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Threshold Logical Clocks for Asynchronous Distributed Coordination and Consensus

Bryan Ford
July 16, 2019

arXiv preprint


Consensus protocols for asynchronous networks are usually complex and inefficient, leading practical systems to rely on synchronous protocols. This paper attempts to simplify asynchronous consensus by building atop a novel threshold logical clock abstraction, which enables upper layers to operate as if on a synchronous network. This approach yields an asynchronous consensus protocol for fail-stop nodes that may be simpler and more robust than Paxos and its leader-based variants, requiring no common coins and achieving consensus in a constant expected number of rounds. The same approach can be strengthened against Byzantine failures by building on well-established techniques such as tamper-evident logging and gossip, accountable state machines, threshold signatures and witness cosigning, and verifiable secret sharing. This combination of existing abstractions and threshold logical clocks yields a modular, cleanly-layered approach to building practical and efficient Byzantine consensus, distributed key generation, time, timestamping, and randomness beacons, and other critical services.

Preprint: PDF

Topics: Consensus Networks Reliability and Robustness Bryan Ford