And so it begins: reflections on this first Shelley epoch

The Shelley hard fork occurred at exactly 21:44:51 UTC on Wednesday 29th July 2020, starting at epoch 208 (slot 4492800). This was the moment when Shelley took its first steps onto the mainnet.

The advent of Shelley is the successful outcome of half-a-decade of research, years of engineering and months of planning. What got us here? A tack-sharp, relentless focus on delivery. And a huge amount of passion and belief in what we are building. The belief of a whole community. We believe in blockchain, and we believe in the development of a decentralized future where Cardano will take centre stage. Shelley is the first – arguably the most important – milestone in that journey.

The hard fork went exactly as expected. Shelley’s first steps on the mainnet were resolute, never tentative. A new era of decentralization has now begun with stake pools and delegation, the building blocks to community-led blockchain development, utility and adoption.

EARLY PERFORMANCE

Our focus over the last few months has been on delivering a reliable and stable version of the node that could successfully survive the rigours of the hard fork. A few days before the hard fork update, we called a ‘code freeze’ on Cardano Node version 1.18.0, and put it through a set of final stress tests, which it passed with flying colours. Memory usage is extremely stable.

We are processing high rates of transactions and despite a large number of wallets coming on-stream in a short period, this has not upset the general network performance. And we have still barely tapped the performance potential of our new codebase.

As part of our final ‘workout’ of the node, we ran a series of performance tests and benchmarks. Based on our results, we were aware that the first epoch boundary might be a bit bumpy for some stake pools and relays. However, our analysis also told us that the majority of nodes would ride out the transition quite happily and that the network as a whole would recover very quickly. This was exactly what happened in practice. We were, of course, monitoring very carefully from behind the scenes. Confident, yes, but still watchful.

SO… A NEW EPOCH?

In the Shelley environment, epochs last 120 hours (5 days), which means that epoch 0 has finished, and epoch 1 is now underway. This is significant, as it effectively means that Shelley is operating independently, and successfully.

Though it’s still early days for Shelley, the completion of a full epoch, and the transition to the next, marks a huge accomplishment. Our delegation cycle visual below offers a guide to what will happen over the next few epochs.

Having passed this important milestone, we can now safely ‘unfreeze’ the node code. We have a number of ongoing performance improvements and optimizations. We have technical debt to address and a fair bit of buffing and polishing. We’re also focusing on smoothing out the network bumps.

At the next epoch boundary, we’ll enjoy another first. We shall lower the d parameter from 1 to 0.9, and stake pools will start to make blocks and earn rewards. This is another important step on the road to full decentralization of the protocol. We did discuss holding it back a further epoch; a number of pool operators weren’t able to get listed in Daedalus for a while, due to metadata issue. After some consideration – and there were a number of powerful voices in the community with different views – we have elected to stay true to the plan shared in June. Daedalus has now been fixed and all public pools are now showing, still randomized right now. The protocol has been designed not to favour ‘incumbents’ so we are confident that no one has been disadvantaged at this very early stage in the network’s growth.

THE WALLET EXPERIENCE

We released version 2.0.0 of Daedalus just before the hard fork event. This version made history as the first-ever Shelley-compatible wallet.

But forward. Our goal has always been to iterate fast so, on August 3, we updated Daedalus to version 2.0.1. This release included a crucial fix to missing stake pools in Daedalus, along with a number of other smaller, but important improvements.

So now we are into our second epoch, and ITN rewards have now been moved onto the mainnet, ready for users to reclaim. A new version of Daedalus will be released later this week for all ada holders to get their rewards. Some ada holders found an unconventional workaround to retrieve their funds in the last releases, removed in the next version. But don’t worry, everyone will be able to reclaim their rewards in plenty of time for the next epoch.

Overall, since release, we’ve seen over 6,000 downloads of Daedalus. Adalite has declared itself open for business while the team over at EMURGO are also still hard at work evolving Shelley Yoroi. So steadily, ada holders Shelley options continue to broaden and the experience improves. Expect wider Ledger and Trezor support very soon, too.

POOLS, POOLS, POOLS…

The rapid growth in the number of stake pools in just one week has been extraordinary. The excellent community resources adapools (run by #CRDNS pool) and Pooltool (from the people behind the #LOVE pool) offer an excellent way to track network growth and status. Both are packed with data. According to Pooltool, after 6 days, here in epoch 209, there are now 770+ active registered pools. This compares to 975 (with around 300 regularly making blocks) at the peak of the ITN, that’s after 6 months. Ada staked is running at 6.31B that’s just under 20% of the total 31.7B total supply. On the ITN, we saw about 12.9B by way of comparison.


It’s a testament not just to our incredible stake pool pioneer community, but also to the groundwork laid by Nicolas, Vincent and the Jormungandr team, and the earliest ITN pool ops that have helped us here.

We expect delegation levels to rise significantly once more exchanges finish their integrations. Our joint CF/IOG integration team continues to work hard with our partners on this part of the rollout. Each exchange has a different process, integrations and each works at a different pace. This is a complex and challenging process requiring close collaboration and we still have quite a number of integrations to finish, but we have over 15 exchanges now actively in train. Progress is accelerating and we anticipate a good handful of new exchange integrations to come online this week.

