Paul Hauner: Client Diversity is Important, after the Merge Eth1 clients will… | EDCON 2021 Interview

As the important participants in the development and ecosystem expansion of Ethereum, both the current PoW Eth1 clients and PoS beacon chain clients play important roles, and the teams behind these clients are the backbone of the development of Ethereum. Client diversity is far more important to the Ethereum network than many of us realize, and the recent incident with the PoS beacon-chain client Prysm was a wake-up call for the Ethereum community. In the meantime, the various beacon-chain client teams are working hard on the Altair upgrade and the test network setup and testing for the Merge that the Ethereum community is eagerly awaiting.

EDCON 2021, the Community Ethereum Development Conference hosted by Unitimes, will be held from June 25 to June 27, 2021! At this time, we have conducted an interview series ahead of EDCON 2021, and we are honored to have Paul Hauner, co-founder and director of Sigma Prime, which is the building of the beacon chain client Lighthouse, with us to talk about Eth2, the Merge and more! Check the content of the interview below:

1) Please introduce yourself and Sigma Prime first.

Paul Hauner: My name is Paul Hauner and I’m a co-founder and Director of Sigma Prime. I primarily work on Lighthouse, an Ethereum Beacon Chain client written in Rust and maintained by Sigma Prime. I’ve been a professional software developer for over ten years and working directly in the Ethereum space for almost 5 years.

Sigma Prime was founded in late 2016 and has two primary functions; providing information security services for blockchain systems and contributing to the advancement of Ethereum through it’s work on the Beacon Chain.

2) As an important client option in Eth2, Lighthouse plays a very important role in driving the development of the PoS Beacon Chain, together with other Eth2 clients. What are the maior achievements Lighthouse has made in the past year and what’s next to focus on?

Paul Hauner: Our greatest achievement would be participating in the mainnet launch and getting up to this point without any major security or stability incidents. We’ve also built out a great team of developers, helped improve the specification and shared countless optimizations and learnings with the other client teams. Our slashing detection implementation was instrumental in discovering and penalizing some protocol violations early this year too, that was very exciting to see.

Now we’re focussing on nailing the Altair hardfork and progressing with the Merge. Alongside that, we’ll be reducing resource consumption, improving validator rewards and refining UX.

3) Since its establishment in 2016, Sigma Prime team has been well versed in Ethereum smart contracts security assessments, consensus algorithm research and other fields, which also laid a good security foundation for building your Lighthouse client. Is your team currently working on anything other than Lighthouse and Eth2 stuff? Does Sigma Prime have any focus or involvement on Layer 2?

Paul Hauner: Yep, Sigma Prime spends equally as much time on information security work as it does Lighthouse. It’s generally different people working on the two tasks, but Sigma Prime is always doing both. We can’t usually discuss our infosec clients or projects due to the sensitive nature of their engagements, but we’ve worked on L2 solutions in the past and look forward to working on more in the future.

4) Beacon Chain has been running smoothly since it was launched in early December last year until April 24, when there were missed block proposals on the Beacon Chain mainnet due to an error in the Prysm client, causing the Prysm Beacon Nodes unable to produce blocks for ~2hours. What do you think of this issue? What can client teams and the entire Ethereum community learn from this incident?

Paul Hauner: Due to the complexity of proof-of-stake blockchains, I’m not surprised that the Beacon Chain hit a bug. It was a shame that the community had centralized around the implementation with the bug, but I don’t blame anyone for it. The Prysm team did a great job of fixing the bug and analysing its causes. Hopefully the community now appreciates client diversity more and hopefully the other clients (Lighthouse included) can work on ensuring they’re user-friendly to attract the masses.

5) The current staking reward in validating the Beacon Chain is attractive. Right now there are altogether 135,219 active validators who have staked 4,326,835 ETH, and the numbers continue to grow. What advice would you give to those who want to get engaged in staking?

Paul Hauner: Make sure you understand the risks of staking and always practice on a testnet first! Join the Discord of whichever client you choose and ask questions when you don’t understand things. Follow the ethstaker reddit and join their Discord too. Don’t rush things, but also don’t be afraid. Being a staker is roughly as difficult as hosting your own Wordpress site, easy for some but challenging for others.

6) One of the most anticipated things for the Ethereum community right now is the merge of Eth1 (execution layer) with Eth2 (PoS consensus layer), so that the Eth1 chain would transfer from PoW mechanism to PoS mechanism. According to Ben Edgington of Teku, the merge could happen by the end of this year or the first quarter of next year at the soonest. What happens to Ethereum and Eth1 clients after the merge? What do you see as the future trends for Eth2 clients?

Paul Hauner: I have no doubt Ethereum will continue on as usual after the merge. It’s a transparent change to the everyday Metamask/Infura user, and a fairly small one to those who run their own nodes.

I imagine that Eth1 clients (execution clients) will continue on as they always have for a while, but they’ll now need to be paired with a Eth2 client (consensus client). I think we’ll initially see execution/consensus clients running as separate services, chatting via an RPC. However I eventually expect them to collapse into a single program. Perhaps they’ll still be maintained by separate groups, but I expect them to eventually present as a single service/program.

7) The ongoing Rayonism project aims to build a multi-client devnet to allow Ethereum developers to better test goals such as merge and sharding, with contributors from both Eth1 and Eth2 client teams working on it. How will each client team use this devnet to test the merge? What do you expect the outcome? Will this be followed by the launch of a public merge testnet?

Paul Hauner: I expect all the clients to run closely-monitored nodes on the merge devnet, which hopefully attracts decent user interaction. Just being involved with this setup will be a great test for the clients. Hopefully at some point we can attach an automated testing system to create lots of interesting transactions, just like “Hive” for Eth1. I expect the first few of these testnets to crash and burn, but after that I think we’ll find stability.

I have no doubt that the devenets at Rayonism will result in a public merge testnet. In fact, the last Rayonism testnet already had members of the public joining in!

8) The “Rollup-centric Ethereum Roadmap” proposed by Vitalik last year is a plan to scale Ethereum through Rollups in the short to medium term, and (after the merge) to further improve the network’s TPS by using the shards to hold the data that rollups need to publish. What do you think of this plan?

Paul Hauner: I think this is a great idea, rollups and other L2 solutions have great capacity and are modular and upgradable. I’m looking forward to starting development here once we’ve made more progress on Altair and The merge.

9) As we know, Ethereum has always been in a dynamic environment in terms of research & development. Ethereum researchers and developers have been trying to find the right way through trial and error, but this has also opened a gate for those who doubt or challenge Ethereum. How do you see the environment and the competition that Ethereum is facing now?

Paul Hauner: I’m not really concerned about the competition. Ethereum is doing really well and I’m very happy with it’s direction. I keep my head down and focus on making Ethereum better, I try not to get distracted by what’s happening on the other side of the fence. There’s plenty of people doing that, my role is to follow the roadmap and make shit happen.

10) Can you give some advice to new Ethereum developers? How can they better learn and participate in the Ethereum projects?

Paul Hauner: Find a couple of projects you like and start picking up small issues to help the developers out. Be courteous, ask for help when you need it but try to be self-sufficient. There’s so much demand for talent in the space, if you just make yourself useful somewhere you’ll land a full-time gig in no time.

The above is the main content of this interview. Thanks Paul Hauner for the sharing. We will realease more interviews in the near future. Stay tuned!