privacy to FastPay transactions (but Sui does not plan to do this).
  • Summary: We introduce Zef, the first Byzantine-Fault Tolerant (BFT) protocol to support payments in anonymous digital coins at arbitrary scale. Zef follows the communication and security model of FastPay: both protocols are asynchronous, low-latency, linearly-scalable, and powered by partially-trusted sharded validators. Zef further introduces opaque coins represented as off-chain certificates that are bound to user accounts. In order to hide the face values of coins when a payment operation consumes or creates them, Zef uses random commitments and NIZK proofs. Created coins are made unlinkable using the blind and randomizable threshold anonymous credentials of Coconut. To control storage costs associated with coin replay prevention, Zef accounts are designed so that data can be safely removed once an account is deactivated. Besides the specifications and a detailed analysis of the protocol, we are making available an open source implementation of Zef in Rust. Our extensive benchmarks on AWS confirm textbook linear scalability and demonstrate a confirmation time under one second at nominal capacity. Compared to existing anonymous payment systems based on a blockchain, this represents a latency speedup of three orders of magnitude, with no theoretical limit on throughput.

Bullshark: DAG BFT Protocols Made Practical

  • Link:
  • Publication: Not published yet (under submission)
  • Relevance: Provides a partially-synchronous consensus protocol running over Narwhal. Sui may want to use it instead of Tusk.
  • Summary: We present Bullshark, the first directed acyclic graph (DAG) based Byzantine Fault Tolerant (BFT) protocol that is optimized for partial synchrony. Bullshark inherits all the desired properties of its predecessor (DAG-Rider) such as optimal amortized complexity, asynchronous liveness, zero-overhead, and post-quantum safety; but at the same time Bullshark provides a practical low-latency fast-path that exploits synchronous periods. In addition, we introduce a standalone partially synchronous version of Bullshark and evaluate it against the state of the art. The resulting protocol is embarrassingly simple 20 LOC on top of a DAG-based mempool implementation) and highly efficient, achieving for example, 125k transactions per second and 2 seconds latency with 50 nodes.

Be Aware of Your Leaders

  • Link:
  • Publication: Financial Cryptography and Data Security (FC), 2022
  • Relevance: Provides a performant leader election algorithm for partially-synchronous consensus protocol (such as Bullshark). Sui may want to use it alongside Bullshark to support shared objects.
  • Summary: Advances in blockchains have influenced the State-Machine-Replication (SMR) world and many state-of-the-art blockchain-SMR solutions are based on two pillars: Chaining and Leader-rotation. A predetermined round-robin mechanism used for Leader-rotation, however, has an undesirable behavior: crashed parties become designated leaders infinitely often, slowing down overall system performance. In this paper, we provide a new Leader-Aware SMR framework that, among other desirable properties, formalizes a Leader-utilization requirement that bounds the number of rounds whose leaders are faulty in crash-only executions. We introduce Carousel, a novel, reputation-based Leader-rotation solution to achieve Leader-Aware SMR. The challenge in adaptive Leader-rotation is that it cannot rely on consensus to determine a leader, since consensus itself needs a leader. Carousel uses the available on-chain information to determine a leader locally and achieves Liveness despite this difficulty. A HotStuff implementation fitted with Carousel demonstrates drastic performance improvements: it increases throughput over 2x in faultless settings and provides a 20x throughput increase and 5x latency reduction in the presence of faults.

Twins: BFT Systems Made Robust

  • Link:
  • Publication: International Conference on Principles of Distributed Systems (OPODIS), 2021
  • Relevance: Less related to Sui than the other papers, this provides a way to test implementations of consensus systems, such as Tusk and Bullshark. The paper is, however, theoretical and not on our roadmap.
  • Summary: This paper presents Twins, an automated unit test generator of Byzantine attacks. Twins implements three types of Byzantine behaviors: (i) leader equivocation, (ii) double voting, and (iii) losing internal state such as forgetting 'locks' guarding voted values. To emulate interesting attacks by a Byzantine node, it instantiates twin copies of the node instead of one, giving both twins the same identities and network credentials. To the rest of the system, the twins appear indistinguishable from a single node behaving in a 'questionable' manner. Twins can systematically generate Byzantine attack scenarios at scale, execute them in a controlled manner, and examine their behavior. Twins scenarios iterate over protocol rounds and vary the communication patterns among nodes. Twins runs in a production setting within DiemBFT where it can execute 44M Twins-generated scenarios daily. Whereas the system at hand did not manifest errors, subtle safety bugs that were deliberately injected for the purpose of validating the implementation of Twins itself were exposed within minutes. Twins can prevent developers from regressing correctness when updating the codebase, introducing new features, or performing routine maintenance tasks. Twins requires only a thin wrapper over DiemBFT; we thus envision other systems using it. Building on this idea, one new attack and several known attacks against other BFT protocols were materialized as Twins scenarios. In all cases, the target protocols break within fewer than a dozen protocol rounds. Hence it is realistic for the Twins approach to expose the problems.

SybilQuorum: Open Distributed Ledgers Through Trust Networks

  • Link:
  • Publication: Not published
  • Relevance: Less related to Sui than the other papers, and the paper is in its early stages. It presents an algorithm to strengthen proof-of-Stake systems (like Sui). The paper is, however, theoretical and not on our roadmap.
  • Summary: The Sybil attack plagues all peer-to-peer systems, and modern open distributed ledgers employ a number of tactics to prevent it from proof of work, or other resources such as space, stake or memory, to traditional admission control in permissioned settings. With SybilQuorum we propose an alternative approach to securing an open distributed ledger against Sybil attacks, and ensuring consensus amongst honest participants, leveraging social network based Sybil defenses. We show how nodes expressing their trust relationships through the ledger can bootstrap and operate a value system, and general transaction system, and how Sybil attacks are thwarted. We empirically evaluate our system as a secure Federated Byzantine Agreement System, and extend the theory of those systems to do so.