Kartik Nayak (Duke University)
I will introduce Flexible BFT, a new approach for BFT consensus solution design revolving around two pillars, stronger resilience, and diversity. The first pillar, stronger resilience, involves a new fault model called alive-but-corrupt faults. Alive-but-corrupt replicas may arbitrarily deviate from the protocol in an attempt to break safety of the protocol. However, if they cannot break safety, they will not try to prevent liveness of the protocol. Combining alive-but-corrupt faults into the model, Flexible BFT is resilient to higher corruption levels than possible in a pure Byzantine fault model. The second pillar, diversity, designs consensus solutions whose protocol transcript is used to draw different commit decisions under diverse beliefs. With this separation, the same Flexible BFT solution supports synchronous and asynchronous beliefs, as well as varying resilience threshold combinations of Byzantine and alive-but-corrupt faults.
At a technical level, Flexible BFT achieves the above results using two new ideas. First, it introduces a synchronous BFT protocol in which only the commit step requires to know the network delay bound and thus replicas execute the protocol without any synchrony assumption. Second, it introduces a notion called Flexible Byzantine Quorums by dissecting the roles of different quorums in existing consensus protocols.