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Consensus Quarterly Update

· 4 min read
Damian Nadales

Consensus Quarterly Update

2022-09 - 2022-11

Main achievements


  • As a consequence of the errors observed when running distributed mempool benchmarks, we re-designed the UTxO HD mempool integration, which fixed these errors and lead to a simpler and more maintainable design.

  • We focused on increasing test coverage for the UTxO-HD prototype. In particular, we added property tests for:

    • Backing store (work ongoing)
    • Era transitions
  • The property tests we added uncovered several bugs, which is a great result given the exponential increase in the cost of finding bugs as they are closer to deployment.

  • One of the errors found by our tests required us to work on improvements in the Haskell bindings for LMDB. This work is ongoing.

  • We started working on the mempool property tests that will exercise the new code paths that UTxO HD introduced.

  • We developed, benchmarked and tested an implementation of sequences of differences based on "anti-diffs". Performance results of diff sequence operations show that we achieved a speedup of about 4x across several scenarios. Note: this speedup is taking into account diff sequence operations only, so the consensus-wide speedup is less than 4x.

  • We integrated the "anti-diff" prototype into the UTxO HD feature branch.


  • We wrote a simulator that demonstrates soundness of an abstract implementation of the new chain selection rule.
  • We elaborated a draft specification for the Genesis implementation (currently awaiting feedback from other architects).
  • We elaborated a draft specification for the ChainSync Jumping optimization. In particular, this includes a proof sketch that the latter preserves liveness and safety in all cases.
  • With the Networking team, we co-designed the eclipse avoidance mechanism, specifically its coherence with the Genesis implementation plan's security and its dependence on the new ChainSync Jumping optimization.
  • We implemented a prototype for ChainSync Jumping. Initial benchmarks showed a performance degradation wrt the baseline. Our optimization attempts so far have brought the performance closer to the baseline, but not yet to parity.

Conway era

  • We did most of the heavy lifting required to integrate the Conway era into the Consensus layer.

Technical debt

  • We started working on enabling CI nightly tests, which revealed several test failures due to thunks being found it data structures used by the ledger and consensus. We made a lot of progress fixing those thunk errors, but some errors still remain.

  • We elaborated a db-analyser benchmark for the ledger operations. This led us to the identification of high processing time at epoch boundaries, and we could not observe any performance degradation that can be attributed to era changes.

  • We fixed a source of flakiness in the ChainDB QSM test.

  • We clarified a common source of confusion around VRF tie-breaking and cross-era chain selection.

  • We fixed a bug in the maximum-allowed ledger major protocol version.

Fostering collaboration

  • We spent time making cardano-updates the central source of information for the core teams stakeholders.
  • We went through the Galois gap analysis and extracted actionable points to take on next.
  • Bart and Yogesh continued with their onboarding and stated making substantial contributions to consensus.

Next steps


  • Finish the mempool property tests.
  • Benchmark the latest version of the prototype.
  • Elaborate a document that describes new integration test scenarios and pass it to the SDET team.
  • Bring query UTxO by address command performance on par with the baseline version.


  • Receive and incorporate Duncan's feedback on the first draft specification for the Genesis implementation.
  • Begin prototyping the first genesis implementation, unless the first draft needs major changes.
  • Draft a second revision of the Genesis report.
  • Review the second revision with a wider audience, which includes at least Alexander Russell. That feedback will drive a third and hopefully final revision.
  • Investigate how to mitigate the ~30% slowdown we have observed so far in the ChainSync jumping prototype, and try to mitigate it. In particular, we might need to optimize the existing BlockFetch logic.

Tech debt

  • Enabling nightly CI tests.

Fostering collaboration

  • Merge the tutorial document Galois wrote; requires CI integration.
  • Come up with our own documentation improvements, many of which were suggested in the Galois gap analysis.
  • Try to hire a new team member.