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README.md

BABBLE

GoDoc CircleCI Documentation Status Go Report License: MIT

Babble network

Babble is a distributed consensus engine designed to easily plug into any application. It uses peer-to-peer networking and a consensus algorithm to guarantee that a group of connected computers process the same commands in the same order.

Table of Contents

Features

  • Asynchronous: Participants have the freedom to process commands at different times.

  • Leaderless: No participant plays a special role.

  • Byzantine Fault-Tolerant: Supports one third of faulty nodes, including malicious behavior.

  • Finality: Babble’s output can be used immediately, no need for block confirmations.

  • Dynamic Membership: Members can join or leave a Babble network without undermining security.

  • Fast Sync: Joining nodes can sync directly to the current state of a network.

  • Accountability: Auditable history of the consensus algorithm’s output.

  • Language Agnostic: Integrate with applications written in any programming language.

  • Mobile: Bindings for Android and iOS.

  • WebRTC: Supports WebRTC connections for practical p2p connections.

Consensus

We use an adaptation of the Hashgraph consensus algorithm, invented by Leemon Baird, to which we added important features. Hashgraph is best described in the white-paper and its accompanying document. The original Hashgraph algorithm is protected by patents in the USA, so anyone intending to use this software in the USA should take this into consideration. For a high level overview of the concepts behind Babble, please refer to this document.

Babble's major departure from the original Hashgraph algorithm is the introduction of blocks, which represent self-contained sections of the Hashgraph, and which are instrumental in the implementation of two important new features that were alluded to in Baird's paper, but not specified:

  • A dynamic membership protocol, which enables peers to join or leave a group on demand.

  • A fast-sync protocol which enables joining nodes to fast-forward directly to a point in the hashgraph without downloading the entire history.

API

Babble design

Babble communicates with the App through an AppProxy interface, which has two implementations:

  • InmemProxy : An InmemProxy uses native callback handlers to integrate Babble as a regular Go dependency.

  • SocketProxy: A SocketProxy connects to an App via TCP sockets. It enables the application to run in a separate process or machine, and to be written in any programming language.

Refer to the dummy package for an example that implements both proxies.

// Start from default Babble configuration.
babbleConfig := config.NewDefaultConfig()

// Create dummy InmemProxy
dummy := NewInmemDummyClient(babbleConfig.Logger())

// Set the proxy in the Babble configuration.
babbleConfig.Proxy = dummy

// Instantiate Babble.
babble := babble.NewBabble(babbleConfig)

// Read in the configuration and initialise the node accordingly.
if err := babble.Init(); err != nil {
    babbleConfig.Logger().Error("Cannot initialize babble:", err)
    os.Exit(1)
}

// The application can submit transactions to Babble using the proxy's
// SubmitTx. Babble will broadcast the transactions to other nodes, run them
// through the consensus algorithm, and eventually call the callback methods
// implemented in the handler.
go func() {
    dummy.SubmitTx([]byte("the test transaction"))
}()

// Run the node aynchronously.
babble.Run()

// Babble reacts to SIGINT (Ctrl + c) and SIGTERM by calling the leave
// method to politely leave a Babble network, but it can also be called
// manually.
defer babble.Node.Leave()

Configuration

Babble configuration is defined in the config package.

Data Directory

Babble reads configuration files from its data directory which defaults to ~/.babble on Linux. It can be overwritten with DataDir in the Config object or --datadir from the CLI.

Key

Every Babble validator requires a cryptographic key-pair to encrypt, sign and verify messages. The private key is secret but the public key is used by other nodes to verify messages signed with the private key. The encryption scheme used by Babble is ECDSA with the secp256k1 curve (like Bitcoin and Ethereum).

To pass a private key to Babble, either set it directly in the Config object, or dump it to a priv_key file in the data directory. Babble's keygen command may be used to generate key-pairs in the appropriate format.

Peers

Babble needs to know the other peers in the network. This is specified by adding two JSON files in the data directory.

  • genesis.peers.json corresponds to the initial validator-set; the one that the hashgraph was started with. If genesis.peers.json is not provided, Babble will use peers.json as the genesis validator-set.

  • peers.json corresponds to the set of peers that the node should attempt to connect to upon starting.

peers.json and gensesis.peers.json are not necessarily equal because the dynamic membership protocol enables new nodes to join or leave a live Babble network dynamically. It is important for a joining node to know the initial validator-set in order to replay and verify the hashgraph up to the point where it joins.

