*Note: This review and score is purely based on the information disclosed by the validator service and the scoring rubric.
Last Updated: Oct 6, 2019
Simply VC, founded in Malta in 2013, consists of a team of security, cryptocurrency & business experts passionate about supporting the blockchain ecosystem. Simply VC is currently the only known validator who has built and maintains their own data center from the ground up.
Team Background (63/100)
- Full-Time/Part-Time (10/10)
- Prior Blockchain Dev/Impact (5/10)
- Systems Experience (5/10)
- Recognizability (5/10)
Current Voting Power (40/100)
- Total Staked: (2/10)
- Unique Self-Bonders: (5/10)
- Commissions: (5/10)
Historical Metrics (100/100)
- Uptime (10/10)
- Proposals (4/10)
- Legal Compliance/Insurance (0)
- Innovations (+5)
Simply VC started in 2013 with a strong belief of a future where decentralized organizations, currencies, economies, and networks form the backbone of a better society. The company started this through several angel investments along with participating in ICOs (including Cosmos). These investments and accumulation of tokens turned Simply VC to also focus on Asset Management. To support emerging new emerging technologies, Simply VC has also built their own Datacenter form the ground up in Malta to run blockchain infrastructure. The team has also paid attention to and is actively involved in Proof-of-Stake blockchains like Cosmos.
The team behind Simply VC is prideful of their background in cybersecurity. In our discussion, the team noted that they a slower when integrating into new networks. This is because of their long Q&A process to make sure the entire infrastructure stack works correctly. Maintaining their own data center gives the team complete control of the entire stack, which the team believes is an important differentiator for them.
At the time of writing, Simply VC only operates validator services on the Cosmos Hub. The service is ranked #31 with a total of ~1.4M atoms staked. This equates to 0.76% voting power. When taking a look into the services’ delegation distribution, it is 70% of their stake has been self-delegated. The top 5 delegators account for 95% of the services’ stake. This however, makes sense, as the team stated that their validator service also supplements the assets the company already holds (Cosmos ICO).
Simply VC has an excellent track record of uptime. Figment’s Hubble block explorer has showed no dip in uptime, nor missed pre-commits. The team has also done more than simply run their validator service, placing votes in governance proposals. Simply VC was also the validator to create the governance proposal to enable ATOM transfers on the cosmos chain. This involved collaboration with the Cosmos and Tendermint team. It was also stated that Simply VC has more proposals in the pipeline to further push the ecosystem.
Simply VC was involved in the Cosmos ecosystem at a very early stage; They participated in the ICO. The team maintains a medium block and helps the local ecosystem by providing providing feedback from an infrastructure perspective, given their datacenter work. Outside of the Cosmos network, Simply VC also provides colocation services and support for their partners. This includes running full nodes for live and test networks. For example, the team stated that they still run Bitcoin nodes to support it’s network.
Simply VC takes running their own datacenter very seriously. Their datacenter is Tier 3, equipped with fire suppression systems and strict access control. Everything in the datacenter is N+1, and has a UPS for 6-10 hours. While the team does not believe in sharing their entire network diagram, they stated that they hire external pen testers every 3-6 months and has the center audited bi-annually. Reports of this can be shared upon request.
At the time of writing, Simply VC expects their delegators to understand the risks of delegation and does not enforce and SLA agreement. The team stated that an SLA agreement is in consideration but not a priority given most their delegation is self-funded.
- Failover (16/30)
- Private Peering (10/10)
- Agreements with other Validators (0/10)
- Sentry Scaling (10/10)
- Backup Strategy
Simply VC runs an active / passive setup for the validator nodes located in their datacenter. With slashing conditions of the Cosmos ecosystem, the team believes it is better for them to expeience downtime than double sign.
Simply VC has sentries running across different cloud provides in addition to their datacenter to ensure high availability. Daily, incremental backups are taken to make it easy to spin up additional nodes. At the time of writing, the team stated that they are currently not in a circle of validators to privately peers but it something they want to do.
The team has not instrumented the Cosmos binaries or written custom code in the application layer.
Monitoring Tools (67 /100)
- Network Level (5/10)
- Hardware Level (10/10)
- Paging (5/10)
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)
Simply VC stated in our discussion that they can physically reach their datacenter within 5 to 15 minutes to diagnose physical problems. The team makes use of standard monitoring tools to ensure the health of their datacenter. This starts from the firewall all the way down to the networking and switches in their datacenter. A team is dedicated to maintain the security and health of their datacenter, with an on-call rotation if anything goes wrong.
In addition their datacenter, Simply VC has also written custom software to monitor the health of their services in the Cosmos network. This included detection of missed blocks, ping delays with every sentry (remote or local). Their monitoring tools are also tied to their panic altering system, with different levels of alerts.
Single Points of Failure
Simply VC has an excellent infrastructure and technical setup. The team’s use of multiple cloud providers removes any single point of failure in their sentry architecture. However, with the validator architecture, there is a single point of failure with the datacenter. Although unlikely given the location’s Tier 3 setup, any catastrophic or environmental disasters in Malta would be a large hit to Simply VC’s validator service.
Simply VC makes use of the YubiHSM2 as their signing module to their validator nodes. The HSMs are wrapped around Tendermint’s KMS to provide software based double-sign protection as the YubiHSM cannot run custom code to provide hardware based double-sign protection.
Simply VC also has security practices in place when remotely accessing their validator nodes. This includes a three-factor authentication procedure with certificates (no mobile 2fa).
When asked to provide an introspective or future improvements, the team stated that a big next step is the provide a distributed and decentralized key management system to sign trasnactions. This would alleviate a major single point of failure present in almost all validator architecture today.