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Threshold Logical Clocks for Asynchronous Distributed Coordination and Consensus

Bryan Ford
July 16, 2019

arXiv preprint

Abstract:

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