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str4d Merge pull request #46 from mdr0id/remove_go_routine_db_write
Remove go routine that causes threading issues when writing to local db
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README.md

Overview

lightwalletd is a backend service that provides a bandwidth-efficient interface to the Zcash blockchain. Currently, lightwalletd supports the Sapling protocol version as its primary concern. The intended purpose of lightwalletd is to support the development of mobile-friendly shielded light wallets.

lightwalletd consists of three loosely coupled components: an "ingester", a "frontend", and an arbitrary storage layer (such as a SQL database) that connects the two. The ingester receives raw block data, parses out the transactions and block metadata, then stores them in a format convenient for the frontend to serve to clients. Thus, these components can operate and scale independently of each other and are connected only by a shared storage convention.

Definitions

A light wallet is not a full participant in the network of Zcash peers. It can send and receive payments, but does not store or validate a copy of the blockchain.

A compact transaction is a representation of a Zcash Sapling transaction that contains only the information necessary to detect that a given Sapling payment output is for you and to spend a note.

A compact block is a collection of compact transactions along with certain metadata (such as the block header) from their source block.

Architecture

+----------+
|  zcashd  |                       +----------+    +-------+
+----+-----+              +------->+ frontend +--->+       |
     |                    |        +----------+    |  L    +<----Client
     | raw blocks    +----+----+                   |  O B  |
     v               |         |                   |  A A  |
+----+-----+         |         |   +----------+    |  D L  +<---Client
| ingester +-------->+ storage +-->+ frontend +--->+    A  |
+----------+ compact |         |   +----------+    |    N  +<-------Client
              blocks |         |                   |    C  |
                     +----+----+                   |    E  +<----Client
                          |        +----------+    |    R  |
                          +------->+ frontend +--->+       +<------Client
                                   +----------+    +-------+

Ingester

The ingester is the component responsible for transforming raw Zcash block data into a compact block.

The ingester is a modular component. Anything that can retrieve the necessary data and put it into storage can fulfill this role. Currently, the only ingester available subscribes to a 0MQ feed from zcashd and parses that raw block data. This approach has turned out to be fairly brittle - for instance, zcashd provides no way to resend a block that's been missed without a full resync. It's clear that the 0MQ publisher isn't meant for production use, and we're looking into improvements. Future versions could retrieve information via the zcashd RPC or download pre-parsed blocks from a cloud store.

How do I run it?

⚠️ This section literally describes how to execute the binaries from source code. This is suitable only for testing, not production deployment. See section Production for cleaner instructions.

⚠️ Bringing up a fresh compact block database can take serveral hours of uninterrupted runtime.

First, install Go >= 1.11. Older versions of Go may work but are not actively supported at this time. Note that the version of Go packaged by Debian stable (or anything prior to Buster) is far too old to work.

Next, install the ZMQ development library. On Debian-derived distros, this is called libzmq3-dev.

Next, configure your zcashd instance to publish blocks on a ZMQ stream:

$ echo "zmqpubcheckedblock=tcp://127.0.0.1:28332" >> $HOME/.zcash/zcashd.conf

Now clone this repo and start the ingester. The first run will start slow as Go builds the sqlite C interface:

$ git clone https://github.com/zcash-hackworks/lightwalletd
$ cd lightwalletd
$ go run cmd/ingest/main.go --db-path <path to sqlite db> --zmq-addr 127.0.0.1:28332

To see the other command line options, run go run cmd/ingest/main.go --help.

To begin building a compact block database, run your zcashd with the --reindex option. This will cause zcashd to recheck all of the blocks it knows about and emit them on the newly configured ZMQ stream for the ingester to read. This is the part of the process that takes a long time.

What should I watch out for?

Because of how ZMQ works in the zcashd codebase, the ingester doesn't have the ability to retry any blocks it misses without doing a complete reindexing. For now this means that we only recommend running this setup with a completely reliable connection between zcashd and the ingester. So while ZMQ certainly can publish over arbitrary TCP connections, rather than localhost, doing so risks wasting a lot of your time if the connection hiccups.