It is possible to start a Babble network with just a single node, or with a predefined validator-set composed of multiple nodes. In the latter case, someone, or some process, needs to aggregate the public keys and network addresses of all participants into a single file (peers.genesis.json), and ensure that everyone has a copy of this file. It is left to the user to derive a scheme to produce the configuration files but the docker demo scripts are a good place to start.

To join an existing network, a peer must first obtain the JSON peers files from an existing node and place them in the data directory. One way to obtain the peers files is to query the /peers and /genesispeers functions exposed by the HTTP API service. Please refer to the join script in the demo for an example. for an example.

Transport

Implementations of the Transport interface determine how nodes communicate with one-another.

TCP

The TCP transport is suitable when nodes are in the same local network, or when users are able to configure their connections appropriately to avoid NAT issues.

To use a TCP transport, set the following configuration properties:

  • BinAdddr or --listen: the IP:PORT of the TCP socket that Babble binds to. By default BindAddr is 127.0.0.1:1337, meaning that Babble will bind to the loopback address on the local machine.

  • AdvertiseAddr or --advertise: (optional) The address that is advertised to other nodes. If BindAddr is a local address not reachable by other peers, it is necessary to set AdvertiseAddr to something else. If AdvertiseAddr is not set, it defaults to the BindAddr.

For example, when running a node from a local network behind a NAT, the BindAddr might be 192.168.1.10 which is not reachable from outside the local network. So it is necessary to set AdvertiseAddr to the public IP of the router, and to setup port-forwarding in the NAT.

Note that the advertise address (which defaults to bind address if not set) must match the address of the peer in the peers.genesis.json or peers.json files.

WebRTC

Because Babble is a peer-to-peer application, it can run into issues with NATs and firewalls. The WebRTC transport addresses the NAT traversal issue, but it requires centralised servers for peers to exchange connection information and to provide STUN/TURN services.

To use a WebRTC transport, use the following configuration properties:

  • WebRTC or --webrtc: tells Babble to use a WebRTC transport.

  • SignalAddr or --signal-addr: address of the WebRTC signaling server.

  • SignalRealm or --signal-realm: routing domain within the signaling server.

  • ICEAddress or --ice-addr: URL of a server providing ICE services such as STUN and TURN.

  • ICEUsername or --ice-username: Username to authenticate to the ICE server.

  • ICEPassword or --ice-password: Password to authenticate to the ICE server.

Users of the library can also manipulate the ICE servers configuration directly by manually modifying the list returned by Config.ICEServers().

WebRTC requires a signaling mechanism for peers to exchange connection information. This requires a central server, so when the WebRTC transport is used, Babble is not fully p2p anymore. That being said, all the computation and data at the application layer remains p2p; the signaling server is only used as a sort of peer-discovery mechanism. We povide the code for a signaling server here. The demo has a WebRTC option that illustrates the usage of WebRTC.

It is not necessary to specify network addresses in the JSON peer files when WebRTC is enabled because this information will be exchanged over the signaling server. Likewise, the BindAddr and AdvertiseAddr options will be ignored.

The default ICEServers points to a public STUN server hosted by Google (stun:stun.l.google.com:19302). It does not include a TURN server, so not all p2p connections will be possible. For a full ICE server, have a look at our Disco server.

Store

We can choose to run Babble with a database backend or only with an in-memory cache. With the Store (--store) option, Babble will look for a database in datadir/babdger_db or in the path specified by DatabaseDir (--db). If the database already exists, and the Bootstrap (--boostrap) option is set, the node will load the database and bootstrap itself to a state consistent with the database and it will be able to proceed with the consensus algorithm from there. If the database does not exist yet, or the Bootstrap option is not set, a new one will be created and the node will start from a clean state.

Maintenance Mode

The node can also be started in maintenance-mode with the homonymous flag. The node is started normally but goes directly into the Suspended state, where it still responds to sync-requests, and service API requests, but does not produce or insert new Events in the underlying hashgraph. The Suspended state is also triggered automatically when more than suspend-limit, multiplied by the number of validators, undetermined-events were created since last starting the node. This is a safeguard against runaway conditions when a network does not have a strong majority and produces undetermined-events ad infinitum.

Service

We can also specify where Babble exposes its HTTP API which provides information about the internals of the hashgraph and data store. This is controlled by the ServiceAddr (--service-listen) option. It can also be disabled altogether with the NoService (--no-service) option.

App Proxy

When we use Babble as a native Go library, we set the InmemProxy directly in the Config object's Proxy field.

