On availability for blockchain-based systems

Ingo Weber, Vincent Gramoli, Alex Ponomarev, Mark Staples, Ralph Holz, An Binh Tran, Paul Rimba

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review

125 Citations (Scopus)
85 Downloads (Pure)


Blockchain has recently gained momentum. Startups, enterprises, banks, and government agencies around the world are exploring the use of blockchain for broad applications including public registries, supply chains, health records, and voting. Dependability properties, like availability, are critical for many of these applications, but the guarantees offered by the blockchain technology remain unclear, especially from an application perspective. In this paper, we identify the availability limitations of two mainstream blockchains, Ethereum and Bitcoin. We demonstrate that while read availability of blockchains is typically high, write availability - for transaction management - is actually low. For Ethereum, we collected 6 million transactions over a period of 97 days. First, we measured the time for transactions to commit as required by the applications. Second, we observed that some transactions never commit, due to the inherent blockchain design. Third and perhaps even more dramatically, we identify the consequences of the lack of built-in options for explicit abort or retry that can maintain the application in an uncertain state, where transactions remain pending (neither aborted nor committed) for an unknown duration. Finally we propose techniques to mitigate the availability limitations of existing blockchains, and experimentally test the efficacy of these techniques.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2017 IEEE 36th Symposium on Reliable Distributed Systems (SRDS)
Place of PublicationPiscataway, NJ
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-5386-1679-6
ISBN (Print)978-1-5386-1680-2
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes
Event36th IEEE International Symposium on Reliable Distributed Systems, SRDS 2017 - Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Duration: 26 Sept 201729 Sept 2017
Conference number: 36


Conference36th IEEE International Symposium on Reliable Distributed Systems, SRDS 2017
Abbreviated titleSRDS
Country/TerritoryHong Kong
CityHong Kong


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