WATCHING THE DATA

There has been plenty of community debate around parameters for a while. And rightly so – this is central to Cardano’s future success. Now that Shelley is here, the practical application of thousands of hours of research begins. A huge amount of modelling has gone into alighting on our ‘launch settings’. On the ITN we saw that out of about 1,200 registered pools, around 300 were creating blocks. This was based on a k=100. Based on our research, we are predicting that k=150 should sustain the system fairly until we have further data. It is important to test the theory out in practice before we make changes. Then – and only when we have more information – shall we formulate the next steps. We shall wait at least 2-3 epochs after d<1. Until the first couple of epochs are done, we can’t say anything meaningful about the pools that have been registered. Any move we shall make to move parameters, we’ll do carefully and conservatively.

SUPPORT TEAM ON POINT

Our support team continues to work relentlessly in supporting these early weeks. Much of this is assisting people new to Daedalus or Cardano. However, as much as our testnets (and Daedalus Flight program) have smoothed the path, people will find bugs and issues. It is important users log these with our technical support team so we can properly triage them, group them and prioritize fixes. Different operating systems and setups throw all kinds of edge case to the fore. The majority of issues encountered have been around connectivity, sync and wallet restoration. We do follow Twitter and all our social channels closely, but please head straight to our technical support desk to be sure of a swift response and, we hope, a speedy resolution.

WHAT TO EXPECT THIS EPOCH

So here’s a bit of a summary and what’s coming up in the 4 days ahead:

  • With ITN rewards now ‘captured’ on the mainnet, the next step will be for users to reclaim them from there. Stand by for a new Daedalus wallet soon, containing this capability (‘officially’), a little later this week. We’ll have a video too, showing you what to do
  • To earn rewards in the next epoch, you’ll need to delegate by the end of the epoch, so within the next 4 days. So there’s still plenty of time. A video is also incoming to help you here
  • If by any chance you haven’t set up a new Shelley wallet yet, you can do so now. Try this video guide from Carlos to help you out. Don’t rush. You’ve not missed out in the grand scheme of things; take your time and do it right :slight_smile:
  • Pools will start producing blocks and earning rewards following the commencement of the next epoch. Technically, this is achieved by changing the d parameter.
  • We’re keeping all other parameters (including k = the pool optimization number) the same for a while. But after next week, we’ll start to get valuable data we’ll use to inform our future plans. We’ll be decisive if we feel we need to change this, but we’ll take the time we need before we do!
  • It is going to take another few epochs before we can use historic data to help refine the Daedalus pool ranking tables. Until then, we’ll keep them randomized since this is the ‘fairest’ way to display them for now (we wouldn’t want an invasion of pools called variations of AARDV & AAA1!!! if we ranked alphabetically, for example…)
  • We anticipate that exchange integrations will accelerate so expect more to declare themselves #ReadyForShelley this epoch

That’s all for now. Expect more updates over our Twitter throughout these early weeks and another round-up next epoch! Thanks as ever for all your support!

P.S. And Happy Birthday Mr Shelley! Couldn’t be better timing, right?

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Love the attention given to these updates @IOHK_Tim!
Feeling the community’s a real part of the process :pray::butterfly:.

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Wonderfull days but even more exiting things ahead. I hope we can learn even more about the already solid game theory now that we are getting live data in the real environment.

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great update, thanks!

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Thanks for the updates! Keep up the good work boys and girls. We appreciate it very much.

Thanks a lot Tim, much appreciated!

@IOHK_Tim this is technical poetry. Please keep writing.

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I love it,… Happy birthday Shelley!!!

just one remark about pool listing in Daedalus…
Don’t you think ordering those considering the pledge would have been more fair and less confusing for delegators? :thinking:

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It might help if you explain your thinking on this, but this topic isn’t really the place. If you feel strongly enough about it you could start a new topic?

Once again, thank you Tim! Fantastic update.

Learning so much here!

Thank you.

This version made history as the first-ever Shelley-compatible wallet.

But you know it doesn’t work and syncing? Or is it a gift for Shelley’s launch?
So interesting, but the wonderful Medusa works and Medusa was ready before Shelley’s launch.

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From an SPO perspective, with some experience on the testnets, the process was pretty smooth. Our pool was affected by the Daedalus listing bug, and then also by a lack of support for TLS1.3 (which will be added although we possibly should have left that alone:)), however the support from the technical teams was very impressive. The way that people respond to issues is an important indicator, and the team here set a great example. I’ve also been really impressed by the way that other SPO’s have shared knowledge on the Telegram channels, especially given the large number of new faces. The level of positive collaboration in the community really makes Cardano stand out.

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In your millions of models , did you see one set of pools having 11% of the stake?
I still can not get Daedalus Synched. After an uninstall / reinstall roughly 24 hours ago I see 557 pool with no increase in the past 2 hours.
I was #LeftBehind by Daedalus. With (k) = 150 and the prevailing margin of 0% I have little incentive to put in more time. Servers are paid through 21 Jan. I do not expect to see my situation improve.
Perhaps someone smarter than me can push through a CIP for a minimum Margin of something other than zero.
It will be others who bring Cardano to the World.