We want to highlight Bison Trails’ experience with Kusama—the innovative canary network—from running one of the first validators when Kusama launched, to avoiding slashing on our customers’ accounts, to preparing for the eagerly anticipated Polkadot mainnet launch.
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 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. By running ten active Kusama validators, Bison Trails gained deep experience with the network while enhancing our secure infrastructure offering, onboarding processes, alerts, monitoring, graphing, and other services.
Since the Kusama network launched, a large number of validators have been slashed due to issues with software upgrades or nodes running improperly. These slashing events are rightfully disconcerting to the community. For more than six months, we’ve run ten active Kusama validators with close to 100% uptime: most significant, none of our customers’ stake was lost to slashing. So how were we able to successfully run validators on the Kusama network when other teams suffered slashing events?
We avoided slashing on all of our customers’ accounts because we run all our Kusama nodes on the Bison Trails platform: the premier multi-cloud, multi-region infrastructure platform for participatory blockchain networks. 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.
As Kusama stabilizes, the community’s confidence grows. We expect this momentum to build as the mainnet launch approaches. When Polkadot launches, Bison Trails will be ready to provide unparalleled infrastructure service with our proven technology including resilient and redundant validators and our distributed software suite. We’ll also be introducing another proprietary innovation in blockchain technology by mainnet launch: double-signing protective software to ensure we never double-sign a block. (More on this release in upcoming weeks!)
Polkadot—a scalable heterogeneous multi-chain that connects blockchains—enables new blockchains to communicate in a secure environment. In order to solve the scalability and interoperability challenges facing many blockchains, Polkadot creates a sharded ecosystem that includes a main relay chain and individual parachains.
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.
At Bison Trails, we recognize how this fundamental innovation in protocol design lowers the barriers for building new blockchains. Validator providers don’t need to learn how to run new protocol software. The core substrate and consensus protocols can continue to evolve, with all parachains benefiting from the iteration. We are thrilled to support the growth of this ecosystem by providing robust node infrastructure to enable wider adoption of blockchain technology.
Another reason Polkadot will appeal to developers is the anticipated transaction speed. Ethereum—arguably the most used blockchain in the world—only supports approximately fifteen transactions per second, a limit that is frequently reached. On Polkadot, because interactions on parachains are processed in parallel, the network as a whole is highly scalable. An individual application will be able to process approximately one thousand transactions per second. The overall network of parachains on Kusama and Polkadot will function at a hundred times that speed.
A thousand transactions per second for single application parachains on Kusama and Polkadot means developers can expect the networks to scale incredibly well. It also means transaction costs will be much lower, making applications cheaper to use.
The Polkadot protocol notably allows arbitrary data—not just tokens—to be transferred across blockchains. This data can be transferred publicly, across permissionless blockchains, or privately on permissioned blockchains. The benefits of supporting arbitrary data transfer on the Polkadot network is evident in the variety of use cases from the community. These include:
We imagine the most exciting use cases are yet to come.
Polkadot intends to limit the number of spots for parachains and parathread to 100. Some believe this limitation will inhibit innovation. For example, will teams focus on developing a new parachain focussed on privacy if one already exists?
In an effort to limit less robust applications, dangerous applications, and scams, parachain creators will either need to be voted into a slot or place a bid for a slot in an auction. It’s possible that the limitation on the number of parachains will hamper the work of independent developers with less connections to the existing community. There is a reasonable fear that Polkadot parachains may over-represent incumbent candidates.
At Bison Trails, we recognize these concerns, but our perspective is that the finite number of parachain spots on Polkadot will not present an immediate issue or stifle innovation. Depending on the types of parachains created, each chain could have its own developer community, SDK, and suite of applications. While the future is always uncertain, we’re incredibly optimistic about what we’ve seen with Kusama, and we believe in Polkadot’s potential to be truly transformative for the entire blockchain industry.
By fully supporting both the Kusama and Polkadot initiatives, even after Polkadot launches, we’re enabling the pioneers of tomorrow to build the future that we envision: a thriving ecosystem in which parachains represent a diversity of perspectives serving important and unanticipated use cases.
Participation in Kusama is meaningful, even after Polkadot launches. Kusama participants will be rewarded with 1% of DOTs allocated to incentivize participation. These DOTs can be used for validating, bonding parachains, and participating in the governance system.
Bison Trails appreciates Kusama’s long-term value. Kusama will remain relevant as it continues to function as the Polkadot proving ground. New teams with untested projects will be able to launch their parachains and parathreads on Kusama, where experimentation is encouraged. This setup parallels the history of the internet’s evolution, driven by developer iteration.
Because Kusama simulates Polkadot’s economic conditions, it’s also the perfect place for aspiring development teams to prove the value of their ideas, resolve bugs, and add features. A strong performance on Kusama will help teams make a strong case for a parachain deposit from Polkadot community members and token holders.
Our Kusama experience and our technology—the world’s premier blockchain Infrastructure-as-a-Service platform—is unparalleled. We make it easy for anyone to run reliable, automated, and decentralized Kusama and Polkadot validating nodes that strengthen the networks in which they participate.
Bison Trails is uniquely positioned to provide unparalleled enterprise-grade node infrastructure for Kusama and Polkadot validators:
“Bison Trails has established itself as a leader in node and blockchain infrastructure so it is encouraging to see them ramp up support for Kusama and Polkadot. We've designed both Kusama and Polkadot to scale to 1,000 validators with similar levels of stake and 100 parachain shards, each with its own collator nodes. Bison Trails empowers dot and ksm holders to participate in the network more quickly and easily than would otherwise be possible.”– Jack Platts, Head of Collaborations, Web3 Foundation
Bison Trails is an Infrastructure-as-a-Service company, based in New York City, specifically focused on blockchain participation. We’ve built a platform for anyone who wants to participate in new chains effortlessly (e.g. by running Cosmos Validators, Tezos Bakers, and Libra Validators, etc.)—without having to invest time and resources into developing any of the engineering, protocol, dev ops, or security competencies in-house. Our goal is for the entire blockchain ecosystem to flourish by providing robust infrastructure for the pioneers of tomorrow.
Our team is ready to answer your questions. We have an identity on-chain and are safely in the active set. We’re also helping customers spin up additional nodes to take advantage of the lower staking requirements to be in the active set.
Contact us to learn more about our enterprise-grade blockchain infrastructure platform, and our work to support Polkadot and Kusama.