Kusama is a canary network for Polkadot. It enables developers to build and deploy a parachain or experiment with Polkadot’s governance, staking, nomination and validation functionality in a real environment.

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Read our Kusama Delegation Guide to learn how to securely stake your KSM tokens to Bison Trails’ non-custodial public validators.

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An Introduction to Kusama

Kusama, an innovative Web3 Foundation project, is a canary network designed for developers to run experiments and test implementations in a Polkadot-like environment, before features get merged to the main chain. Kusama is a testing ground with faster governance parameters and lower barriers to entry than Polkadot. Kusama enables developers to build and deploy a parachain or experiment with Polkadot’s governance, staking, nomination and validation functionality. Unlike a typical testnet, Kusama is intended to function alongside Polkadot, supporting ongoing usage and providing long-term value to participants and the ecosystem.

Parachains are the major protocol design innovation of Kusama. Parachains—or “parallelized blockchains”—are application-specific blockchains within the Polkadot network. Each parachain is an entire blockchain in and of itself, with its own logic and features. However, parachains also share software and security with the other parachains. The main relay chain connects these parachains by sharing state and validation logic to provide a secure environment for trust-free message passing. This shared security model across chains represents a big draw for developers to work with the Polkadot ecosystem.

How Kusama Works

Substrate is the modular blockchain framework on which Kusama is built and the foundation for the whole Polkadot ecosystem. It allows developers to quickly build and launch a blockchain with a variety of feature options available for a wide range of project needs. These options include WebAssembly smart contracts, multi-level permissioning, encrypted transactions and state, account-level locking, and governance tools. Substrate-based protocols can easily interact with Polkadot allowing them to become parachains in the system and share security.

Kusama uses Nominated Proof of Stake (NPoS) as its consensus method. There is a known and limited number of validators in the active set and this active set number is decided by governance. Inclusion in the active set is determined by your total self-bonded and nominated stake. The minimum stake to get in the active set varies daily and depends upon the number of validators attempting to be included and the amount of stake on each. In a NPoS system, each elected validator has equal say in consensus.

Once included in the active set, every validator has equal voting powers and gets equal rewards. For example, if there are two validators, one with 15k KSM and another with 100k KSM, assuming both are in the active set, they will receive equal rewards on an annual basis.

Because of this equitable distribution of rewards, it is preferable for a KSM holder to distribute their stake and run multiple validators. Optimizing your participation on Kusama, or any NPoS network, requires more active management than other PoS networks.

There is no minimum self-bond to run a validator. It is possible to meet the minimum stake necessary to be elected to the active set with almost 100% nominated KSM. The goal is to get in the active set without being significantly higher than the minimum. As such, many validators maintain a low self-bond and nominate themselves with the majority of their KSM from a separate account. This set up allows them to remain flexible and distribute their stake as the minimum for election to the active set changes.

Kusama has two participatory reward mechanisms. Its native rate of participatory rewards is determined by the staking rate of the protocol, capping out at 10% when 50% of the protocol’s tokens are staked.

Additionally, 1% of DOTs (native to Polkadot) will be distributed as rewards to Kusama participants. The reward distribution mechanism has not yet been determined, as the Polkadot protocol is still under development.

If a validator doesn't follow protocol rules, Kusama slashes their bonded tokens as well as the KSM delegated to them.

Slashing primarily happens for one of the two reasons:

  • Double signing: If someone reports on chain A that a validator signed two blocks at the same height on chain A and chain B, the validator will get slashed on chain A.
  • Downtime: If a validator’s signature has not been included in the last X blocks, the validator will get slashed by a marginal amount proportional to X. If X is above a certain limit Y, then the validator will get unbonded.

Kusama’s governance parameters allow for fast upgrades; the period between governance events is relatively short. Allowing for new referenda, voting, and enacting approved upgrades to happen quickly allows the protocol to adapt and evolve rapidly. Given the speed of governance, validators must remain active and aware to keep up with changes on the protocol.

Running a Kusama Node with Bison Trails

Bison Trails is uniquely positioned to provide unparalleled enterprise-grade node infrastructure for Kusama validators:

  1. By running ten active Kusama validators from the beginning, Bison Trails gained deep experience with the network while enhancing our secure infrastructure offering, onboarding processes, alerts, monitoring, graphing, and other services.
  2. Since the Kusama network launched, a large number of validators have been slashed due to issues with software upgrades or nodes running improperly. Our active Kusama validators, however, have run with close to 100% uptime and, most significantly, none of our customers’ stake was lost to slashing.
  3. Our infrastructure automatically scales the number of Kusama validators running against a customer’s stake, based on the current staking participation rate and node distribution on the network.

99.9% platform uptime guarantee. Our secure node clusters are run across multiple geographies and cloud providers.

Read our Kusama Delegation Guide to learn how to securely stake your KSM tokens to Bison Trails’ non-custodial public validators.

Contact us for pricing

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