What is Solana Firedancer and why is it important?

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Jump Crypto and the Solana Foundation have announced their plans to boost the throughput and reliability of the high-performance blockchain Solana. This will be done by developing a new open-source validator client for the network that will run alongside the existing one.

Its name […] Firedancer.

Jump Crypto, which has always been a validator and RPC node operator within the Solana ecosystem, will not only create a second validator client, separate from the one originally built by Solana Labs but also propose important upgrades to Solana’s existing open-source core software. Kevin Bowers, Jump Trading’s Chief Science Officer, will oversee the process of building the new validator client.

But what is Firedancer, what does it do, and what will it achieve?

Let’s take a look!

What is Firedancer?

Firedancer is a new validator client that has been built by Jump Crypto to help increase the efficiency of the Solana network.

It is a fully independent consensus node implementation for the Solana blockchain. A consensus node is the core piece of technology that validators use to agree on the chain’s state (blocks and transactions) ensuring its integrity and validity.

What does it do?

Currently, Solana’s throughput is not limited by any hardware, but instead by software inefficiencies. This is what Firedancer looks to solve, in the process enhancing both the network’s decentralisation and its performance drastically.

The truth is that there is one fatal flaw with some PoS consensus methods, and that issue is having the network overthrown by the majority of the stakers. But with just over a third of the stakers/staking power running on Firedancer, no single client will have a supermajority on the network. And the benefit of having a second validator eliminates the issue of having a single point of failure.

According to the Firedancer website, the team aims to make significant progress on the development of the new client over the next 12-24 months. What’s more, the development will be open source, allowing anyone to see what is taking place.

Firedancer’s core code will be written in the C/C++ programming languages. These languages were chosen due to their widespread use in writing code that needs low-level access to a computer’s hardware. Low-level access means faster operating times, hence higher throughput and transaction speed.

How does it help?

Firedancer will:

  • Improve network efficiency.
  • Help scale the network.
  • Make it cheaper to run a validator node.
  • Make the network more decentralised.

Efficiency will be improved due to Firedancer using zero-copy networking to bypass most of the operating system’s kernel network stack, coming with its own queues and other concurrency primitives.

Scalability will be down to the core developers and their understanding of the network’s capabilities and limitations. “Mechanical sympathy” is when you use a tool or system with an understanding of how it operates best. This is where the teams behind Jump Crypto and Solana Labs aim to excel (both have significant backgrounds in low-level programming and engineering).

Running a node will be cheaper with a secondary client due to less hardware being needed per node. Less hardware naturally translates to a lower cost. However, it is worth mentioning that existing node operators will eventually have to make changes to their validators, as Firedancer will become an entirely separate node implementation at some point.
Lastly, higher decentralisation is managed by making validation more accessible. Firedancer will achieve this by lowering implementation risks that would impact large portions of the stake at once, and at the same time, by having a second self-dependent team of core engineers.

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