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An introduction to Basin: The first data L2 on Filecoin

Discover the basics about how Basin works with Filecoin's IPC subnet scaling framework for fast and scalable decentralized object storage

Background

Basin is a decentralized data layer, enabled by subnets that are purpose-built for onchain data storage. It is built on top of the Filecoin Virtual Machine (FVM) and provides a horizontally scalable, verifiable, and cost-effective data availability layer for onchain applications, networks (e.g., DePINs), and services. The first data Layer 2 (L2). A handful of specialized "machines" for object storage and data anchoring power the Basin's featured data services.

Basin is currently an alpha testnet, and the network is subject to fortnightly changes with rolling updates. Please be aware that the network may be reset at any time, and data may be deleted every two weeks. A more stable testnet will be released in the future that won't have this limitation.

Architecture

Basin is developed using the Filecoin InterPlanetary Consensus (IPC) framework. IPC is a blockchain scaling solution and architectural design that is an alternative to existing L2 scaling solutions and is based on the design principles of on-demand horizontal scaling.

IPC & subnets

IPC allows for permissionless creation of new blockchain subsystems called subnets. Subnets are organized hierarchically, enabling seamless internal communication and eliminating the need for cross-chain bridges. Each subnet can employ its specific consensus algorithm and inherit security from parent subnets, and this structure facilitates hosting or sharding applications based on performance or cost needs.

Subnet operators must run a full validator node for both the parent and the child subnet. The parent subnet is responsible for the security of the child subnet, and the child subnet is responsible for its own consensus and state transitions.

Basin is currently a single child subnet rooted in its parent Filecoin Calibration testnet. Future versions of the Basin will align more closely with IPC's permissionless subnet spawning and configurable consensus mechanisms.

CometBFT & state replication

CometBFT (formerly known as Tendermint) helps the Basin achieve state machine replication across all nodes in the network. Its consensus algorithm is based on a variant of Practical Byzantine Fault Tolerance (PBFT) and relies on a round-robin proposer selection mechanism while incorporating elements that improve PBFT's performance and communication overhead. It is a fast, battle-tested, and well-designed consensus engine.

CometBFT is a standalone process that issues commands to Fendermint and exposes a public JSON RPC API, much like the Ethereum JSON RPC API.

ABCI & Fendermint

Basin's blockchain functionality is exposed as a unified ABCI++ application controlled by CometBFT.

Application Blockchain Interfaces (ABCI) programs interface between CometBFT and the actual state machine being replicated. ABCIs implement deterministic state machines to be securely replicated by the CometBFT consensus engine. The "++" in ABCI++ refers to additional functionality that CometBFT enables compared to the original ABCI, which helps improve the overall scalability and feature surface area.

Fendermint is a specialized ABCI++ interface to the Filecoin Virtual Machines (FVM) and Ethereum-compatible FEVM. It exposes FEVM/FVM-specific functionality within subnets, allowing the Basin subnets to behave like Filecoin but with custom parameters to greatly improve throughput and features. Fendermint is also a standalone process that includes:

  • Interpreters: Responsible for handling commands from CometBFT.

  • Snapshots: CAR files that can be offered to peers for quick chain sync.

  • IPLD resolver: A libp2p-based service that is used to resolve CIDs from IPFS as well as the network of validator peers. IPLD powers the network's ability to store and retrieve data in a content-addressable way.

Consensus

Checkpoints that reference subnet state are pushed to the parent subnet in a bottom-up fashion, which is essential for the parent to validate the state transitions of the child. Basin passes checkpointed headers to its parent and uses the CometBFT ledger to gather relevant signatures and data. Additionally, the Basin can contact the IPLD resolver & store to read and write data to its internal state so that it is IPLD addressable. There is also a top-down sync action; subnets must have a view of their parent's finality, which includes the latest block hash, power table information, and (in the future) cross-subnet message passing.

In general, data is represented as CIDs onchain (within a Basin machine's state), and the actual data is stored offchain in a node's local (networked) block store. Basin uses the concept of a detached payload asynchronous sync mechanism, which is a transaction that includes a CID reference to an object but does not include the object data itself. When a detached payload is added to the chain, validators are required to download the object data from the network and verify that it matches the CID reference. This ensures that all validators have a copy of the object data and can verify the integrity of the object store state.

The core IPC process for top-down parent finality is a vote-based mechanism. Once a validator has the data locally (via synchronization with its peers), the validator issues a vote to the other validators to confirm data availability (this is similar to Ethereum's concept of a data availability committee). During this time, normal block production continues. The leader of a given consensus round checks the vote tally for quorum based on the power table (stake) within the subnet. If a quorum is reached, the leader injects a synthetic transaction into the proposal, which is validated by the other validators based on their view of the vote tally, and then finally during the execution of this transaction, the object is marked as resolved.

