mrnaveira/rust-blockchain

A simple blockchain example written in Rust:

Defines data structures to model a minimum blockchain

rust-blockchain

A Proof of Work blockchain written in Rust. For educational purposes only.

Features:

  • Defines data structures to model a minimum blockchain
  • Mines new blocks in a separate thread, running a Proof of Work algorithm with a fixed difficulty
  • Synchronizes new blocks with peer nodes in a decentralized network
  • Provides a REST API to retrieve the blocks and add transactions

Getting Started

You will need Rust and Cargo installed.

The application will start mining and listening on port 8000 for incoming client requests via a REST API. To change any environment variable (port, mining parameters, etc.) refer to the .env.example file.

For development setup, check the development notes section.

Client REST API

The application provides a REST API for clients to operate with the blockchain.

Method URL Description
GET /blocks List all blocks of the blockchain
POST /blocks Append a new block to the blockchain
POST /transactions Add a new transaction to the pool

The file doc/rest_api.postman_collection.json contains a Postman collection with examples of all requests.

Block Structure

In a blockchain, transactions are grouped into blocks. Aside from transactions, a block contains metadata needed to secure and maintain the sequence in the chain. This sequence of blocks is key to allow transactions to occur in order.

The model module in this project contains the data structures to model the blockchain, as described in the next diagram:

Each block contains the following data:

  • index: position of the block in the blockchain
  • timestamp: date and time of block creation
  • nonce: arbitrary number that makes the block, when hashed, meet the mining difficulty restriction. Is the number that miners are competing to get first
  • previous_hash: hash of the previous block in the chain. Allows to maintain order of blocks in the blockchain. There is an exception with the first block of the chain (genesis block) which has no previous_hash
  • hash: hash of the block including all fields
  • transactions: a list of all transactions included in the block. Each transaction has a sender, recipient and amount.

Proof of Work

Proof of Work (PoW) is a common consensus algorithm used widely in most cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. A participant node in the network that wants to add new transactions in the blockchain (and get the rewards for it) must prove that a certain amount of computational work has been done. This work can take a large amount of time to do but at the same time it's very easy to validate by other nodes.

This prevents the double spending problem by forcing any attacker that wants to remove or modify a transaction to redo all the computational work from the target block to the current one. The attacker must have a larger computational capacity than the rest of the network combined to be able to achieve it (51% attack).

This project implements a simplified PoW algorithm based on hashes, in the line of what Bitcoin does. The miner.rs file implements the steps to create a valid block:

  1. All transactions in the pool are added to the block. If there is no transactions in the pool, do not mine until they arrive.
  2. The block contains the valid index and timestamp, as well as the hash of the previous block to maintain order.
  3. Iterate the nonce value until the hash of the whole block satisfies the difficulty constraint, which is to be less than a target value. The difficulty target is fixed for the execution of the server, but in a real project we would want dynamic difficulty adjusted in runtime to have constant time intervals between blocks.
  4. When a valid block is found, add it to the blockchain and repeat from step 1 to create the next block.

Development notes

Git hooks

This project uses cargo-husky to setup a Git pre-commit hook to check code style (using clippy and rustfmt), cargo dependencies and run all tests. If any of those tasks fails, the hook prevents you to commit the changes.

To automatically create the hooks in your local git repository, simply run all tests the first time:

GitHub Actions

There are also multiple GitHub Actions (using actions-rs) under the .github/workflows folder, as a form of CI. On each commit or PR they perform similar checks as the Git hooks (clippy/rustfmt, dependencies/build and test) plus the test coverage (explained in the coverage section ). The results are displayed as badges below the title of this README.

Test organization

The test organization follows the recommended guidelines for Rust:

  • Unit tests are located inside the file with the code they're testing, inside a module annotated with cfg(test).
  • Integration tests are located inside the tests folder. This project is a server application and not a library, so the integration tests run the server in a child OS thread, perform real REST API calls and then terminate the process. This way we test all parts of the application using only the REST API, treating it as a black box.

Test coverage

To generate the test coverage report, at the moment it's required to use the nightly version of Rust. Also you need to install grconv and llvm-tools. The detailed instructions are in the grcov repository as well as in the scripts/coverage_report.sh script.

Then, each time we want to to generate the coverage report, we simply execute the script:

The results will be availabe under the coverage folder for inspection. Also, there is a GitHub Action (in .github/workflows/coverage.yaml) that will automatically calculate it on every push to origin and display the coverage in a badge under the title of this README.

Concurrency implementation

In this project, the main thread spawns three OS threads:

  • One for the miner. As mining is very computationally-intensive, we want a dedicated OS thread to not slow down other operations in the application. In a real blockchain we would also want parallel mining (by handling a different subrange of nonces in each thread), but for simplicity we will only use one thread.
  • Other thread for the REST API. The API uses actix-web, which internally uses tokio, so it's optimized for asynchronous operations.
  • A thread for the peer system, that periodically sends and receives new blocks from peers over the network.

Thread spawning and handling is implemented using crossbeam-utils to reduce boilerplate code from the standard library.

Also, all threads share data, specifically the block list and the transaction pool. Those two data structures are implemented by using Arc<Mutex> to allow multiple concurrent writes and reads in a safe way from separate threads.

Roadmap

  • Boilerplate REST API in Rust
  • Structs to represent blockchain data
  • API methods to add transactions and check blocks
  • Transaction pool that holds not realized transactions
  • Basic miner that adds transactions every N seconds
  • Basic PoW implementation: nonce, miner calculates hashes and fixed difficulty
  • Mining peers communicate new blocks over the network
  • Block rewards: subsidy and transaction fees
  • Validate transaction balances
  • Dynamic difficulty (aiming for constant time intervals between blocks)
  • Halving
  • Blockchain disk storage
  • Digital signing of transactions
Versions

Find the latest versions by id

v0.3.0 - Nov 13, 2021

What's Changed

Full Changelog: https://github.com/mrnaveira/rust-blockchain/compare/v0.2.0...v0.3.0

v0.2.0 - Jul 26, 2020

v0.1.0 - Apr 29, 2020

Information - Updated Jan 20, 2022

Stars: 22
Forks: 1
Issues: 0

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