Confusion surrounded the Solana blockchain community over the weekend as a sudden drop in transaction speeds was initially believed to be a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, resulting in a lengthy debate as to the cause of the delay.

Fast facts

  • Solana-based non-fungible token (NFT) platform Blockasset was one of the first to highlight the issue late last week, tweeting: “We are aware that tokens take a long time to distribute. The Solana chain is being overloaded with DDoS attacks that have clogged the network causing delays.” Since that time, the same account corrected course to admit the network wasn’t down, but was simply experiencing delays in transactions.
  • In a statement shared with Forkast.News, Austin Federa, head of communications at Solana Labs, said that the network was not down at any point, and that the state of the network can always be independently verified by a block explorer or through running a node. He explained the situation by saying that a number of transactions landed in Solana blocks that took an excessive amount of compute power, which was not properly metered by the network causing blocks to take longer than expected to process.
  • “Solana’s runtime is a new design. It doesn’t use EVM (Etheruem Virtual Machine) and a ton of innovation was done to ensure that users have the cheapest fees possible, but there’s still work to be done on the runtime,” Federa said. “A ton of the work to improve transaction metering is already in 1.9 which was just released to testnet. It usually takes 8 weeks for a testnet release to bake before a mainnet upgrade. Engineers across the ecosystem are back porting the changes to 1.8, which is the mainnet release, with some of the patches already live on a small percentage of the nodes.”
  • One industry watcher, Tomáš Eminger of Rockway Blockchain Fund, explained that transactions dropped to as low as 1,000 transactions per second on four occasions since last Thursday, caused by bots attempting to pack large transactions into blocks that required more computing power than the network was capable of sustaining. Eminger also pointed out this issue is addressed in an unreleased software update for the blockchain. Solana is capable of operating at 65,000 transactions per second. “Solana is in mainnet-beta phase, so the software is still not perfect, but it’s good to see how the team is responding and working hard to upgrade the software,” Eminger tweeted.
  • For others, such as Justin Bons of Cyber Capital, this is an example of how Solana’s proof of history consensus model may not be sufficiently secure against attacks of this type. He said due to the network’s deterministic block creation mode, it is possible to predict and attack the next block producers inline. “This attack exploited fundamental design flaws which are considered features by SOL. As it sacrifices decentralization & security for speed. While ignoring the consequences of that trade off,” Bons tweeted.
  • This is the second time the world’s fifth-largest blockchain has experienced transaction delays; in mid-September the network really did suffer a DDoS attack, causing the network to go offline for 17 hours and require a full validator restart. The restart was successful, though the price of the network’s native token SOL lost 25% of its then all-time high reached only the week before.
  • SOL recovered to reach a new all-time high of US$260 in early November but has since fallen dramatically in the past few weeks along with the majority of the crypto market. Despite the news, the token was trading at a five-day high this morning Asia time, but has since lost further ground and was trading at US$166.26 at press time, according to CoinMarketCap.