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Rethinking General-Purpose Decentralized Computing

Enis Ceyhun Alp, Eleftherios Kokoris-Kogias, Georgia Fragkouli, and Bryan Ford

17th Workshop on Hot Topics in Operating Systems (HotOS XVII)
May 12-15, 2019.


While showing great promise, smart contracts are difficult to program correctly, as they need a deep understanding of cryptography and distributed algorithms, and offer limited functionality, as they have to be deterministic and cannot operate on secret data. In this paper we present Protean, a general-purpose decentralized computing platform that addresses these limitations by moving from a monolithic execution model, where all participating nodes store all the state and execute every computation, to a modular execution model. Protean employs secure specialized modules, called functional units, for building decentralized applications that are currently insecure or impossible to implement with smart contracts. Each functional unit is a distributed system that provides a special-purpose functionality by exposing atomic transactions to the smart-contract developer. Combining these transactions into arbitrarily-defined workflows, developers can build a larger class of decentralized applications, such as provably-secure and fair lotteries or e-voting.

Paper: PDF

Slides: PDF

Bryan Ford