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Storing Solana History on IPFS/Filecoin - Project Old Faithful with Brian Long

By Superteam

Published on 2023-11-17

Discover how Project Old Faithful is making Solana's entire transaction history accessible through IPFS and Filecoin, transforming blockchain data availability for developers and users alike.

The notes below are AI generated and may not be 100% accurate. Watch the video to be sure!

Storing Solana History on IPFS/Filecoin - Project Old Faithful with Brian Long

In a groundbreaking development for the Solana ecosystem, Brian Long discusses Project Old Faithful, an initiative set to revolutionize how blockchain data is stored and accessed. This project, born from a collaboration between Solana and Protocol Labs, aims to make the entire history of Solana's blockchain accessible to anyone, anywhere, without gatekeepers. Let's dive into the details of this transformative project and explore its implications for developers, users, and the broader blockchain community.

The Genesis of Project Old Faithful

Project Old Faithful originated from a critical need within the Solana ecosystem. As Brian Long explains, developers new to Solana often face a significant hurdle when trying to set up their own RPC (Remote Procedure Call) nodes. While they can easily spin up an RPC server, they quickly discover that they lack access to the full historical ledger of Solana transactions. This limitation poses a serious challenge to the principles of blockchain transparency and accessibility.

The inception of the project can be traced back to what Long humorously refers to as the "St. Pancras meeting." At London's St. Pancras Station, Linus Kendall, one of the co-founders, and Richard Patel, a renowned engineer from the Fire Dancer team, engaged in a conversation that would lay the foundation for Old Faithful. Their discussion centered around innovative ways to make Solana's archive history available on a large scale, considering the blockchain's substantial data volume.

The Challenge: Solana's Massive Data Volume

One of the primary challenges addressed by Project Old Faithful is the sheer size of Solana's blockchain data. Brian Long reveals a staggering statistic:

"Currently about 250 terabytes right now is what we've got in the old faithful archive now."

This enormous volume of data presents unique challenges for storage and accessibility. Traditional methods of data storage and retrieval are simply not feasible for such a vast amount of information. The project needed to find a solution that could not only store this data but also make it readily accessible to users without requiring them to download the entire dataset.

Enter IPFS and Filecoin

The solution to Solana's data storage and accessibility challenge came in the form of a collaboration with Protocol Labs, the organization behind IPFS (InterPlanetary File System) and Filecoin. This partnership marks a significant milestone in blockchain technology, showcasing how two layer-one protocols can work together synergistically.

IPFS, or the InterPlanetary File System, is a distributed system for storing and accessing files, websites, applications, and data. Filecoin, built on top of IPFS, provides the economic incentives to ensure that data remains stored and accessible over time. By leveraging these technologies, Project Old Faithful found a way to make Solana's entire history available without requiring users to store massive amounts of data locally.

The Technical Brilliance of CAR Files

At the heart of Project Old Faithful's technical implementation is the use of CAR (Content Addressable aRchives) files. This file format, recommended by Richard Patel, is crucial to the project's success. CAR files are particularly well-suited for use with Filecoin and other content-addressable storage systems.

Brian Long explains the advantages of using CAR files:

"We can throw a 500 gigabyte file on a Filecoin. And if you need to pull a transaction out of that 500 gig file, you don't need to download the entire file. You can say, I want to grab only these bytes."

This capability is a game-changer for data retrieval. It allows users to access specific transactions or pieces of data without downloading entire massive files, significantly reducing bandwidth requirements and improving access speeds.

Compatibility with S3 Storage

Another notable feature of the CAR file format is its compatibility with S3 (Simple Storage Service) compatible storage solutions. This compatibility extends the utility of the project beyond just IPFS and Filecoin. As Long points out:

"That same format is also available or works well, I should say, on any S3 compatible storage, because S3 will support an HTTP range request."

This means that the data can be efficiently retrieved from various storage solutions, providing flexibility and redundancy in data access methods.

The Growth of Solana's Blockchain Data

An interesting aspect of the project is the continuous growth of Solana's blockchain data. Brian Long mentions:

"It grows by 500 gig every two days."

This rapid growth underscores the need for a scalable and efficient storage solution. Project Old Faithful's approach ensures that as the blockchain continues to expand, the data remains accessible without placing an undue burden on individual users or developers.

Democratizing Access to Blockchain Data

One of the most significant achievements of Project Old Faithful is its democratization of access to Solana's blockchain data. Previously, access to the full history was limited to a select few entities that maintained replicas of the data in Google Bigtable. Long describes the previous situation:

"There's only-- I don't know if there's five or six people that have instances or replicas that we're all maintaining independently. And that means that if you want to get the history, you have to go through a gatekeeper."

