[bitcoin-dev] Using a storage engine without UTXO-index

Eric Voskuil eric at voskuil.org
Tue Apr 11 01:44:57 UTC 2017

Hash: SHA256

On 04/08/2017 04:58 PM, Tomas wrote:
> You seem to ignore here the difference between base load and peak 
> load. If Compact blocks/XThin with further optimizations can 
> presync nearly 100% of the transactions, and nodes can do as much 
> as possible when a transaction comes in, the time spent when a 
> block comes in can be minimized and a lot more transactions can be 
> handled with the same resources.

Maybe it's an issue of terminology. I have never used the terms
base/peak load. However I've been trying to get across, poorly I
suppose, that this is actually implemented in libbitcoin. I generally
refer to it as tx pre-validation. I've also tried to relate that you
are unnecessarily relating pre-validation to compactness. These are
unrelated ideas and better considered independently. One can get
nearly all of the benefit of pre-validation while still receiving
blocks (vs. compact blocks). The advantage of compactness is reduced
latency of the block announcement. The reason for pre-validation is
amortization of the validation and/or storage cost of a block.

> The reason for "splitting" is that for an incoming transaction the
>  spent-state of the outputs being spent isn't particularly
> relevant as you seem to acknowledge. When the block comes in, the
> actual output data isn't relevant.

As I understand it you would split tx inputs and outputs and send them
independently, and that you intend this to be a P2P network
optimization - not a consensus rule change. So my comments are based
on those inferences. If we are talking about consensus changes this
conversation will end up in an entirely different place.

I don't agree with the input/output relevance statements above. When a
tx is announced the entire tx is relevant. It cannot be validated as
outputs only. If it cannot be validated it cannot be stored by the
node. Validating the outputs only would require the node store invalid

I do accept that a double-spend detection is not an optimal criteria
by which to discard a tx. One also needs fee information. But without
double-spend knowledge the node has no rational way to defend itself
against an infinity of transactions that spend the minimal fee but
also have conflicting inputs (i.e. risking the fee only once). So tx
(pool) validation requires double-spend knowledge and at least a
summary from outputs.

> The *only* thing that needs to be checked when a block comes in is 
> the order, and the spend-tree approach absolves the need to access 
> outputs here.

Inputs that are already valid against prevouts remain valid assuming
consensus rules have not changed. But any input that spends a coinbase
must be validated for prevout height once there is a block context for
validation. Additionally the set of txs must be validated for total
size, sigops, and fee claim. So it's not true that conflict detection
alone is sufficient. Yet one can cache a tx's size, sigops, fee and
minimum height in a graph so that when a block appears that contains
that tx the input validation can be skipped.

Ignoring the (actual) requirement for the full tx on the pool
validation, the required "order" validation at (compact or other)
block arrival basically consists of traversing each tx, ensuring none
are confirmed in a block below the fork point; traversing each each of
its confirmed inputs, ensuring that none are spent in a block below
the fork point; and ensuring the block's set of transactions do not
contain missing inputs and do not double spend internal to the block.

This and the above-mentioned other required per-transaction block
validation data can be cached to an in-memory structure as a potential
optimization over navigating the store, and as you say, does not
therefore require the actual outputs (script/value). But the original
issue of needing full transactions for independent transaction
validation remains.

> As it also absolves the need for reorgs this greatly simplifies the
> design.

A reorg is conceptual and cannot be engineered out. What you are
referring to is a restructuring of stored information as a consequence
of a reorg. I don't see this as related to the above. The ability to
perform reorganization via a branch pointer swap is based not on the
order or factoring of validation but instead on the amount of
information stored. It requires more information to maintain multiple

Transactions have confirmation states, validation contexts and spender
heights for potentially each branch of an unbounded number of
branches. It is this requirement to maintain that state for each
branch that makes this design goal a very costly trade-off of space
and complexity for reorg speed. As I mentioned earlier, it's the
optimization for this scenario that I find questionable.

> I am not sure why you say that a one-step approach is more 
> "test-friendly" as this seems to be unrelated.

Full separation of concerns allows all validation to be performed in
isolation from the store. As such validation state can be faked and
provided to a tx, block or chain, for the purpose of test. Validation
that interacts with a complex store during validation is harder to
fake and tests can be hard to verify.