Frontend

The frontend is the component that talks to clients.

It exposes an API that allows a client to query for current blockheight, request ranges of compact block data, request specific transaction details, and send new Zcash transactions.

The API is specified in Protocol Buffers and implemented using gRPC. You can find the exact details in these files.

How do I run it?

⚠️ This section literally describes how to execute the binaries from source code. This is suitable only for testing, not production deployment. See section Production for cleaner instructions.

First, install Go >= 1.11. Older versions of Go may work but are not actively supported at this time. Note that the version of Go packaged by Debian stable (or anything prior to Buster) is far too old to work.

Now clone this repo and start the frontend. The first run will start slow as Go builds the sqlite C interface:

$ git clone https://github.com/zcash-hackworks/lightwalletd
$ cd lightwalletd
$ go run cmd/server/main.go --db-path <path to the same sqlite db> --bind-addr 0.0.0.0:9067

To see the other command line options, run go run cmd/server/main.go --help.

What should I watch out for?

Not much! This is a very simple piece of software. Make sure you point it at the same storage as the ingester. See the "Production" section for some caveats.

Support for users sending transactions will require the ability to make JSON-RPC calls to a zcashd instance. By default the frontend tries to pull RPC credentials from your zcashd.conf file, but you can specify other credentials via command line flag. In the future, it should be possible to do this with environment variables (#2).

Storage

The storage provider is the component that caches compact blocks and their metadata for the frontend to retrieve and serve to clients.

It currently assumes a SQL database. The schema can be found here, but they're extremely provisional. We expect that anyone deploying lightwalletd at scale will adapt it to their own existing data infrastructure.

How do I run it?

It's not necessary to explicitly run anything. Both the ingester and the frontend code know how to use a generic SQL database via Go's database/sql package. It should be possible to swap out for MySQL or Postgres by changing the driver import and connection string.

What should I watch out for?

sqlite is extremely reliable for what it is, but it isn't good at high concurrency. Because sqlite uses a global write lock, the code limits the number of open database connections to one and currently makes no distinction betwen read-only (frontend) and read/write (ingester) connections. It will probably begin to exhibit lock contention at low user counts, and should be improved or replaced with your own data store in production.

Production

⚠️ This is informational documentation about a piece of alpha software. It has not yet undergone audits or been subject to rigorous testing. It lacks some affordances necessary for production-level reliability. We do not recommend using it to handle customer funds at this time (March 2019).

Dependencies

The first-order dependencies of this code are:

  • Go (>= 1.11 suggested; older versions are currently unsupported)
  • libzmq3-dev (used by our zmq interface library; optional if ingester changes)
  • libsqlite3-dev (used by our sqlite interface library; optional with another datastore)

Containers

This software was designed to be container-friendly! We highly recommend that you package and deploy the software in this manner. We've created an example Docker environment that is likewise new and minimally tested, but it's functional. It lives at zcash-hackworks/lightwalletd-z-cash.

What's missing?

lightwalletd currently lacks several things that you'll want in production. Caveats include:

  • There are no monitoring / metrics endpoints yet. You're on your own to notice if it goes down or check on its performance.
  • Logging coverage is patchy and inconsistent. However, what exists emits structured JSON compatible with various collectors.
  • Logging may capture identifiable user data. It hasn't received any privacy analysis yet and makes no attempt at sanitization.
  • The only storage provider we've implemented is sqlite. sqlite is likely not appropriate for the number of concurrent requests we expect to handle. Because sqlite uses a global write lock, the code limits the number of open database connections to one and currently makes no distinction betwen read-only (frontend) and read/write (ingester) connections. It will probably begin to exhibit lock contention at low user counts, and should be improved or replaced with your own data store in production.
  • Load-balancing with gRPC may not work quite like you're used to. A full explanation is beyond the scope of this document, but we recommend looking into Envoy, nginx, or haproxy depending on your existing infrastruture.
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