By making the entire history available through IPFS and Filecoin, Old Faithful removes these gatekeepers. This change aligns perfectly with the ethos of blockchain technology, which emphasizes decentralization and open access to information.

Implications for Developers

The impact of Project Old Faithful on developers in the Solana ecosystem cannot be overstated. With this new infrastructure in place, developers can now:

  1. Spin up their own RPC nodes with full historical data access.
  2. Perform deep historical analyses of the Solana blockchain.
  3. Build more robust and feature-rich applications that require historical data.
  4. Verify and audit transactions independently, enhancing trust in the ecosystem.

This level of access and capability was previously impossible or prohibitively expensive for most developers. Now, it's within reach of anyone with an internet connection.

The Challenge of Index Files

While Project Old Faithful solves many problems, it's not without its challenges. One significant hurdle is the size of the index files. Brian Long notes:

"On the 250 terabytes right now, there's just over 50 terabytes of indexes."

These large index files mean that while the data is accessible, setting up a full node with complete indexing capabilities still requires substantial storage resources. This aspect of the project highlights the ongoing challenges in blockchain data management and the need for continued innovation in this space.

The Importance of Data Availability vs. Data Delivery

An important distinction made by Brian Long is between data availability and data delivery. Project Old Faithful focuses primarily on data availability - ensuring that the data exists and is accessible. As Long explains:

"We're really focused on the data availability layer, but not the data delivery layer."

This focus means that while the project ensures the data is there and can be accessed, it doesn't necessarily optimize for the fastest possible delivery speeds. However, the flexibility of the system allows for various optimizations at the delivery layer, depending on specific use cases and requirements.

Flexibility in Data Storage and Retrieval

One of the strengths of Project Old Faithful's approach is its flexibility. The use of CAR files and compatibility with various storage solutions means that users have options in how they store and access the data. Long explains:

"If somebody wants to download it from Filecoin and put it into a nearby S3 storage, they can do that. If they have a really big data center with petabytes of storage, then of course, they could even bring it in local and still access it the same way."

This flexibility ensures that the project can adapt to various use cases and infrastructure setups, making it a robust solution for a wide range of users and applications.

Impact on State Compression

The conversation touches on an interesting implication of Project Old Faithful for state compression in Solana. State compression is a technique used to reduce the amount of data stored on-chain, but it comes with challenges in terms of data accessibility. As one of the hosts points out:

"One of the challenges with state compression right now is that if you aren't indexing compression events as they're happening, you will fairly quickly lose access to those transaction logs, which is where the data actually lives."

Project Old Faithful could potentially address this issue by ensuring that all historical data, including compressed state data, remains accessible. This capability could be crucial for developers working with compressed NFTs or other state compression applications.

Enhancing Blockchain Transparency and Verifiability

One of the core principles of blockchain technology is transparency and verifiability. Project Old Faithful significantly enhances these aspects for Solana. By making the entire history of the blockchain easily accessible, it allows for independent verification of transactions and state changes. As one of the hosts notes:

"Now there's multiple entry points for confirming this or verifying the accuracy and validity of data, which is really awesome."

This capability is crucial for maintaining trust in the ecosystem and allows for more robust auditing and analysis of blockchain activities.

Collaboration Between Layer-1 Protocols

The collaboration between Solana and Protocol Labs (through IPFS and Filecoin) represents a significant development in the blockchain space. As Brian Long points out:

"Now we've got two layer ones that are working together and collaborating in a very positive and synergistic way."

This partnership demonstrates the potential for cross-chain collaborations to solve complex problems in the blockchain ecosystem. It sets a precedent for how different blockchain projects can work together to enhance the overall capabilities and user experience of decentralized technologies.

The Future of Blockchain Data Storage

Project Old Faithful points to an exciting future for blockchain data storage and accessibility. By solving the problem of historical data access for Solana, it paves the way for similar solutions in other blockchain ecosystems. The project demonstrates that it's possible to maintain the principles of decentralization and open access even as blockchain data grows to massive scales.

Implications for Blockchain Scalability

The success of Project Old Faithful has significant implications for blockchain scalability. One of the common criticisms of high-throughput blockchains like Solana is the challenge of storing and accessing the large amounts of data they generate. By providing a solution to this problem, Old Faithful shows that high-throughput blockchains can indeed be sustainable and accessible in the long term.

Enhancing Developer Experience in Solana

A key benefit of Project Old Faithful is the enhancement of the developer experience within the Solana ecosystem. By removing barriers to accessing historical data, it allows developers to:

  1. Experiment more freely with Solana's capabilities
  2. Build more sophisticated applications that leverage historical data
  3. Perform more comprehensive testing and debugging
  4. Innovate in areas that were previously limited by data access constraints

This improvement in the developer experience could lead to a flourishing of new applications and use cases on Solana, further driving the growth and adoption of the platform.

