Distributed Validators: Obol Network Alpha Release x SenseiNode

SenseiNode has joined Obol’s journey to bringing DVs to Ethereum Mainnet. As early adopters of DVT, we’ve deployed our first distributed validator cluster on the network’s Alpha Release — the first deployments outside the Obol Core Team.

Validation is a critical component to ensure the integrity, consistency, and security of blockchain networks. As Ethereum flows into its proof-of-stake era, it’s essential to have a robust and efficient system for staking.

Back in February 2021, shortly after Ethereum had launched its Beacon Chain — the start of its proof-of-stake journey — a staking provider had a big slip up. In one day, 75 of its validators were slashed, losing some of their staked ether as a penalty for accidentally attesting blocks with the same keys twice. It showed how easily centralized validators could lose their clients’ funds.

The idea behind Obol is to enable distributed validators on the Ethereum blockchain. SenseiNode has been currently working with the Obol Labs team to accompany their vision on creating a more secure, resilient, and decentralized ecosystem for all validators and stakers alike, building a trust-minimized staking protocol for public blockchain networks that integrates the Distributed Validator Technology as a critical feature.

DVT in a nutshell

Distributed Validator Technology allows operators to distribute validator functions across multiple nodes, mitigating risks and reinforcing network decentralization.

What is Obol?

Obol Labs is a research and software development team focused on proof-of-participation infrastructure for public blockchain networks.

The core team is building the Obol Network, a set of tools, teams, and communities for building trust-minimized staking through multi-operator validation. This will enable low-trust access to participate in securing Ethereum’s consensus layer, and the core technology can be used as a component in a variety of Web3 products.

The core component of the Obol Network is Charon, a DV middleware implementation that is designed to work together with other components of the staking tech stack with the intention of accelerating the innovation and robustness of the next generation of staking products and protocols. Together with the DV Launchpad, a Dapp for configuring and deploying DV clusters, the Obol Network provides a scalable layer for operators to configure, monitor, and deploy their own multi-operator staking clusters.

“We believe a more robust and secure Ethereum can be realized through a collaborative infrastructure protocol that mitigates correlated risk by enabling finality to happen regardless of the downtime or disappearance of a few network operators. This can be achieved by utilizing the DVT primitive, which includes cryptographic primitives such as threshold signing and distributed key generation, enabling a group of network operators to act as one single validator together — something we like to call a multi-operator validator.” - Obol Labs

Validator’s Duties and possible failures

To participate in consensus seeking on Ethereum and receive rewards for it, validators act on the proof-of-stake (PoS) protocol by signing messages (such as blocks or attestations) using their validator Private Key.

🔐 Only the validator’s client software can access the key, which schedules the creation and signing of messages according to the tasks assigned to the validator.

The main areas of responsibility of validators in the ETH2 network  can be grouped into two categories: Liveness and Security.

Liveness a.k.a Availability Failure

  • Do not disconnect. If disconnected, make sure you are not disconnected when everyone else is.

Security a.k.a Validator Key Compromise

  • Do not produce slashable attestations or blocks through double-signing. Make sure not to run multiple instances with the same key.

  • Keep the validator’s private key safe. Protect against possible compromises.

Source: Mara Schmiedt & Collin Myers on Distributed Validator Technology on Eth2

Distributed Validator Technology

DVT is a new infrastructure primitive that enables a validator key to be split between independently operating validator instances, enabling Active-Active redundancy across Eth2 infrastructure deployments and utilizing threshold signing to perform consensus duties.

You can think of this as enabling your validator to operate like a multi-sig, removing single points of technical failure like mentioned above.

The goal is to improve the resiliency of ETH2’s Beacon Chain infrastructure by offering a configuration that adds an additional layer of fault tolerance for Ethereum validators, mitigating the possibility of redundancies such as single point of failure, centralization issues, etc.

Obol Alpha Phase

The Alpha release of the Obol Network comes as a part of their wide roadmap after 3 years of research, 2 years of development, and 9 months of testing (with two testnets, Athena and Bia) and the launch of Ethereum Mainnet’s first distributed validator!

Now, the first set of Mainnet DVs deployed by the community are on the way, starting the process of progressively integrating the Obol protocol into staking applications.

Obol v1 Roadmap
Obol v1 Roadmap

Since this is the first time Ethereum Mainnet DVs are deployed outside of the Obol Core Team, they are launching a limited number of DVs with a group of trusted partners. Fortunately, SenseiNode has been participating in Obol’s Alpha phase by supporting a Solo Cluster of 4 nodes.

  • In a solo cluster, all nodes in the DV will be run by a single entity or individual. In this configuration, the key benefit of DVT is to provide high availability for the validator setup while reducing overall infrastructure costs.

Read More about Obol Network in our documentation

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