[Bitcoin-development] Bitcoin Core trial balloon: splitting blockchain engine and wallet

Jeff Garzik jgarzik at bitpay.com
Fri Feb 21 06:09:55 UTC 2014

[Meta: "Bitcoin Core" is the newfangled branding of bitcoind /
Bitcoin-Qt reference implementation, in case you wondering.]

Several sites, including BitPay, use bitcoind outside the standard
role of wallet software.  bitcoind can be used purely for payment
network access and management.  I call this the "border router" role.
Upcoming version 0.9 will feature the ability to disable the bitcoind
wallet at compile time or runtime. This permits a more optimized
border router profile, reducing process size by 40-200MB according to
some reports.

Recent IRC discussion have floated a rough proposal for a wallet
next-step:  Running the Bitcoin Core wallet as a separate process, a
separate binary, from the blockchain engine.  The wallet process would
communicate with the blockchain engine using existing RPC and P2P
channels, becoming a real SPV client.  This accomplishes a
longstanding security goal of sandboxing away wallet keys and
sensitive data from the network-exposed P2P engine, in a separate
process, among other benefits.

Simple forking was explored a bit.  I did some hacking in that
direction, as it seemed potentially lightweight and somewhat easy to
me: https://github.com/jgarzik/bitcoin/tree/fork  fork+pipe is fine
for Linux and OSX/BSD.  However, Windows requires an exec-like
solution to create a new process.  MSDN does give us a Unix-pipe-like
solution: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/edze9h7e%28v=vs.80%29.aspx
 Others pointed to boost interprocess communication APIs, which come
with their own set of caveats.  Such a solution would involve a brand
new IPC protocol, and lots of brand new glue code.

Separate programs seems better.  Windows forces us to achieve process
separation via exec-like method.  We already have IPC: RPC + P2P.
Modern OS's make localhost sockets just about as fast as other IPCs
methods.  Linux, at least, employs zero-copy for localhost sockets in
many situations, similar to the kernel's pipe tricks.

Pieter has been working on headers-first sync:
https://github.com/bitcoin/bitcoin/pull/2964  Moving along this
wallet/blockchain engine split requires upping the review&test
bandwidth on Pieter's PRs, such as

Unsure how much of the separate-binary discussion Gavin saw, so cc'd
for emphasis.

Jeff Garzik
Bitcoin core developer and open source evangelist
BitPay, Inc.      https://bitpay.com/

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