Machines (smart contracts)

Basin's core functionality is enabled with a series of data machines, which are synonymous with smart contracts or "actors" that run on the FVM and are used to manage, query, and update the state of the subnet. The FVM is responsible for executing the logic of the Basin protocol, including processing transactions, updating account balances, and managing the state of the network. There are three primary machines in the Basin:

  • Machine manager

  • Object store machines

  • Accumulator machines

The FVM executes messages in WASM over machine state and uses the Wasmtime runtime, and this includes a WASM implementation of the EVM bytecode interpreter. Under the hood, any "built-in" and "custom" (unique / subnet-specific) smart contracts are compiled to CAR files and provided to the subnet during genesis.

Machine manager

Users can deploy new machines on-demand using the machine manager. This interface is responsible for creating new object stores or accumulators and also managing the state of the network. Each machine is associated with a unique address, which is used to identify the machine on the network.

Object store machine

These are key-value stores that allow you to push and retrieve data in a familiar S3-like fashion. Object stores support byte-range requests and advanced queries based on a key's prefix, delimiter, offset, and limit. The object store machine provides a set of methods for interacting with the store, including put, get, and delete, which allows users to store and retrieve data from the store.

Internally, the state of an object store is represented as an IPLD-based HAMT (hash array mapped trie). The IPLD data model provides a flexible and extensible way to represent complex data structures.

Accumulator machine

An accumulator is a Merkle Mountain Range (MMR)-based verifiable anchoring system for state updates. You can push values up to 500KiB and retrieve them by index. Accumulators support querying for state root, MMR peaks, and total leaf count. As you push new data to the accumulator, you can retrieve the underlying data at a leaf or other relevant data structure components like peaks and total count. Similar to the object store machine, the accumulator stores a CID summary in its on-chain state.

Accounts

Accounts (ECDSA, secp256k1) are used to send data-carrying transactions as you would on any blockchain system. Since the Basin is built on top of Filecoin's FVM, the addresses follow a slightly different convention than a purely EVM-based account system. Here's a quick primer:

  • Addresses are prefixed with a network identifier: t for Filecoin testnet, or f for Filecoin mainnet, and there are five different address types denoted by the second character in the address string: t0/f0 to t4/f4.

  • If you're coming from the EVM world, you'll mostly see two types in the Basin:

    • t2/f2: Any FVM-native contract that gets deployed, such as the object store and accumulator machines.

    • t4/f4: A namespaced contract address, and t410/f410 is a specialized namespace for Ethereum-compatible addresses (wallets and smart contracts) on the FVM.

  • Namely, each t410.../f410... address is equivalent to a 0x address; the hex address is encoded in the FVM address string.

Once your EVM-style account is registered on a subnet, the 0x and its corresponding t410.../f410... addresses can be used interchangeably on Filecoin and all Basin subnets.

Access control

Currently, there are two types of write-access controls: only-owner or public access. For example, you can create an object store that you, and only you can write to—gated by signatures from your private key. Or, you can have "allow all" access where anyone can write data.

This is being further refined, and there will be more robust access control mechanisms soon.

Broadcast modes

For context, there are three ways in which transactions can be sent/broadcasted to the network: commit, sync, and async. Here's a quick overview of each:

  • commit: Wait until the transaction is delivered and final (default behavior).

  • sync: Wait only for the result of a local transaction pre-check, but don’t wait for it to be delivered to all validators (i.e., added risk the transaction may fail during delivery).

  • async: Does not wait at all. You will not see errors in your terminal (i.e., added risk the transaction may fail during delivery).

Limits

There are a few limitations and behaviors of which to be aware when using the Basin network:

  • The maximum size for a single object is 1 GiB.

  • Objects less than or equal to 1024 bytes are "on-chain" objects stored fully onchain.

  • Objects greater than 1024 bytes are "detached" objects that get stored offchain and resolved as a CID.

  • The current throughput of the Basin is hundreds of transactions per second (TPS) (note: this is a rough estimate and may vary based on network conditions. The node design is still under heavy development, and optimizations are being made).

Start building today!

Basin comes with both a CLI and Rust SDK that exposes the core network interfaces. You can find detailed instructions for each of these in their respective subdirectories:

Since the Basin is built on top of Filecoin, you must have FIL in your account to interact with the network. Basin is currently only live on the Filecoin Calibration network, so you can get tFIL via the faucet here. For reference, Filecoin chain information can be found here.

For example, you can use the CLI with your Ethereum-style account (and note the adm usage below is simply an internal codename for Basin):

> export PRIVATE_KEY=abcd1234... # your wallet private key
> adm account deposit 0.1
> adm objectstore create # create an object store
> export CONTRACT_ADDRESS=t2abc123... # object store contract address via above
> adm objectstore add \
--address $CONTRACT_ADDRESS \
--key "my/object" \
./hello.json
# {
#   "status": "committed",
#   "hash": "48BD1767DC5739C1EABB25FBC8E6718E3E8DE95FB7EE74D13895F2E9D9F5E00A",
#   "height": "358569",
#   "gas_used": 4784697,
#   "data": "bafy2bzacebnjpu5e3ushfu2weqvmtvk7vnndg4fkqsbr4zub52cyekcix7l4o"
# }

> adm objectstore get \
--address $CONTRACT_ADDRESS \
"my/object" \
# {"hello":"world"}

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#filecoin#object storage#s3#ipc#subnet#data availability
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