Teechain is a layer two payment network that offers high performance and strong security for blockchains and cryptocurrencies. In this blogpost we evaluate the performance of Teechain for the Bitcoin network: we look at the maximum throughput of several Teechain payment networks and measure payment latencies. For those who missed our first blogpost where we introduced Teechain and discussed how it works, you can catch up here. Otherwise, we provide a brief overview before diving into experiments and results.
Teechain uses trusted execution environments (TEEs), such as Intel SGX, in recent CPUs to construct point-to-point payment channels, where two users can exchange funds directly without writing to the blockchain for each payment. Teechain also offers a protocol for secure multi-hop payments, allowing users to chain multiple payment channels together to execute payments between users who do not have a direct payment channel. To overcome any potential TEE failures and compromises, Teechain uses m-out-of-n secret sharing to construct committee chains, where funds in the Teechain network are protected by sets of TEEs that form committees and require a threshold number of signatures (e.g. 2-out-of-3 signatures) in order to spend. This allows Teechain to overcome TEE Byzantine failures, and achieve strong security guarantees. For more information about how Teechain works, see our first blogpost.
To evaluate Teechain’s performance, we first require a dataset of payments to replay in order to measure throughputs and latencies in the network. As there exist no public micro-payment datasets at present, we use the transactions found in the Bitcoin blockchain. To adapt the Bitcoin transaction history for this purpose, we filter out transactions that are not appropriate for replaying, such as those that spend to/from multi-signature addresses, or payments of value over a certain threshold (i.e. $100). For transactions with multi-input and output addresses, we choose only one. This results in a dataset of over 100 million payments from a sender to a recipient and acts as a workload by which to evaluate performance.
We deploy several Teechain payment networks using a cluster of 30 Intel Xeon E3-1280 SGX machines located in London. We set up payment channels between the machines, forming a complete payment graph; every machine has a direct payment channel to every other machine and we emulate network overheads by adding ~100ms latencies between each machine-- the worst case latencies measured for cross-Atlantic communication. We vary the number of machines in each deployment (N), constructing complete graphs for N=5 up to N=30 machines.
For fault tolerance and to protect from hardware attacks, we operate committee chains of length 3 at each node in the graph, requiring 2-out-of-3 committee TEE signatures in order to spend funds; TEE payment state is therefore replicated across 3 SGX machines at each node in the payment network. Figure 1 shows a complete graph construction for N = 5, where each node has a direct payment channel to every other node. Figure 1 also shows the 2-out-of-3 committee chain for node A, with all other nodes in the graph operating similarly. For more information about committee chains, see our first blogpost.
To execute payments in the Teechain deployments, we assign Bitcoin addresses to the machines. For all payments, the machine assigned ownership over the sending address is responsible for issuing payments to the recipient addresses and corresponding machines. We randomly and evenly distribute all Bitcoin addresses between the machines. To limit the number of in-flight and unconfirmed payments in the network, we implement a sliding window of payments at each machine. Each machine issues W=1000 payments across the network in parallel, and waits for acknowledgements before moving the sliding window. Due to the use of TCP to maintain connections between each node, all payments execute in-order according to their issuing node.
Figure 2 below shows the payment throughputs for each deployment when executing the Bitcoin workload. Teechain averages over 1 million tx/s with a complete graph for N=30 machines, where each node in the graph operates a 2-out-of-3 committee chain. The average payment latencies we measure during our experiments are around 1000 milliseconds, or a second, for a payment to complete. This is due to the fact that Teechain must send a single packet and receive an acknowledgement before a payment can complete, and each payment must update both the sender’s and recipient’s committee chains. Payment latencies are therefore bound by the network latencies between nodes in the graph.
Our results show that in a complete graph, Teechain scales linearly with the number of machines. Although these experiments allow us to replay the entire Bitcoin transaction history (8+ years) in just several minutes, there are several caveats:
Those with a bit of background knowledge will know that Teechain payment channels can operate between 33,000 tx/s to 145,000 tx/s, per individual payment channel, depending on factors such as the size of the committee chains used at each endpoint. We present and discuss these numbers in more detail in a future blogpost. However, using these numbers alone, one would expect Teechain to scale past 1 million tx/s with only 10-20 payments channels (not 435 channels!). Well, there are several reasons for the performance results in our experiments:
Looking at the results above and thinking about payment network performance, there are several unanswered questions for Teechain that still remain:
We investigate these questions and provide answers to them in future blogposts -- so stay tuned! In the meantime, if you have any thoughts/questions and so on, feel free to find us at: teechain.network or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Joshua Lind.