The Role of Content-Addressable Storage in Blockchain

Project Old Faithful highlights the importance of content-addressable storage in the blockchain space. The use of CAR files and IPFS demonstrates how content-addressable systems can solve complex data management problems in decentralized networks. This approach could become a standard for other blockchain projects facing similar data storage and accessibility challenges.

Potential Impact on Blockchain Analytics

The availability of Solana's entire history through Project Old Faithful could revolutionize blockchain analytics. With easy access to historical data, researchers and analysts can:

  1. Perform more comprehensive studies of blockchain usage patterns
  2. Develop more accurate predictive models for blockchain behavior
  3. Identify long-term trends and patterns in blockchain activity
  4. Enhance security and fraud detection capabilities

These improved analytics capabilities could lead to valuable insights for both developers and users of the Solana ecosystem.

Challenges in Implementation and Maintenance

While Project Old Faithful offers numerous benefits, it's important to acknowledge the challenges involved in its implementation and ongoing maintenance. These include:

  1. Managing the continuous growth of data (500GB every two days)
  2. Ensuring data integrity across distributed storage systems
  3. Maintaining indexing efficiency as the dataset grows
  4. Balancing accessibility with network resource constraints

Addressing these challenges will be crucial for the long-term success and sustainability of the project.

The Importance of Community Support

The success of Project Old Faithful will largely depend on community support and participation. By distributing the storage and serving of Solana's historical data across a network of participants, the project embodies the decentralized ethos of blockchain technology. Community involvement will be crucial in:

  1. Maintaining and expanding the network of storage providers
  2. Contributing to the development and optimization of data retrieval tools
  3. Identifying and addressing potential vulnerabilities or inefficiencies in the system
  4. Promoting the use of Old Faithful in various applications and use cases

Potential for Cross-Chain Applications

While Project Old Faithful is focused on Solana, the principles and technologies it employs could potentially be applied to other blockchain networks. This opens up possibilities for:

  1. Cross-chain data analysis and comparison
  2. Development of multi-chain applications that require historical data from multiple networks
  3. Standardization of blockchain data storage and retrieval methods across different platforms

The success of Old Faithful could inspire similar projects in other blockchain ecosystems, leading to a more interconnected and interoperable blockchain landscape.

Impact on Blockchain Education and Research

Project Old Faithful has significant implications for blockchain education and research. By making Solana's entire history easily accessible, it provides an invaluable resource for:

  1. Students learning about blockchain technology and its real-world applications
  2. Researchers studying blockchain economics, network behavior, and security
  3. Educators developing practical, data-driven blockchain courses
  4. Historians documenting the evolution of blockchain technology and its impact on society

This wealth of accessible data could accelerate our understanding of blockchain systems and their potential applications.

Enhancing Solana's Competitive Edge

In the competitive landscape of blockchain platforms, Project Old Faithful gives Solana a significant advantage. By solving the challenge of historical data accessibility, Solana demonstrates its commitment to scalability, transparency, and developer-friendliness. This could attract more developers and projects to the Solana ecosystem, further enhancing its position in the blockchain market.

The Future of Project Old Faithful

As Project Old Faithful continues to evolve, several exciting possibilities emerge:

  1. Integration with other Solana infrastructure projects to create a more comprehensive developer toolkit
  2. Development of user-friendly interfaces for non-technical users to explore Solana's history
  3. Expansion of the project to include real-time data indexing and access
  4. Collaboration with other blockchain networks to create a multi-chain historical data repository

The future developments of Old Faithful will likely be shaped by the needs of the Solana community and the broader trends in blockchain technology.

Conclusion: A New Era for Blockchain Data Accessibility

Project Old Faithful represents a significant milestone in blockchain technology, particularly for the Solana ecosystem. By making the entire history of Solana's blockchain accessible through innovative use of IPFS and Filecoin, it addresses one of the key challenges facing high-performance blockchains: data accessibility at scale.

This project not only enhances the capabilities of developers and researchers working with Solana but also sets a new standard for data transparency and accessibility in the blockchain space. It demonstrates the power of collaboration between different blockchain projects and the potential for innovative solutions to emerge from such partnerships.

As blockchain technology continues to evolve and find new applications, projects like Old Faithful will play a crucial role in ensuring that the core principles of decentralization, transparency, and accessibility are maintained. The success of this project could pave the way for similar initiatives in other blockchain ecosystems, ultimately contributing to a more open, accessible, and interconnected blockchain future.