It's not really the "one-step" approach that make this possible. In
fact that's not an accurate description. Validation and storage of txs
and blocks consists of four steps:

(1) context free
(2) contextual (chain-based)
(3) expensive (script eval)
(4) storage and notification

So we have:



...where "chain" is the store, from which "state" is derived. The
state for an unconfirmed tx is based on the presumption that the tx
would be mined in the next block. If that is not the case then its
pre-validation can become invalidated. So from my perspective, this
discussion is all about populating state. Anything that cannot be
placed into that pattern would complicate both the conceptual model
and testing. We've also seen that this isolation also has performance
advantages, as it facilitates optimizations that are otherwise

>> Despite the site's explanation I cannot think of any reason to 
>> ever validate two blocks at the same time. You would always 
>> prioritize the block with the greatest PoW. Doing otherwise just 
>> slows down the net validation in all but the pathological case 
>> where a miner has produced an *invalid* block with *more* PoW 
>> than another valid block which arrived at the node within the 
>> same second. Rejecting a *valid* block with more PoW in favor of 
>> one with *less* "processing" is a hard fork, so you probably 
>> wouldn't want to do that either. But with compact block 
>> validation times approaching 25ms it's hard to justify stopping
>> a block validation for any reason.
> I don't get what you are saying. Why pick the greatest PoW of two 
> competing blocks?

Because choosing the lesser amount of work is non-consensus behavior.
Under the same circumstances (i.e. having seen the same set of blocks)
two nodes will disagree on whether there is one confirmation or no
confirmations for a given tx. This disagreement will persist (i.e. why
take the weaker block only to turn around and replace it with the
stronger block that arrives a few seconds or minutes later). It stands
to reason that if one rejects a stronger block under a race condition,
one would reorg out a stronger block when a weaker block arrives a
little after the stronger block. Does this "optimization" then apply
to chains of blocks too?

> If two blocks come in, an implementation is free to choose 
> whichever block to build on.

Implementations are free to choose no blocks. That's not really the issu

> Choosing so is not a "hardfork".

Accepting a block that all previous implementations would have
rejected under the same circumstance could be considered a hard fork,
but you may be right.

Yet the classification is not essential to my point. Nor is any
material change required to validate blocks in parallel. We can do it
using current design, but it doesn't make sense to do so.

> Parallel validation simply makes it easier to make an optimal 
> choice, for if two blocks come in, the one that is validated 
> fastest can be build upon without the risk of validationless 
> mining.

This is not an optimization, since it should always be optimal to
validate blocks independently. Performing multiple together inherently
slows both of them. And the advantage to not validating *either* would

>> I am also interested in your previous comments about soft forks. 
>> These are material considerations that Greg touched on but it 
>> doesn't sound like you fully appreciate just yet. When a tx is 
>> pre-validated the rules applied must be the same rules as those 
>> of some future block. Yet a tx can be included in more than one 
>> block (different branches). Across branches and even in one 
>> branch, validation rules change, and can change back. The
>> changes are based on accumulated branch history. Pre-validation
>> can later become invalidated, and differently in different
>> branches. And maintaining proper context requires either storing
>> state that you are apparently not storing, or invalidating
>> optimizations. Based on your comments you do not seem to be
>> accounting for this in your storage assumptions or in your
>> results. A recent post by Greg highlights the complexity and
>> consensus criticality of these considerations.
> Frankly, I think this is a bit of an exaggeration. Soft forks are 
> counted on a hand, and I don't think there are many - if any - 
> transactions in the current chain that have changed compliance 
> based on height.

Hope is a bug.

> This makes this a compliance issue and not a performance issue

You cannot have a useful performance measure without full compliance.

> and the solution I have explained, to add height-based compliance 
> as meta data of validation seems to be adequate and safe.

If you intend this to be useful it has to help build the chain, not
just rely on hardwiring checkpoints once rule changes are presumed to
be buried deeply enough to do so (as the result of other implementations

I understand this approach, it was ours at one time. There is a
significant difference, and your design is to some degree based on a
failure to fully consider this. I encourage you to not assume any
consensus-related detail is too small.

>> The hash table store that I described can fully navigate the 
>> block tree and transaction DAG, since the stored tx, parent and 
>> point hashes are also natural keys and each link is navigable in 
>> constant time. It is also lock-free, can concurrently write any 
>> number of blocks during initial block download and supports 
>> read/write concurrency. It has successfully indexed and stored 
>> the entire blockchain from the P2P network in 16 minutes 
>> (locally). It also stores both confirmed and unconfirmed 
>> transactions in the same store, so there is nothing to write
>> when a block is confirmed except for the block header/hashes and
>>  updates to spender heights for any output spent by the new 
>> block's txs. It is similarly capable of storage in the block 
>> table of weak chain blocks...
> I think I get the gist of your approach and it sounds very 
> interesting and I will definitely dive in deeper.

It's worth noting that many of your stated objectives, including
modularity, developer platform, store isolation, consensus rule
isolation (including optional use of libbitcoinconsensus) are implemente

It seems like you are doing some good work and it's not my intent to
discourage that. Libbitcoin is open source, I don't get paid and I'm
not selling anything. But if you are going down this path you should
be aware of it and may benefit from our successes as well as some of
the other stuff :). And hopefully we can get the benefit of your
insights as well.

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