Coinbase Cloud Global Blockchain Sync (GBS): speeding up node syncing and network recovery
November 22, 2021
GBS can recover from a complete cloud failure in minutes, and launches fully synced nodes more than a hundred times more quickly
Coinbase Cloud Global Blockchain Sync (GBS) significantly reduces the time it takes to launch fully synced nodes. The solution also enables faster recovery from potential adverse network events, and helps customers add support for new protocols efficiently.
GBS gets new nodes production-ready more than a hundred times faster.
Dynamic scaling can dramatically reduce the cost of infrastructure for enterprises.
GBS is available for all cloud providers and regions supported by the Coinbase Cloud platform, with local blockchain image repositories that undergo multiple steps of verification.
GBS enables other features of the Coinbase Cloud platform, such as fast-failover of nodes and the ability to scale infrastructure up and down on demand. Users can launch nodes on protocols in a matter of hours.
Query & Transact (QT) and participation clusters running GBS can recover from the complete failure of a cloud provider in minutes.
What is Global Blockchain Sync?
The problem: When new nodes are launched, they have to catch up with the rest of the network before they can begin performing useful work. Newly launched nodes must sync from the genesis block, which can take anything from hours to months, depending upon the protocol and node type.
Although Blockchain snapshotting goes some way to addressing this challenge, it provides insufficient safeguards for enterprise applications because the image’s authenticity cannot be confirmed before deployment.
The solution: GBS uses blockchain imaging technology to expedite the syncing of a node on any protocol. By maintaining verified and secure images of multiple blockchains, and making them available to newly launched nodes across multiple cloud providers and regions, it makes initial sync times more than a hundred times faster.
Instead of needing to sync the entire chain from genesis, newly launched nodes on Coinbase Cloud begin by loading in 99.99% of the chain. To catch up to the current state of the network, the node only has to sync the remaining 0.01%.
The end result: The ability to launch production-ready nodes quickly gives users the flexibility to dynamically scale their infrastructure in response to demand, significantly reducing operational costs for QT customers. GBS also reduces the risk of downtime slashing for participation and delegators, and plays an important role in Coinbase Cloud’s platform uptime agreements.
How can GBS reduce blockchain participation risks?
Reducing the time to launch new production-ready nodes is especially important for reducing risk and optimizing rewards on block-producing validator nodes. Many proof of stake protocols penalize validators for downtime, because this behavior degrades overall network performance.
On some protocols, the slashing penalties for extended downtime can be severe — running to repossession or destruction of a portion of a validator’s stake. These penalties can kick in significantly faster than a new node can sync up to the network — a crucial precursor to block production.
With GBS, Coinbase Cloud participation clusters can recover from the complete failure of a cloud provider in minutes, significantly reducing the risk of downtime slashing or missed rewards.
How can Coinbase Cloud optimize customer participation?
This same technology also gives Coinbase Cloud new ways to optimize customer participation on several protocols. For example, Polkadot requires more active management than other networks, due to its nominated proof of stake design. Coinbase Cloud offers Polkadot managed controllers that automatically distribute one’s stake among multiple validators, launching and destroying validators as active-set thresholds change.
Thanks to GBS, Coinbase Cloud can launch a new Polkadot validator in roughly 20 minutes, compared to the 30+ hours it would otherwise typically take.
GBS: reducing costs and increasing scale
GBS also allows for dynamic management of Query and Transact (QT) read/write infrastructure used by custodians, exchanges, wallets, and others to build products and services that connect to blockchain data. Without GBS, these organizations face a difficult choice: pay for peak-capacity infrastructure 24/7 or accept service degradation during high traffic times.
Today, QT customers are able to scale their infrastructure up or down in a matter of minutes, responding to demand almost immediately. This means QT users can maintain an exceptional level of service for their customers, while reducing operational costs through scalable infrastructure.
Combining GBS with QT Archival enables companies to add support for new protocols quickly and easily. Archival nodes provide a complete record of everything happening on a blockchain on a block-by-block basis, but this added layer of information makes them huge. EOS’s 30+ terabyte archival node, for example, takes three months — an entire quarter — to be production-ready.
By combining QT Archival and GBS, an EOS Archival node can be readied within 72 hours. Likewise, an Ethereum archival node can be ready in 12 hours, rather than the 14 or more days it would take without GBS — and we hope to further reduce these times in the future.
“GBS enables us to respond quickly to customers, changing network conditions, and adverse situations. Being able to bring new nodes up quickly improves the user experience across every part of the platform, and lets us offer protocol-specific tooling, like managed controllers on Polkadot”
— Aaron Henshaw, Head of Engineering for Coinbase Cloud
The benefits of blockchain image automation
GBS automatically updates blockchain images from Coinbase Cloud nodes, which are then verified for authenticity, uploaded into our system, and verified again. Images are then distributed to every region on the Coinbase Cloud platform. This fully automated process ensures Coinbase Cloud customers can launch new infrastructure quickly and efficiently.
The GBS development team had to accommodate many technical considerations:
The system must meet the needs of multiple protocols, support multiple node types, and be easily operable across multiple cloud providers. GBS also had to support images ranging in size from several gigabytes to 30+ terabytes of data (for archival nodes). Frequent syncs and verification ensure the latest images are replicated across cloud-providers and regions.
Blockchain snapshotting (such as Geth’s fast sync) has been in use for years. But it doesn’t provide sufficient safeguards for many enterprise applications, because the image’s authenticity can’t always be confirmed before deployment. We carefully designed each component of GBS with security and verification in mind — to meet the demanding requirements of our enterprise customers.
GBS stores and updates images in every region supported by the Coinbase Cloud platform. In addition to providing faster sync times, this design ensures the GBS feature remains operational even if an entire cloud provider goes offline.
Contact us to learn more about Global Blockchain Sync and how the Coinbase Cloud platform can help your organization.