Instead, when Babble and the application are connected by a TCP interface, we start Babble as a standalone executable and we specify the endpoints of the connection:

  • --proxy-listen : where Babble listens for transactions from the App.
  • --client-connect : where the App listens for blocks from Babble

Fast Sync

EnableFastSync (--fast-sync) tells Babble to attempt to fast-forward to the tip of the hashgraph when joining, instead of downloading and replaying the entire hashgraph from start. More on this in fast-sync. This options requires the Snapshot and Restore handlers to be carefully implemented in the AppProxy.

Operational Parameters

  • LogLevel (--log): Determines the chattiness of the log output.

  • HeartbeatTimeout (--heartbeat): Frequency of the gossip timer when there is something to gossip about.

  • SlowHeartbeatTimeout (--slow-heartbeat): Frequency of the gossip timer when there is nothing to gossip about.

  • MaxPool (--max-pool): Controls how many connections are pooled per target in the gossip routines.

  • TCPTimeout (--timeout): Timeout of gossip RPC connections (also applies for WebRTC connections).

  • JoinTimeout (--join_timeout): Timeout of join requests.

  • SyncLimit (--sync-limit): Max number of hashgraph events to include in a SyncResponse or EagerSyncRequest.

  • CacheSize (--cache-size): Max number of items in the in-memory caches.

  • SuspendLimit (--suspend-limit): Multiplier applied to the number of validators to determine the limit of undetermined events that will cause a node to become suspended.

  • Moniker (--moniker): Friendly name for this node. It takes precedence over the moniker defined in JSON peers files.

  • SignalSkipVerify (--signal-skip-verify): (insecure) Controls whether the signal client verifies the server's certificate chain and hostname when WebRTC is activated.

Install

Go

Babble is written in Golang 1.14. Hence, the first step is to install Go version 1.14 or above which is both the programming language and a CLI tool for managing Go code. Go is very opinionated and will require you to define a workspace where all your go code will reside.

Babble and Dependencies

Fetch Babble from github:

$ go get github.com/mosaicnetworks/babble

Download all dependencies and put them in the vendor folder.

[...]/babble$ make vendor

Babble uses go mod to manage dependencies.

Other Requirements

Bash scripts used in this project assume the use of GNU versions of coreutils. Please ensure you have GNU versions of these programs installed:-

example for macOS:

# --with-default-names makes the `sed` and `awk` commands default to gnu sed and gnu awk respectively.
brew install gnu-sed gawk --with-default-names

Testing

Babble has extensive unit-testing.

[...]/babble$ make test

If everything goes well, it should output something along these lines:

?       github.com/mosaicnetworks/babble/src/babble     [no test files]
ok      github.com/mosaicnetworks/babble/src/common     0.015s
ok      github.com/mosaicnetworks/babble/src/crypto     0.122s
ok      github.com/mosaicnetworks/babble/src/hashgraph  10.270s
?       github.com/mosaicnetworks/babble/src/mobile     [no test files]
ok      github.com/mosaicnetworks/babble/src/net        0.012s
ok      github.com/mosaicnetworks/babble/src/node       19.171s
ok      github.com/mosaicnetworks/babble/src/peers      0.038s
?       github.com/mosaicnetworks/babble/src/proxy      [no test files]
ok      github.com/mosaicnetworks/babble/src/dummy        0.013s
ok      github.com/mosaicnetworks/babble/src/proxy/inmem        0.037s
ok      github.com/mosaicnetworks/babble/src/proxy/socket       0.009s
?       github.com/mosaicnetworks/babble/src/proxy/socket/app   [no test files]
?       github.com/mosaicnetworks/babble/src/proxy/socket/babble        [no test files]
?       github.com/mosaicnetworks/babble/src/service    [no test files]
?       github.com/mosaicnetworks/babble/src/version    [no test files]
?       github.com/mosaicnetworks/babble/cmd/babble     [no test files]
?       github.com/mosaicnetworks/babble/cmd/babble/commands    [no test files]
?       github.com/mosaicnetworks/babble/cmd/dummy      [no test files]
?       github.com/mosaicnetworks/babble/cmd/dummy/commands     [no test files]

Build From Source

The easiest way to build binaries is to do so in a hermetic Docker container. Use this simple command:

[...]/babble$ make dist

This will launch the build in a Docker container and write all the artifacts in the build/ folder.

