New peer-to-peer technology is intended to make Cardano (even) more decentralized

Cardano is maturing, but still has some construction sites. Communication between stake pool operators will soon no longer be a part of this.

While the all-time highs are falling like flies with smart contract primus Ethereum, everything but stagnation prevails in the camp of potential “Ethereum killers”. Cardano is considered one of the more promising candidates that could knock Ethereum off its pedestal in the long term. Of course, when it comes to the developer community and decentralization, Ethereum is still in a different league than Cardano – not least because of its first mover advantage. However, the latter is approaching its next upgrade with Seven Mile Boots, with which the Cardano mainnet will integrate smart contracts.

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The Cardano network has also made significant progress recently with regard to its decentralization. The three Cardano organizations IOHK, Emurgo and the Cardano Foundation were solely responsible for the production of blocks up to the “Shelley” hard fork in summer 2020. This influence was gradually reduced. Since March 31 of this year, 100 percent of Cardano blocks have been created by a decentralized network of stake pools. At the time of going to press, the Cardano network had 2,480 such stake pools – and the trend was upwards.

P2P communication for Cardanos Stakepool operators

Stake pools must constantly communicate with each other to exchange information about transactions and create new blocks. This is done with the help of so-called relay nodes, which are part of every stake pool in addition to core nodes that are responsible for block production. Since the “Shelley” hard fork, stake pool operators have a free hand when it comes to which relay nodes they communicate with. This is to be understood literally, because the address is entered manually using the stake pool operators. As a result, you have to constantly check yourself whether the nodes you are controlling are still online. Because there is no guarantee for this, IOHK also operates seven relay nodes that are always accessible as additional security.

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But if IOHK has its way, then in future stake pools should be able to communicate safely with one another without any training wheels. Because the Cardano developers are currently in the process of automating the entire communication process between the relay nodes. Specifically, a new peer-to-peer (P2P) protocol should ensure that relay nodes always maintain 20 connections. The four worst connections are selected every hour and replaced by new ones chosen at random. The technology has been in the (private) testnet phase since April. IOHK recently posted an initial, consistently positive interim balance on its blog drawn:

The test results show that the nodes could arbitrarily select peers for communication, including those from the mainnet. Using an “upstream” metric made it possible to discard the worst performing peers and randomly select new peers to connect to. This strategy was confirmed in large-scale simulations (10,000 nodes) and delivered almost optimal results.

IOHK Blog, March 11, 2021

The next step is to test the P2P protocol in a semi-public test network with a small group of stake pool operators.

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