*Note: This review and score is purely based on the information disclosed by the validator service and the scoring rubric.
Last Updated: Oct 3, 2019
Forbole is a Cosmos Hub Validator. Forbole was named winners in Game of Stakes and HackAtom3, solidifying their case as a top-tier Cosmos validator. Forbole’s takes on a unique approach to commission rates, allowing their delegators to choose their own rate in Forboles, #PWYW campaign. (#PayWhatYouWant)
Team Background (38/100)
- Full-Time/Part-Time (10/10)
- Prior Blockchain Dev/Impact (5/10)
- Systems Experience (0/10)
- Recognizability (0/10)
Current Voting Power (80/100)
- Total Staked: (9/10)
- Unique Self-Bonders: (10/10)
- Commissions: (5/10)
Historical Metrics (65/100)
- Uptime (8/10)
- Proposals (5/10)
- Legal Compliance/Insurance (0)
- Innovations (+5)
Forbole is a validator service located in Hong Kong. The company was co-founded by Kwun Yeung and Terence Lam, both with an enthusiasm on Proof-of-Stake consensus networks. They started their blockchain development work and founded Forbole in the middle of 2017, with an attempt to launch their own blockchain using the Cosmos SDK. At the time, the SDK was not mature and the team decided to run a validator service and understand processes behind a high quality validator before launched their own PoS based chain.
Prior to Forbole, both Kwun and Terence ran a digital agency specialized in web and mobile applications. Kwun and Terence helped financial institutions build web applications with high security in mind. These security practices and principles have been carried over to Forbole and is of high priority.
Forbole is a significant validator on the CosmosHub and IRISnet networks, #12 and #4 respectively. At the time of writing, Forbole’s stake accounts for a ~2.7% voting power in the CosmosHub and a 3.12% voting power in IRISInet. The service has a nice spread of delegators in the cosmos network, with 30+ delegations above the $100,000 USD threshold. However, 94.54% of Forbole’s stake in IRISnet comes from a single address. The top 3 delegators bumps this up to 99.95%.
Forbole also validates on the Terra network with a less significant impact. The service has a 0.5% voting power with 99.73% of their stake coming from 2 addresses.
Forbole has been running their validator service since the launch of the Cosmos and IRISnet. As a winner in Game of Stakes and award winning monitoring practices, Forbole has maintained excellent uptime since launch, at 100%. Hubble has a single log for the service in both the Cosmos and IRISnet of missed precommits at exactly June 07.
Forbole has created and open-sourced notable projects. The team is well known for their cosmos explorer, Big Dipper. The explorer supports the Cosmos Hub, IRISnet, and Terra. Forbole was named a winner in HackAtom3 for another project, gaia_bot_monitor. The tool is a two-fold tooling solution for up-to-date push notifications regarding the status of a validator service.
Forbole also regularly posts to their blog. The team’s posts varies in topics from reasoning behind their votes in governance proposals to analysis of their approaches such as their experimental commision rates. In our discussion, it was noted that the team believes delegators should be more educated about validators. Forbole believes that delegating to them is like delegating to a community.
Forbole expects their delegators to understand the risks associated with delegating to their service. The company site lists a 99.98% uptime guarantee for their validator nodes. However, no formal agreements are in place to compensate delegators if this agreement is broken.
- Failover (16/30)
- Private Peering (10/10)
- Agreements with other Validators (10/10)
- Sentry Scaling (10/10)
- Backup Strategy
Forbole makes use of an active/passive setup for their validator architecture, prioritizes safety over liveness. The validator nodes are currently located in a single data center in Hong Kong. Regionally distributed validator nodes are planned for in the future. The nodes are additionally hidden behind a layer of relayers within a private network. These relayers are privately peered with trusted validators to maintain connectivity if a large scale outage causes sentry nodes to go offline.
Forbole makes use of a layered sentry architecture in front of their validator nodes. Their public/private sentry and relay nodes are deployed across different cloud providers. The team saw no downtime even when there was a large outage with GCP (google cloud provider).
The team has not instrumented the gaia binaries but has written custom software that monitors the health of their nodes. See Operations for more detail.
Monitoring Tools (67 /100)
- Network Level (5/10)
- Hardware Level (5/10)
- Paging (10/10)
Single Point of Failure (50/100)
- Multi-Cloud (10/10)
- Multi-Region (0/10)
Key Management (75/100)
- HSM Selections (10/10)
- Smart Key Management (5/10)
Validator Access (100/100)
- Physical/Remote (10/10)
Forbole uses standard practices for monitoring the health of their validator nodes. For their sentry nodes, cloud provider tools are used to monitor resource usage. The team also runs a monitor node that keeps track of changes to the validator node. The validator node’s liveness, and latency are looked after. An on-call rotation exists between the team, with a custom built bot that will send push notifications of any alarming changes.
The KMS is also monitored by an external node that reports the latest signed height and checks that the KMS is signing to the reported height.
Single Points of Failure
Forbole makes use of multiple cloud provider and a redundant passive validator node to failover to. However, given than both nodes and the KMS are located in a single location, the team’s data center in Hong Kong is a Single Point of Failure in Forbole’s system.
Forbole uses the best HSM available for their validator nodes, the YubiHSM2. The HSM is located on a separate server behind the Tendermint KMS that provides software-based double sign protection.
The validator nodes are located in single data center in Hong Kong. The location can be physically accessed if required by the team within 1 hour. At least one individual is always present in the city at all times.
Remote access to their validator node cannot be achieved directly. A VPN connection to a seperate private node that communicates to the validator.
When asked to provide an introspective analysis, Forbole stated that they believe there is a lack of diverse and quality validators in the community. To help with this, the team wants to put in more effort in education to assist delegators in understanding the validating space.
Forbole’s location in Hong Kong also provides the team with access to the Chinese market without sacrificing capitalism. It is one of the team’s goals to lead in building the validator community within Asia. Almost all popular validator are currently located throughout Europe and America.