Protocol Labs Research
2021-07-29 / Blog
The Winding Journey to Proofs v8.0.0 and beyond

The proofs team is proud to announce the recent proofs releases v8.0.0, v8.0.1, and v8.0.2! These releases are Hyperdrive-enabled, which means that they contain the proof aggregation API that uses SnarkPack – in fact, the major difference between proofs v7.0.x and v8.0.x is the aggregation functionality!

For the unfamiliar, Hyperdrive is a Filecoin initiative using SnarkPack to unlock a 10-25x increase in the storage onboarding rate. SnarkPack is a practical scheme to aggregate Groth16 proofs – you can find in-depth details on Snarkpack aggregation in this blog post.

This post is a reflection on our journey to this point and some of the challenges that went into making these releases possible.

Our story begins back in January 2021, when an aggregate proofs integration Pull Request (PR) was born. This PR created an API and pulled in an early draft of the proof aggregation work, which after several revisions became known as SnarkPack. It was initially unclear if the work would see the light of mainnet at all: on one hand, it was a tool in our toolbox that was being actively evaluated, but on the other, we felt the need to thoroughly investigate alternative solutions. Development and testing proceeded slowly as its fate was being decided.

Fortunately, several weeks later, FIP 13 re-lit the fires, and we began development for lotus integration.

Normally, in order for the proofs aggregation scheme to work, a trusted setup is required. CryptoNetLab found a novel way to avoid this requirement: we researched, designed, and then implemented a combined result of the existing Filecoin and Zcash power of tau (trusted setup). The advantage of this approach is that it does not require another timely trusted setup, which often requires community contributions and scheduling, costly computations by each participant, etc. This new method was vetted and found to meet the requirements for SnarkPack to work, which ultimately saved time and resources.

The output of that automated setup resulted in a new file on disk, much like the parameters that the proofs already require for PoRep and PoSt. The challenge in distributing a new parameter file like this post-mainnet launch is that there’s a chance it will be overlooked in the upgrade notes, and miners may fail to take action and ensure that the necessary files are downloaded in time for the upgrade. Failing to take action in this case would have at least two immediate negative consequences: miners would not have the ability to properly construct aggregate proofs, and aggregate proofs constructed via SnarkPack would fail verification. This could potentially result in a network hard fork, or chain split, where some miners will continue building on blocks that do not include aggregate proofs.

In fact, this exact issue happened post release on mainnet. While the mainnet launch of Hyperdrive was a success, for a short time several miners reported failed aggregate proof verification very early after the upgrade window, and for various reasons (including partial logging), it took some time to identify the specific problems. In short, it appeared that most users that ran into this issue had opted to trust their parameters, which is an option that skips a check that would have downloaded any missing parameter files. In this case, a subset of Filecoin participants were rendered out of consensus until they were able to retrieve the missing parameter file.

Proofs v8.0.0 was shipped on June 1 and thought to be final, however the result of a security and code audit indicated that the API needed updates. As a result, Proofs v8.0.1 was released on June 9 and began wider-scale testing. Tests were going well until we discovered that the aggregate proof sizes were much larger than originally expected, prompting further investigation. Lo and behold, it was discovered that the method of aggregate proof serialization/deserialization used internally was incorrect, resulting in larger binary proof sizes on chain. Correcting this issue necessitated a complete reset of the wider-scale testing network, since all previous proofs generated within the chain’s network would then be invalid. This final change was shipped with Proofs v8.0.2 on June 17, and further testing resumed. Fortunately, we were ultimately able to ship this corrected version with the Hyperdrive release!

More recently, while loosely collaborating with Eric Tu, a Forest developer, on integrating the aggregation API, we were once again bitten by the process that went into the v8.0.x releases. This time, the issue was that the reference development was using Proofs v8.0.1, when in fact that code is not mainnet compatible. Aggregate proofs were failing when syncing mainnet via Forest, which is why we made contact with Eric on the issue. Identifying the problem and realizing that our own team had been bitten by this same issue just splashed a little bit of salt to our almost-healed wounds.

Much more than work on proofs went into the Hyperdrive release, including work from Zondax, the tremendous work of the Lotus team and the Infra testing team, as well as contributions from a wide array of volunteer community members and miners. We are currently well past the mainnet upgrade, and storage onboarding has more room to breathe. Also, Filecoin Snarks are continuing to push the global bounds of what’s known to be possible in scaling!

This image illustrates the potential of SnarkPack vs traditional batched proof verification times and sizes

This image illustrates the potential of SnarkPack vs traditional batched proof verification times and sizes

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