*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
Sparkpool’s validator service operates on the Cosmos blockchain. Also the 2nd largest Ethereum mining pool in the world, Sparkpool differentiates itself with deep technical understanding of mining and governance, and a community-first delegator approach. Sparkpool presently offers zero-commission-fee validation services, and is based in Hangzhou, China.
- ETH 2.0
Team Background (75/100)
- Full-Time/Part-Time (10/10)
- Prior Blockchain Dev/Impact (0/10)
- Systems Experience (10/10)
- Recognizability (10/10)
Current Voting Power (100/100)
- Total Staked: (10/10)
- Unique Self-Bonders: (10/10)
- Commissions: (10/10)
Historical Metrics (70/100)
- Uptime (10/10)
- Proposals (4/10)
- Legal Compliance/Insurance (0)
- Innovations (0)
Sparkpool was founded in 2015, by Xin Xu. The company was first founded as a mining pool for the Ethereum blockchain, with a strong focus on providing a “community-first” approach. What Sparkpool realized before other validators at the time was that many potential miners didn’t necessarily understand all of the technical details of the Ethereum blockchain – yet had wanted to mine nonetheless. Sparkpool provided an outlet for these people – allowing miners with any level of technical expertise to mine as they desired (whilst becoming the 2nd largest Ethereum miner in the process).
Over the past three years, the company has expanded into providing infrastructure across both Ethereum, Grin, and the Cosmos Hub – now boasting a roster of 33 full-time employees. At time of writing, the company has three security engineers, three systems engineers, and five UI engineers – with the rest of the roster spread across support, operations, and marketing.
The team is based in Hangzhou, China, but has employees distributed across Asia.
Sparkpool is presently the #6 validator on the Cosmos hub with ~8.584M atoms staked. At time of writing, this translates to ~$47.8M USD. Many of these funds are delegated, and originate from Sparkpools strong reputation in China and history in successful Ethereum mining.
Upon recent conversation with the team, Sparkpool estimates that they have ~1,700 individuals actively involved in their delegator service – which is hundreds more than most competitors. What is interesting to note is that, of Sparkpool’s $47.8M staked, nobody has staked more than $2.5M USD – demonstrating the wide array of clients that Sparkpool possesses.
Sparkpool has maintained 100% uptime since its entrance into Cosmos’ active validator set. The company currently possesses 5.86% of the network’s voting power, which has been trending upward since the company’s conception.
Of the five major proposals on the Cosmos Hub thus far, Sparkpool has voted on two.
Both of these votes have been in conjunction with majority opinion.
Sparkpool describes itself as a “community validator.” The company was founded out of a strong belief that people from all backgrounds should be able to mine if they want to, and has thus prioritized the production of tools with great UX, low learning overhead, and strong documentation.
The company has additionally built custom tooling for all of their delegators, including iOS and Android apps that aid delegators with transfers, revenue extraction, replacement commissioning, and reinvestment. Sparkpool sees itself as the de-facto trustee for Cosmos delegators, allowing delegators to easily earn PoS income and grow their atom balance without transferring money.
What is also finally worth noting is that, in conjunction with its community roots, Sparkpool has selected to only delegate on Cosmos right now due to its familiarity with the tech stack, as well as its alignment with the broader Cosmos vision of user-owned, interoperable blockchains. Sparkpool sees each chain they validate on as an investment in that chain’s health and community, and only validates on the chains they believe in the vision of accordingly.
Sparkpool’s service expects delegators to understand the risks of staking atoms. The service does not provide an insurance policy to cover losses due to slashing or service downtime.
- Failover (8/30)
- Private Peering (10/10)
- Agreements with other Validators (10/10)
- Sentry Scaling (5/10)
- Backup Strategy
Sparkpool deploys a standard single active validator architecture at time of writing. This is coupled with a passive backup, which becomes active only in the face of extended downtime. All failover procedures are manual. Validator location has not been disclosed.
What is interesting to note, is that in the future, once additional best practices have been identified, Sparkpool sees itself possessing multiple validator nodes across a number of data centers.
Sparkpool presently deploys a “relay node architecture”: a variant of the standard sentry setup that introduces “relay nodes”, or intermediary nodes responsible for filtering out malicious information and protecting the identity of a validator. Sentry nodes, found on the outer edge of the network, are publicly accessible in this configuration, however instead speak to intermediary layers, on private networks – rather than directly to a validator (which is equipped with an HSM). This adds an additional layer of security – such that if a sentry’s connection is compromised, it is theoretically still difficult to breach the network’s validator node. Throughout this architecture, private peering is maintained. The company additionally has a series of strong relationships with other validators, who provide trusted information to Sparkpool nodes.
Sparkpool has configured auto-recover of our sentry/relay nodes, but for now does not believe that auto-scaling is necessary.
At the time of this writing, Validator.Network has not written custom code on top of the existing infrastructure built by the Cosmos and Tendermint teams.
Sparkpool has identified that custom code has been used both in its sentry and validator setup. The details of this code have yet to be shared. At the time of this writing, Validator.Network has not written custom code on top of the existing infrastructure built by the Cosmos and Tendermint teams.
Monitoring Tools (UNKOWN (0) /100)
- Network Level (0/10)
- Hardware Level (0/10)
- Paging (0/10)
Single Point of Failure (100/100)
- Multi-Cloud (10/10)
- Multi-Region (10/10)
Key Management (75/100)
- HSM Selections (10/10)
- Smart Key Management (5/10)
Validator Access (50/100)
- Physical/Remote (5/10)
The Sparkpool representative contacted for this metric was unaware of specific tooling used at the time of writing. This section will be updated in accordance with additional information provided.
Single Points of Failure
Sparkpool operates sentry and relay nodes throughout multiple cloud providers. Within these cloud providers, multiple regions are used to maximize redundancy and availability. Nodes are predicted to be spread across Asia and Europe primarily.
Sparkpool presently uses a YubiHSM2 as their Hardware Security Module. This device signs blocks before publishing to the Cosmos network. The company additionally maintains redundant copies of their private key in the event their HSM malfunctions. Security measures on these redundant copies were not discussed.
In the future, the company intends on scaling to two or three physical services capable of signature production.
Sparkpool did not provide specifics into the access procedures of their validator node outside of the fact they are located in an “enterprise class physical data center.”
DoS protection has been configured, but has not been benchmarked to date to our knowledge. This metric will be updated as additional information surfaces.
When prompted, the Sparkpool team gave the following analysis on their current technological and operational priorities:
Sparkpool is focused on developing infrastructure that prioritizes user experience at its core. The company is rooted in the belief that everyone can be a part of validation, and has thus prioritized tools that make validation more understandable and accessible to all markets.
In particular, the company is currently focused on building tools that allow delegators to compound stake quickly, publish notifications about interesting rate changes, and more.