The implications of Project Old Faithful extend far beyond just data storage and retrieval. It has the potential to catalyze new waves of innovation in the Solana ecosystem, enhance blockchain research and education, and contribute to the overall maturation of blockchain technology as a whole. As the project continues to develop and expand, it will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in shaping the future of Solana and the broader blockchain landscape.

Facts + Figures

  • Project Old Faithful aims to make Solana's entire blockchain history accessible without gatekeepers.
  • The current size of the Old Faithful archive is approximately 250 terabytes.
  • Solana's blockchain data grows by about 500 gigabytes every two days.
  • The project uses CAR (Content Addressable aRchives) file format for efficient data storage and retrieval.
  • Out of the 250 terabytes of data, over 50 terabytes are index files.
  • Previously, only 5-6 entities had access to the full Solana history through Google Bigtable.
  • The project is a collaboration between Solana and Protocol Labs, leveraging IPFS and Filecoin technologies.
  • CAR files allow users to retrieve specific bytes of data without downloading entire large files.
  • The file format used is compatible with S3 storage solutions, supporting HTTP range requests.
  • The project focuses on data availability rather than optimizing data delivery speed.
  • Users can potentially download data from Filecoin and store it in nearby S3 storage or local data centers.
  • The project originated from a discussion between Linus Kendall and Richard P at St. Pancras Station in London.
  • Old Faithful addresses challenges related to state compression and transaction log accessibility.
  • The project enhances blockchain transparency by providing multiple entry points for data verification.
  • It represents a significant collaboration between two layer-one protocols: Solana and Filecoin.

Questions Answered

What is Project Old Faithful?

Project Old Faithful is an initiative to make the entire history of Solana's blockchain accessible to anyone through IPFS and Filecoin. It aims to solve the problem of limited access to historical blockchain data, which has been a significant hurdle for developers and researchers. By using innovative storage and retrieval methods, Old Faithful allows users to access specific transaction data without needing to download the entire blockchain history.

How much data does Solana's blockchain currently contain?

According to Brian Long, the Old Faithful archive currently contains about 250 terabytes of data. This massive amount of data represents the entire history of transactions and state changes on the Solana blockchain. Additionally, the blockchain continues to grow rapidly, with approximately 500 gigabytes of new data being added every two days.

How does Project Old Faithful make Solana's history accessible?

Project Old Faithful uses a combination of technologies, primarily IPFS (InterPlanetary File System) and Filecoin, to store and make Solana's history accessible. It employs CAR (Content Addressable aRchives) files, which allow for efficient storage and retrieval of specific data without downloading entire large files. This system is compatible with S3 storage solutions and supports HTTP range requests, providing flexibility in how users can access the data.

What are the benefits of Project Old Faithful for developers?

Project Old Faithful offers numerous benefits for developers in the Solana ecosystem. It allows them to spin up their own RPC nodes with full historical data access, perform deep historical analyses of the blockchain, build more robust applications that require historical data, and independently verify and audit transactions. This level of access enhances the developer experience, potentially leading to more innovative applications and use cases on Solana.

How does Project Old Faithful impact blockchain transparency?

By making Solana's entire history easily accessible, Project Old Faithful significantly enhances blockchain transparency. It provides multiple entry points for confirming and verifying the accuracy and validity of data on the blockchain. This capability is crucial for maintaining trust in the ecosystem and allows for more robust auditing and analysis of blockchain activities, aligning with the core principles of blockchain technology.

What challenges does Project Old Faithful face?

While Project Old Faithful solves many problems, it also faces some challenges. The size of the index files (over 50 terabytes for 250 terabytes of data) is a significant hurdle, requiring substantial storage resources for full indexing capabilities. Additionally, managing the continuous growth of data, ensuring data integrity across distributed systems, and balancing accessibility with network resource constraints are ongoing challenges that the project needs to address.

How does Project Old Faithful compare to previous methods of accessing Solana's history?

Before Project Old Faithful, access to Solana's full history was limited to a small number of entities (about 5-6) that maintained replicas of the data in Google Bigtable. This created a gatekeeper situation, where developers and researchers had to go through these entities to access historical data. Old Faithful democratizes this access, making the entire history available to anyone without intermediaries, aligning more closely with the decentralized ethos of blockchain technology.

What is the potential impact of Project Old Faithful on blockchain research and education?

Project Old Faithful has significant implications for blockchain education and research. By providing easy access to Solana's entire history, it offers an invaluable resource for students learning about blockchain technology, researchers studying blockchain economics and behavior, educators developing practical courses, and historians documenting the evolution of blockchain technology. This wealth of accessible data could accelerate our understanding of blockchain systems and their potential applications across various fields.

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