Sharding Under Stress: Analyzing the TON Blockchain’s Record Transaction Surge and its Impact on Network Performance

On December 5, 2023, the TON Blockchain witnessed the emergence of its first inscription project, Ton_scription. This development introduced the TON-20 protocol, an innovative addition to the TON blockchain ecosystem. The inaugural TON-20 token, named ‘nano’, catalyzed a remarkable volume of transactions, totaling nearly 2.8 million. This surge set a new record for the highest number of transactions in a single day on the TON Blockchain, simultaneously triggering its dynamic sharding mechanism.

The December 5 event marked a pioneering large-scale experiment for the TON Blockchain, akin to the ongoing evolution of Bitcoin since 2009. TON’s architecture, characterized by an average block time of 10 seconds and a maximum of approximately 400 transactions per block, facilitates around 40 transactions per second under normal conditions. TON’s shardable chain structure operates with two primary chains – the Main Chain and the Work Chain – allowing a maximum throughput of 80 transactions per second (TPS) in a non-sharded state.

However, the activation of nine shard chains during this event theoretically increased the network’s capacity to 720 TPS. Unfortunately, it became evident that the TON Blockchain’s sharding mechanism was not fully prepared for such a scenario. Following the extensive activation of shard chains, one of the shards failed to achieve consensus with the others, leading to a backlog of approximately 2.5 million unprocessed transactions on the TON Blockchain.

This incident not only tested the limits of TON’s sharding capabilities but also highlighted critical areas for improvement in its infrastructure. As the blockchain community continues to push technological boundaries, the lessons learned from this event will be invaluable in refining and advancing the sharding mechanisms within blockchain networks, particularly for those dealing with high transaction volumes and dynamic network conditions.

Adapting to Challenges: TON Blockchain’s Rapid Response and Strategic Evolution in the Wake of Unprecedented Transaction Surge

In the span of three days, culminating on December 8, 2023, the TON Blockchain core team undertook significant corrective measures to optimize and improve validator nodes in response to a recent network challenge. This involved filtering out excessive traffic to streamline the network, adjusting latency, and modifying systemic blockchain parameters. These changes facilitated the blockchain in reaching a new consensus, successfully processing the backlog of 2.5 million pending transactions within just over ten hours, restoring stability to the TON Blockchain.

Reflecting on this incident offers several key insights:

  1. Inscriptions as a Double-Edged Sword: While some viewed the surge in inscriptions as a form of attack or disaster, likening it to a locust plague that paralyzed the network, it also undeniably generated significant traffic and visibility for TON.

  2. Unanticipated Use-Case Scenarios: Originally, blockchain architects did not foresee continuous inscriptions and transfers to black hole addresses on the blockchain, presenting a unique use-case scenario.

  3. Hardware Capabilities of Validators: Observations revealed that the lowest hardware configuration amongst validators consisted of 54 units with 8 CPUs each. Despite the massive influx of transactions on December 5, these configurations were not overwhelmed, indicating that hardware limitations were not the primary cause of the bottleneck. Instead, modifications in the consensus algorithm might have been more impactful.

  4. PoS Algorithm Adjustments: Although there were calls to upgrade hardware, a more crucial aspect lies in the consensus algorithm dictating hardware performance requirements. TON Blockchain’s current stage may not be suitable for implementing punitive measures, such as freezing or destroying funds due to potential misjudgments. However, future enhancements in the consensus algorithm could allow for the introduction of punitive mechanisms to mitigate risks from underperforming hardware.

  5. Protocol Amendments for Inscriptions: The core team proposed modifications to the inscription protocol. Initially, inscriptions were marked for TON Blockchain’s black hole addresses. The updated protocol changes this, directing inscriptions to the sender’s address instead, mitigating some of the issues observed during the incident.

This episode on the TON Blockchain not only tested its limits but also catalyzed essential developments and strategic reflections. It underscored the importance of adaptable infrastructure in blockchain networks, capable of responding to unexpected challenges and evolving usage patterns. The event marked a significant learning opportunity, driving advancements in both the technical and strategic aspects of blockchain management and development.

TON Blockchain’s Triumph: Mastering High-Volume Transactions and Dynamic Sharding in the Second Wave of TON 20 Inscriptions

Following the implementation of critical updates and the introduction of the new TON 20 protocol, the TON Blockchain swiftly managed the initial wave of inscription transactions. Subsequently, Ton_scription launched a second TON 20 project, which, between December 10th and 14th, generated over thirty million transactions. During this second wave, the TON Blockchain effectively utilized twelve shard chains to process all transactions, showcasing its enhanced capabilities.

Remarkably, this immense volume of transactions did not lead to consensus issues within the shard chains of the TON Blockchain. There were only a minimal number of incomplete transactions, which were quickly resolved within seconds. The peak transaction per second (TPS) rate recorded during this period exceeded 400. This event demonstrated the robustness of the TON Blockchain post-network modifications, affirming its ability to handle large-scale transaction loads without significant issues.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Significant Reduction in Incomplete Transactions: Unlike previous instances, this wave of activity did not result in a large number of unprocessed transactions, indicating enhanced efficiency and stability in transaction handling.

  2. Stable Dynamic Sharding Consensus: The second wave of TON 20 inscriptions did not encounter any consensus problems within its dynamic sharding mechanism, evidencing a notable improvement in the blockchain’s operational resilience.

These developments signify a pivotal moment for the TON Blockchain. The successful handling of such a high transaction volume, coupled with the stability of the dynamic sharding consensus, marks a significant technological advancement. It confirms the blockchain’s readiness for future challenges and its potential to support an even broader range of applications and use cases.