What Replicated Security Means for the Cosmos Hub Community

A New Era in the Cosmos

With the launch of the Cosmos Hub's Lambda upgrade, Replicated Security has arrived in the Cosmos. This is a major milestone that creates exciting new possibilities for the Interchain ecosystem. It's also the start of a new era that calls the Cosmos Hub community to be more engaged than ever.

Replicated Security and New Cosmos Chains

In our post detailing how Chainflow and other Cosmos infrastructure teams prepared for the launch of Replicated Security, we broke down what makes it such an important addition to the Cosmos:

Even if two blockchains are [compatible with the Cosmos's Interblockchain Communication protocol], they remain separate chains with distinct back ends. They may be natively interoperable with other networks in the Cosmos, but they're still responsible for maintaining their own infrastructure.
This presents a number of challenges for new chains, including the particularly vexing problem of spinning up their own healthy, well-functioning validator sets. The Cosmos Hub, to take an example, runs on a set of 175 active validators, while Regen Network, to take another, has its own, distinct set of 75 active validators. Each network within the Cosmos is responsible for maintaining its own respective validator set. In an evironment where validator operators are short on resources and different chains are competing for their attention, this can be a pretty tall order.
[Replicated Security] solves this problem in a clever way, by simply allowing new chains to run using the validator set of an existing chain. In the official [Replicated Security] vocabulary, the new network becomes a "consumer chain," because it's "consuming" (or, "leasing") security from the existing network, which in turn becomes a "provider chain" because it's "providing" security to the new network.

In other words: Replicated Security enables new Cosmos app chains to launch without the arduous work of assembling their own validator sets. That's huge. We've helped to launch more than a dozen Proof-of-Stake blockchains over the years, and we can confirm from experience just how hard it is for new networks to recruit and manage healthy ecosystems of validators.

Lowering this barrier to entry will allow new Cosmos chains to focus less on infrastructure and more on product. That's exciting, but not without compromises.

New Responsibilities for the Cosmos Hub Community

Replicated Security represents a kind of bargain for new chains: They can avoid the hassle of finding their own validators, but only at the cost of relying on the approval, security, and performance of the Cosmos Hub.

For a network to launch as a Replicated Security consumer chain, it needs to pass two checks:

  1. First, it must be approved by ATOM holders. The Cosmos Hub uses a token-gated governance process, open to everyone who holds ATOMs, the Hub's native token. It's expected that any new network looking to launch as a consumer chain will submit a detailed governance proposal for review and approval by the Hub community.
  2. Second, it must be approved by the Cosmos Hub's active validators. If ATOM holders vote to approve the chain, then responsibility moves on to the Hub's validator set, which is currently fixed at 175 validators. By the rules of Replicated Security, 2/3 of these validators must agree to start a running the new chain before it can go live. Validators typically discuss topics like this on the Cosmos Hub governance forum and Discord.

This two-tiered approval process creates important new responsibilities for consumer chains, ATOM holders, and Cosmos Hub validators.

For Consumer Chains

Aspiring consumer chains have a burden of proof: They need to demonstrate that they'll be active, engaged, and value-aligned additions to the Cosmos ecosystem. On a technical level, they'll be responsible for "[participating] in a Cosmos Hub Replicated Security testnet, [conducting] their own testnets, and [undergoing] an audit by reputable auditors." On a social level, they'll need to engage with ATOM holders and Cosmos Hub validators to lay out a vision for the chain, and answer any questions throughout the governance proposal period.

For ATOM Holders

Since the Cosmos Hub governance process serves as the first check on new consumer chains, ATOM holders are now responsible for editing, in a sense, the entire consumer chain ecosystem. As voters, holders will directly decide which aspiring consumer chains get approved for consideration by Cosmos Hub validators, and which get rejected outright. It's critical for ATOM holders to be active in the governance process.

Beyond governance, ATOM holders have an even more fundamental responsibility in Replicated Security: securing and decentralizing the consumer chain ecosystem. You see, the "security" in "Replicated Security" comes from the Cosmos Hub validator set, and the security for that set comes from the ATOMs that holders stake with different Cosmos Hub validators.

Staking on the Cosmos Hub used to affected only the Hub itself; now, with Replicated security, it will affect consumer chains as well. ATOM holders are responsible for ensuring that the Cosmos Hub remains secure through a healthy staking ecosystem, and becomes increasingly decentralized by shifting stake away from larger validators and toward smaller, high-performing ones.

For Cosmos Hub Validators

With Replicated Security, Cosmos Hub validators are more important than ever to the broader Cosmos ecosystem. The work we do to provide stable, secure, and high-performing infrastructure will now extend to any number of upcoming consumer chains. But, our responsibilities don't stop with infrastructure. Just like ATOM holders, validators participate in the Hub's governance process, and we'll be responsible for being active, engaged, and helpful.

Unlike ATOM holders, validators are also afforded the final check on choosing to launch new consumer chains. That's a big responsibility, and one that calls validator operators like Chainflow to be highly discerning and independent in evaluating whether new networks are the right fit to join the Cosmos Hub as consumer chains.

Owning Our Responsibilities

Replicated Security introduces important new responsibilities for the Cosmos Hub. Across the board, Hub community members will need to be attentive, inquisitive, and engaged when evaluating new chains.

For our part, we're excited to own these new responsibilities. Chainflow has grown up alongside the Cosmos Hub. From participating in the early validator working groups in 2017 to helping to launch the mainnet in 2019, we've been here for every major milestone. We remain committed to supporting the Hub in this new era, and look forward to the innovation that it promises to unlock.

The responsibilities introduced in this new chapter underscore, more than anything, the importance of representing our values in our work. While we've always strived to reflect our core values of inclusivity, equitability, fairness, and decentralization in our voting on the Hub, we're taking Replicated Security as a call to be even more vocal. When a new consumer chain doesn't square with our principles, you'll hear from us. We hope that other Hub validator teams will be vocal and value-oriented as well.

As always, you can find us on the Cosmos Hub governance forum, and follow our voting at our Governance page, and get in touch with us on Twitter.

Do you share our values of inclusivity, equitability, and fairness in crypto? Consider supporting our work on the Cosmos Hub by delegating to us. We sincerely appreciate each delegation, no matter how big or how small.