It’s time for the Ethereum 2.0 beacon chain to start.
We’ve spent the past nine months testing the life of this thing. The year started with huge, long-running single-client test networks: Sapphire, Topaz and Onyx networks operated by Prysmatic Labs. In April there were small multi-client networks: Schlesi, Witti and Altona – all named after subway stations, following the tradition of the Ethereum test network.
Ben Edgington advises ConsenSys on Eth2. CoinDesk’s “Invest: Ethereum Economy” event will take place on October 14th.
And then the big one, the Medalla test network. It was named after Medalla Milagrosa on the Buenos Aires Metro and has been running for over two months. During this time four different client implementations were involved. It is still running today with over 50,000 actively participating validators, making it one of the largest decentralized consensus networks there is.
Progress has not all been smooth. A few days after the Medalla test network started, one of the customers had a critical problem that disrupted the chain for a few days. But that’s what test networks are for. We kept the chain going and were able to bring it back to full health with a series of lessons.
Among them, customer diversity is important. If the beacon chain is to be stable, no single client implementation can dominate. Danny Ryan, a core researcher with the Ethereum Foundation, wrote: “The incident on Medalla was compounded significantly by the failure of the dominant Prysm customer. On the way to the mainnet, we as a community have to consciously try to remedy the situation. ”
There are currently four high-quality, tested and battle-tested clients available at the start of the beacon chain: Teku, Lighthouse, Nimbus and Prysm. Each has its own taste and target group. For example, Teku, ConsenSys’s Eth 2.0 client, was designed and built primarily for institutional and professional stakers (although I’ll run it at home), with additional security tools like a remote signature service and slash prevention service.
The beacon chain will have real rewards and real penalties, and we just can’t simulate these with test nets.
The customer teams also learned to agree on common standards for migrating information between their implementations. This allows the stakers to switch customers quickly and securely and will help greatly in incident recovery in the future.
See also: A Day in the Life of an Ethereum 2.0 Validator
Skin in the game
Maybe the biggest lesson? It is difficult to faithfully reproduce the evidence of use in networks for which there are no incentives. Participation in these test networks is completely free, which is not realistic at all. On testnets, stakers can neglect their nodes with no real consequences. You can register thousands of validators and then just turn them off. You can bet, but never join the network.
In the real beacon chain, where significant value is at stake, we expect very different user behavior.
Because of this, now is the time to go live with the beacon chain. We tested everything else in every possible way: the deposit agreement was officially reviewed; The deposit instruments have been checked. the specification has been checked; The beacon chain was modeled formally. The node discovery protocol was checked. The network protocol has been checked. the crypto-economy was simulated; We operate incentive networks for attacks. We did fuzz tests. Every client has undergone at least one third-party security audit. Hundreds of pairs of eyes have taken a close look at the entire process over the past year.
However, the real beacon chain will have real rewards and real penalties, and we just can’t simulate these with test nets.
On the reward side, the gross return for validation in the beacon chain with a minimum of 16,384 individual 32 ETH missions (one mission is a validator) is over 20% per year. Even in times of exhilarating – albeit temporary – DeFi returns (decentralized financing), this is definitely convincing.
Punishments aren’t particularly burdensome. As long as you are able to keep your validator online at least half the time, you will only lose your stake in extreme circumstances. And as long as you follow sensible guidelines, there is adequate protection in place so there is no chance your stake will be cut.
We’ve lab tested these things as much as possible: now it’s time to run them out in the wild. The Ethereum 2.0 roadmap has been carefully phased so that we can try this new, ambitious proof-of-stake mechanism in phase 0 in isolation before anything else depends on it.
Therefore, in the worst case of a catastrophic failure or attack that affects a large part of the stakers, there is always an opportunity to agree to roll back the chain with no consequences.
We are planning another trial in mid-October, the prong test net. A few days later, I expect the deposit agreement with a target beacon chain genesis to be concluded within about six weeks.
See Also: 3 Things You Should Know Before Choosing Ethereum 2.0
Staking out won’t be for everyone right from the start.
One reason for this is that it can be very technically demanding. Stakers need to keep a server running as 24/7 as possible. They need to keep their systems secure and stay abreast of client software updates. For those who are unsure of hosting a stakeout node themselves, there are numerous third-party services available. Within ConsenSys we offer Codefi Staking, a turnkey white label solution for companies interested in Ethereum 2.0.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you are committed to the long haul in the long run. Right from the start, stakers can stop validation and freeze their stakes and rewards if they so choose. However, this ether remains stuck on the beacon chain until phase 1.5 of the Eth 2.0 roadmap has been delivered.
Phase 1.5 is the point at which the current Ethereum chain, along with all of its accounts and contracts, is integrated into the Ethereum 2.0 system. Only then can the stakers claim their rewards and get their stakes back. Until then, there is no way to leave your balance. Work on Phase 1.5 is progressing well, but there is no fixed delivery schedule. It could be a few more years.
I’ve been involved in Ethereum 2.0 long enough and followed it closely enough that I think I know where all the bodies are buried. I’m confident enough in the integrity and safety of what we’ve built and the teams that built it that my household plans to work on the beacon from day one.
If you’d like to join us in supporting this extraordinary development of the Ethereum network, keep an eye out for official announcements over the next few weeks. In the meantime, it’s not too late to get a hands-on glimpse into the future by joining the Medalla testnet.
See Also: 3 Ways Staking Out Will Improve Ethereum Economics