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Thunderella: Blockchains with Optimistic Instant Confirmation
Authors: Rafael Pass, Elaine ShiAbstract:
State machine replication, or “consensus”, is a central abstraction for distributed systems where a set of nodes seek to agree on an ever-growing, linearly-ordered log. In this paper, we propose a practical new paradigm called Thunderella for achieving state machine replication by combining a fast, asynchronous path with a (slow) synchronous “fall-back” path (which only gets executed if something goes wrong); as a consequence, we get simple state machine replications that essentially are as robust as the best synchronous protocols, yet “optimistically” (if a super majority of the players are honest), the protocol “instantly” confirms transactions. We provide instantiations of this paradigm in both permissionless (using proof-of-work) and permissioned settings. Most notably, this yields a new blockchain protocol (for the permissionless setting) that remains resilient assuming only that a majority of the computing power is controlled by honest players, yet optimistically—if 3/4 of the computing power is controlled by honest players, and a special player called the “accelerator”, is honest—transactions are confirmed as fast as the actual message delay in the network. We additionally show the 3/4 optimistic bound is tight for protocols that are resilient assuming only an honest majority.
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