Stellar Network Stayed 'Safe and Consistent' During Downtime: Report

The Stellar network “halted” for over an hour due to an “inability to reach consensus”, the distributed ledger technology (DLT)-based platform’s developers confirmed on May 16, 2019.

However, an official blog post published by the Stellar Development Foundation (SDF) clarified that the “ledger state” managed to stay “safe and consistent” across the DLT-enabled cryptocurrency network.

150,000 Daily Users, Over 3 Million Accounts

There are reportedly 150,000 users, on average, that conduct transactions on the Stellar network, the platform’s development team claimed. More than 3 million Stellar accounts have been created, the Foundation’s blog stated.

While an outage “like this is highly undesirable”, the SDF acknowledged, it also mentioned that user funds on the Stellar network remained safe. Moreover, “no one’s balances were confused by a fork,” the SDF clarified.

The SDF also claimed that the Stellar network is healthy and functioning properly. According to the developers of the Stellar platform, the “key takeaways” from the technical difficulties recently experienced indicate that there were no issues with Stellar’s blockchain consensus mechanism.

Per the developers, a “temporary halt” for a platform like Stellar is “preferable to the permanent confusion of a fork.” However, lessons learned from the recent outage suggest that Stellar “needs better tooling around uptime”, the Foundation wrote.

Giving Priority To “Consistency And Partition Resilience Over Liveliness”

Additionally, the platform requires “better status monitoring for validators, and it needs to be easier to restart a validator after it goes down,” Stellar’s development team mentioned.

Going on to address claims that the Stellar network has become increasingly centralized, the Foundation claims:

Ironically, the opposite is true. Stellar has added many new nodes recently. In retrospect, some new nodes took on too much consensus responsibility too soon. We need better community standards around maintenance timings, quorumset building, and validator configuration.

Moreover, one of Stellar’s “fundamental design choices” is to give priority to “consistency and partition resilience over liveness.” This means that “when faced with consensus uncertainty, the Stellar Consensus Protocol (SCP) prefers to halt” instead of running in a state which may be inconsistent.

Stellar’s developers believe that financial institutions “prefer downtime over inconsistent data,” and that this is why many of them are building solutions on Stellar, and not other blockchains which prefer to operate regardless of whether the system state is inconsistent.

Commenting on the recent halt of the Stellar network, Ripple’s chief cryptographer, David Schwartz remarked:

Schwartz, an electrical engineering graduate from the University of Houston, thinks the recent downtime experienced by the Stellar network shows that “if the validator topology of a live network does break, the network can fail safely and humans can negotiate a topology change to resume safely in a reasonable time.”

Per Schwartz, Ripple’s technology is also based on similar design principles which “don't make forward progress unless we can have very, very high confidence that it is safe to make forward progress.”