Byzantine Fault Tolerance, from Theory to Reality

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Abstract

Since its introduction nearly 20 years ago, the Byzantine Generals Problem has been the subject of many papers having the scrutiny of the fault tolerance community. Numerous Byzantine tolerant algorithms and architectures have been proposed. However, this problem is not yet sufficiently understood by those who design, build, and maintain systems with high dependability requirements. Today, there are still many misconceptions relating to Byzantine failure, what makes a system vulnerable, and indeed the very nature and reality of Byzantine faults. This paper revisits the Byzantine problem from a practitioner’s perspective. It has the intention to provide the reader with a working appreciation of the Byzantine failure from a practical as well as a theoretical perspective. A discussion of typical failure properties and the difficulties in preventing the associated failure propagation is presented. These are illustrated with real Byzantine failure observations. Finally, various architectural solutions to the Byzantine problem are presented.