[...]/babble$ tree build
build/
├── dist
│   ├── babble_0.1.0_darwin_386.zip
│   ├── babble_0.1.0_darwin_amd64.zip
│   ├── babble_0.1.0_freebsd_386.zip
│   ├── babble_0.1.0_freebsd_arm.zip
│   ├── babble_0.1.0_linux_386.zip
│   ├── babble_0.1.0_linux_amd64.zip
│   ├── babble_0.1.0_linux_arm.zip
│   ├── babble_0.1.0_SHA256SUMS
│   ├── babble_0.1.0_windows_386.zip
│   └── babble_0.1.0_windows_amd64.zip
└── pkg
    ├── darwin_386
    │   └── babble
    ├── darwin_amd64
    │   └── babble
    ├── freebsd_386
    │   └── babble
    ├── freebsd_arm
    │   └── babble
    ├── linux_386
    │   └── babble
    ├── linux_amd64
    │   └── babble
    ├── linux_arm
    │   └── babble
    ├── windows_386
    │   └── babble.exe
    └── windows_amd64
        └── babble.exe

Demo

To see Babble in action, we have provided a series of scripts to bootstrap a local test network with the dummy application and the SocketProxy.

NOTE: This has been tested on Ubuntu 18.04 and macOS.

Make sure you have Docker installed.

Then, run the testnet:

[...]/babble$ cd demo
[...]/babble/demo$ make
# or using webrtc
[...]/babble/demo$ make webrtc=true

Once the testnet is started, a script is automatically launched to monitor each Babble node:

consensus_events:180 consensus_transactions:40 events_per_second:0.00 id:1 last_block_index:3 last_consensus_round:17 num_peers:3 round_events:7 rounds_per_second:0.00 state:Babbling sync_rate:1.00 transaction_pool:0 undetermined_events:18
consensus_events:180 consensus_transactions:40 events_per_second:0.00 id:3 last_block_index:3 last_consensus_round:17 num_peers:3 round_events:7 rounds_per_second:0.00 state:Babbling sync_rate:1.00 transaction_pool:0 undetermined_events:20
consensus_events:180 consensus_transactions:40 events_per_second:0.00 id:2 last_block_index:3 last_consensus_round:17 num_peers:3 round_events:7 rounds_per_second:0.00 state:Babbling sync_rate:1.00 transaction_pool:0 undetermined_events:21
consensus_events:180 consensus_transactions:40 events_per_second:0.00 id:0 last_block_index:3 last_consensus_round:17 num_peers:3 round_events:7 rounds_per_second:0.00 state:Babbling sync_rate:1.00 transaction_pool:0 undetermined_events:20

Running docker ps -a will show you that 9 docker containers have been launched:

[...]/babble/demo$ docker ps -a
CONTAINER ID        IMAGE                    COMMAND                  CREATED             STATUS              PORTS                   NAMES
ba80ef275f22        mosaicnetworks/watcher   "/watch.sh"              48 seconds ago      Up 7 seconds                                watcher
4620ed62a67d        mosaicnetworks/dummy     "dummy '--name=client"   49 seconds ago      Up 48 seconds       1339/tcp                client4
847ea77bd7fc        mosaicnetworks/babble    "babble run --cache_s"   50 seconds ago      Up 49 seconds       80/tcp, 1337-1338/tcp   node4
11df03bf9690        mosaicnetworks/dummy     "dummy '--name=client"   51 seconds ago      Up 50 seconds       1339/tcp                client3
00af002747ca        mosaicnetworks/babble    "babble run --cache_s"   52 seconds ago      Up 50 seconds       80/tcp, 1337-1338/tcp   node3
b2011d3d65bb        mosaicnetworks/dummy     "dummy '--name=client"   53 seconds ago      Up 51 seconds       1339/tcp                client2
e953b50bc1db        mosaicnetworks/babble    "babble run --cache_s"   53 seconds ago      Up 52 seconds       80/tcp, 1337-1338/tcp   node2
0c9dd65de193        mosaicnetworks/dummy     "dummy '--name=client"   54 seconds ago      Up 53 seconds       1339/tcp                client1
d1f4e5008d4d        mosaicnetworks/babble    "babble run --cache_s"   55 seconds ago      Up 54 seconds       80/tcp, 1337-1338/tcp   node1

Indeed, each replica is composed of a dummy application coupled to a Babble node running in a different container.

Run the demo script to play with the Dummy App which is a simple chat application powered by the Babble consensus platform:

[...]/babble/demo$ make demo

Demo

Finally, stop the testnet:

[...]/babble/demo$ make stop
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