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The sum of its parts: Analysis of federated byzantine agreement systems

Author: Florian, M., Henningsen, S., Ndolo C., & Scheuermann, B.
Published in: Distributed Computing, 35(2-3), 399-417
Year: 2022
Type: Academic articles
DOI: 10.1007/s00446-022-00430-0

Federated Byzantine Agreement Systems (FBASs) are a fascinating new paradigm in the context of consensus protocols. Originally proposed for powering the Stellar payment network, FBASs can instantiate Byzantine quorum systems without requiring out-of-band agreement on a common set of validators; every node is free to decide for itself with whom it requires agreement. Sybil-resistant and yet energy-efficient consensus protocols can therefore be built upon FBASs, and the “decentrality” possible with the FBAS paradigm might be sufficient to reduce the use of environmentally unsustainable proof-of-work protocols. In this paper, we first demonstrate how the robustness of individual FBASs can be determined, by precisely determining their safety and liveness buffers and therefore enabling a comparison with threshold-based quorum systems. Using simulations and example node configuration strategies, we then empirically investigate the hypothesis that while FBASs can be bootstrapped in a bottom-up fashion from individual preferences, strategic considerations should additionally be applied by node operators in order to arrive at FBASs that are robust and amenable to monitoring. Finally, we investigate the reported “open-membership” property of FBASs. We observe that an often small group of nodes is exclusively relevant for determining liveness buffers and prove that membership in this top tier is conditional on the approval by current top tier nodes if maintaining safety is a core requirement.

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