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Node Bootstrap

Node Bootstrap is the process where a node securely downloads linear chain blocks to recreate the latest state of the chain locally.

Bootstrap must guarantee that the local state of a node is in sync with the state of other valid nodes. Once bootstrap is completed, a node has the latest state of the chain and can verify new incoming transactions and reach consensus with other nodes, collectively moving forward the chains.

Bootstrapping a node is a multi-step process which requires downloading the chains required by the Primary Network (that is, the C-Chain, P-Chain, and X-Chain), as well as the chains required by any additional Subnets that the node explicitly tracks.

This document covers the high-level technical details of how bootstrapping works. This document glosses over some specifics, but the AvalancheGo codebase is open-source and is available for curious-minded readers to learn more.

Validators and Where to Find Them​

Bootstrapping is all about downloading all previously accepted containers securely so a node can have the latest correct state of the chain. A node can't arbitrarily trust any source - a malicious actor could provide malicious blocks, corrupting the bootstrapping node's local state, and making it impossible for the node to correctly validate the network and reach consensus with other correct nodes.

What's the most reliable source of information in the Avalanche ecosystem? It's a large enough majority of validators. Therefore, the first step of bootstrapping is finding a sufficient amount of validators to download containers from.

The P-Chain is responsible for all platform-level operations, including staking events that modify a Subnet's validator set. Whenever any chain (aside from the P-Chain itself) bootstraps, it requests an up-to-date validator set for that Subnet (Primary Network is a Subnet too). Once the Subnet's current validator set is known, the node can securely download containers from these validators to bootstrap the chain.

There is a caveat here: the validator set must be up-to-date. If a bootstrapping node's validator set is stale, the node may incorrectly believe that some nodes are still validators when their validation period has already expired. A node might unknowingly end up requesting blocks from non-validators which respond with malicious blocks that aren't safe to download.

For this reason, every Avalanche node must fully bootstrap the P-chain first before moving on to the other Primary Network chains and other Subnets to guarantee that their validator sets are up-to-date.

What about the P-chain? The P-chain can't ever have an up-to-date validator set before completing its bootstrap. To solve this chicken-and-egg situation the Avalanche Foundation maintains a trusted default set of validators called beacons (but users are free to configure their own). Beacon Node-IDs and IP addresses are listed in the AvalancheGo codebase. Every node has the beacon list available from the start and can reach out to them as soon as it starts.

Validators are the only sources of truth for a blockchain. Validator availability is so key to the bootstrapping process that bootstrapping is blocked until the node establishes a sufficient amount of secure connections to validators. If the node fails to reach a sufficient amount within a given period of time, it shuts down as no operation can be carried out safely.

Bootstrapping the Blockchain​

Once a node is able to discover and connect to validator and beacon nodes, it's able to start bootstrapping the blockchain by downloading the individual containers.

One common misconception is that Avalanche blockchains are bootstrapped by retrieving containers starting at genesis and working up to the currently accepted frontier.

Instead, containers are downloaded from the accepted frontier downwards to genesis, and then their corresponding state transitions are executed upwards from genesis to the accepted frontier. The accepted frontier is the last accepted block for linear chains.

Why can't nodes simply download blocks in chronological order, starting from genesis upwards? The reason is efficiency: if nodes downloaded containers upwards they would only get a safety guarantee by polling a majority of validators for every single container. That's a lot of network traffic for a single container, and a node would still need to do that for each container in the chain.

Instead, if a node starts by securely retrieving the accepted frontier from a majority of honest nodes and then recursively fetches the parent containers from the accepted frontier down to genesis, it can cheaply check that containers are correct just by verifying their IDs. Each Avalanche container has the IDs of its parents (one block parent for linear chains) and an ID's integrity can be guaranteed cryptographically.

Let's dive deeper into the two bootstrap phases - frontier retrieval and container execution.

Frontier Retrieval​

The current frontier is retrieved by requesting them from validator or beacon nodes. Avalanche bootstrap is designed to be robust - it must be able to make progress even in the presence of slow validators or network failures. This process needs to be fault-tolerant to these types of failures, since bootstrapping may take quite some time to complete and network connections can be unreliable.

Bootstrap starts when a node has connected to a sufficient majority of validator stake. A node is able to start bootstrapping when it has connected to at least 75%75\% of total validator stake.

Seeders are the first set of peers that a node reaches out to when trying to figure out the current frontier. A subset of seeders is randomly sampled from the validator set. Seeders might be slow and provide a stale frontier, be malicious and return malicious container IDs, but they always provide an initial set of candidate frontiers to work with.

Once a node has received the candidate frontiers form its seeders, it polls every network validator to vet the candidates frontiers. It sends the list of candidate frontiers it received from the seeders to each validator, asking whether or not they know about these frontiers. Each validator responds returning the subset of known candidates, regardless of how up-to-date or stale the containers are. Each validator returns containers irrespective of their age so that bootstrap works even in the presence of a stale frontier.

Frontier retrieval is completed when at least one of the candidate frontiers is supported by at least 50%50\% of total validator stake. Multiple candidate frontiers may be supported by a majority of stake, after which point the next phase, container fetching starts.

At any point in these steps a network issue may occur, preventing a node from retrieving or validating frontiers. If this occurs, bootstrap restarts by sampling a new set of seeders and repeating the bootstrapping process, optimistically assuming that the network issue will go away.

