From TILIO to TILX – Our journey through ITN
When the Cardano testnet began in December 2019 we were running a pool on a Raspberry pi 4 (to be exact we started it with the first release of the Jormungandr in the end of September 2019 but that’s not of much importance). The Jormungandr build for raspberry pi came out a few days later after the builds for Linux and other major platforms. So our pool TILIO only started at epoch 4 and thus lost the frist days advantage. Before the ITN started Jormungandr builds for Raspberry pi were released at the same time as builds for the other platforms but with the release of ITN the Raspberry pi builds were no longer among first grade citizens. For this reason and with the instability of Jormungandr on Rpi we decided to move our operation to a more capable and professional grade setup – a virtual private server (VPS). With VPS we got the option to upgrade and scale easily when necessary and have a solid network connectivity without much latency in respect to other nodes.
With everything in place one thing was missing. It was delegators! We delegated our ada to TILIO and got some more from a few delegators but that was far from enough to get elected for a single block production. We kept TILIO running for about a month but with no delegators in sight and without getting any ROS from our stake we really had a tough time.
At the time we thought that we were unattractive because of our 50 ada fixed and 6% variable fees and that still holds to some extent. Some pools were getting big stakes while many of us struggled. We love Cardano project and the strategy to run multiple cheap pools is still against the decentralization principles we believe in but that does not seem to bother some certain pool operators.
Other pool operators who run more than one pool (one to a few) are against the mentioned practice and in fact it could really be hurtful for the network. The operator running 10 or 30 pools has probably those nodes running in the same datacenter or same geographic location. In case that datacenter stops operating for whatever reason the Cardano network loses 10 or 30 pools in a blink of an eye. All the blocks those pools were elected for are gone for that epoch and the next epoch (that’s how long it takes before you can switch your stake to another pool). Now imagine there are other operating pools in the same datacenter and you can quickly see why it can be a problem.
On the other hand it’s a nice example what can happen to the network if there are no built in restrictions. The lesson from the ITN is that if a system can be abused it will be abused. That’s just in the people’s nature. Trust has to be taken out of the equation. That’s the whole point of decentralization.
Some people think it’s immoral and greedy to run so many pools but to tell the truth many would do the same if they could and while we don’t like it and don’t want to do it, it’s the Cardano settings that need to solve this issue. Luckily, the coming Haskell node on Shelley will have the pledge built in to protect the network from Sybil attacks and should consequently also prevent people from running too many pools.
The lesson from the ITN is that a if a system can be abused it will be abused. That’s just in the people’s nature. Trust has to be taken out of the equation. That’s the whole point of decentralization.
Besides the cheap pools there are also pools that have more visibility in community and all that makes the whole pools ecosystem thing even more competitive – and that’s a good thing.
A race to the bottom
At Tilia I/O we desperately wanted to experience the block production firsthand and at the time we thought that the only way to do it was to compete at a lower margin. So we started a new pool TILX – until the end 😉 – with 0 fixed and 1.25% variable fees. It took us a while but we managed to bootstrap the pool and thanks to the golden tickets (presumably from IOHK or Cardano foundation) we got a chance – and we took it with our both hands.
TILX has one of the greatest performance stats out there! It is on 4th place among pools with stake equal or bigger than 3 millions ada (292 pools!) and has a performance of 98.2%. The performance tells how many blocks a pool produces based on the number of blocks it was elected to produce. In those 98.2% we’ve lost 1 block due to network instability, 1 or 2 blocks because of a Jormungandr bug and few blocks in height battles. Pools with less than 3 Million Ada stake were excluded as it is a bit easier to have a perfect score if you have less blocks to produce but anyway, in a leader board with all the pools included we are still on 26th place – not bad at all for 989 active pools!
Back in black
We brought TILIO, the more expensive pool back to life for two reasons. The first reason is to run it on new infrastructure on which we plan to run also the Haskell node. We want make sure everything is ready for the Shelley mainnet. The other thing is that we hope to get some more ada rewards before the end of the ITN. The 1% pools are really not a sustainable business model. While we are not against running Shelley nodes on a Raspberry pi we do think that the new financial operating system that Cardano aims to be needs a dedicated infrastructure and an operator willing to keep the system running.
We’ve put countless hours into the project via translations on cardano forum and youtube videos, writing our open source jManager, testing Jormungandr, Daedalus, reporting bugs and following all the news to stay up to date. While it’s a privilege to have the opportunity to be part of such a great project that aims to change the world we still need to pay for the infrastructure.
With additional rewards we will have the option to dedicate more time to the project and expand our operation to other areas that could be beneficial for the wider recognition of Cardano blockchain solution. Tilia I/O aims to be more than a pool. To whoever you are delegating, just remember one thing – no matter how small or big your stake is your delegation is your vote The change for a more fair world that Cardano promises is in your own hands.
With TILIO we hope to be back in the black soon but until then we invite you to enjoy some good old rock’n’roll with us.
The featured image was released under Creative Commons licence