Containers Execution​

Once a node has at least one valid frontiers, it starts downloading parent containers for each frontier. If it's the first time the node is running, it won't know about any containers and will try fetching all parent containers recursively from the accepted frontier down to genesis (unless state sync is enabled). If bootstrap had already run previously, some containers are already available locally and the node will stop as soon as it finds a known one.

A node first just fetches and parses containers. Once the chain is complete, the node executes them in chronological order starting from the earliest downloaded container to the accepted frontier. This allows the node to rebuild the full chain state and to eventually be in sync with the rest of the network.

When Does Bootstrapping Finish?​

You've seen how bootstrap works for a single chain. However, a node must bootstrap the chains in the Primary Network as well as the chains in each Subnet it tracks. This begs the questions - when are these chains bootstrapped? When is a node done bootstrapping?

The P-chain is always the first to bootstrap before any other chain. Once the P-Chain has finished, all other chains start bootstrapping in parallel, connecting to their own validators independently of one another.

A node completes bootstrapping a Subnet once all of its corresponding chains have completed bootstrapping. Because the Primary Network is a special case of Subnet that includes the entire network, this applies to it as well as any other manually tracked Subnets.

Note that Subnets bootstrap is independently of one another - so even if one Subnet has bootstrapped and is validating new transactions and adding new containers, other Subnets may still be bootstrapping in parallel.

Within a single Subnet however, a Subnet isn't done bootstrapping until the last chain completes bootstrapping. It's possible for a single chain to effectively stall a node from finishing the bootstrap for a single Subnet, if it has a sufficiently long history or each operation is complex and time consuming. Even worse, other Subnet validators are continuously accepting new transactions and adding new containers on top of the previously known frontier, so a node that's slow to bootstrap can continuously fall behind the rest of the network.

Nodes mitigate this by restarting bootstrap for any chains which is blocked waiting for the remaining Subnet chains to finish bootstrapping. These chains repeat the frontier retrieval and container downloading phases to stay up-to-date with the Subnet's ever moving current frontier until the slowest chain has completed bootstrapping.

Once this is complete, a node is finally ready to validate the network.

State Sync​

The full node bootstrap process is long, and gets longer and longer over time as more and more containers are accepted. Nodes need to bootstrap a chain by reconstructing the full chain state locally - but downloading and executing each container isn't the only way to do this.

Starting from AvalancheGo version 1.7.11, nodes can use state sync to drastically cut down bootstrapping time on the C-Chain. Instead of executing each block, state sync uses cryptographic techniques to download and verify just the state associated with the current frontier. State synced nodes can't serve every C-chain block ever historically accepted, but they can safely retrieve the full C-chain state needed to validate in a much shorter time. State sync will fetch the previous 256 blocks prior to support the previous block hash operation code.

State sync is currently only available for the C-chain. The P-chain and X-chain currently bootstrap by downloading all blocks. Note that irrespective of the bootstrap method used (including state sync), each chain is still blocked on all other chains in its Subnet completing their bootstrap before continuing into normal operation.


There are no configs to state sync an archival node. If you need all the historical state then you must not use state sync and setup the config of the node for an archival node.

Conclusions and FAQ​

If you got this far, you've hopefully gotten a better idea of what's going on when your node bootstraps. Here's a few frequently asked questions about bootstrapping.

How Can I Get the ETA for Node Bootstrap?​

Logs provide information about both container downloading and their execution for each chain. Here is an example

[02-16|17:31:42.950] INFO <P Chain> bootstrap/bootstrapper.go:494 fetching blocks {"numFetchedBlocks": 5000, "numTotalBlocks": 101357, "eta": "2m52s"}
[02-16|17:31:58.110] INFO <P Chain> bootstrap/bootstrapper.go:494 fetching blocks {"numFetchedBlocks": 10000, "numTotalBlocks": 101357, "eta": "3m40s"}
[02-16|17:32:04.554] INFO <P Chain> bootstrap/bootstrapper.go:494 fetching blocks {"numFetchedBlocks": 15000, "numTotalBlocks": 101357, "eta": "2m56s"}
[02-16|17:36:52.404] INFO <P Chain> queue/jobs.go:203 executing operations {"numExecuted": 17881, "numToExecute": 101357, "eta": "2m20s"}
[02-16|17:37:22.467] INFO <P Chain> queue/jobs.go:203 executing operations {"numExecuted": 35009, "numToExecute": 101357, "eta": "1m54s"}
[02-16|17:37:52.468] INFO <P Chain> queue/jobs.go:203 executing operations {"numExecuted": 52713, "numToExecute": 101357, "eta": "1m23s"}

Similar logs are emitted for X and C chains and any chain in explicitly tracked Subnets.

Why Chain Bootstrap ETA Keeps On Changing?​

As you saw in the bootstrap completion section, a Subnet like the Primary Network completes once all of its chains finish bootstrapping. Some Subnet chains may have to wait for the slowest to finish. They'll restart bootstrapping in the meantime, to make sure they won't fall back too much with respect to the network accepted frontier.

What Order Do The Chains Bootstrap?​

The 3 chains will bootstrap in the following order: P-chain, X-chain, C-chain.

Why Are AvalancheGo APIs Disabled During Bootstrapping?​

AvalancheGo APIs are explicitly disabled during bootstrapping. The reason is that if the node has not fully rebuilt its Subnets state, it can't provide accurate information. AvalancheGo APIs are activated once bootstrap completes and node transition into its normal operating mode, accepting and validating transactions.

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