Proposal 160: Authorities vote for bandwidth offsets in consensus

Roger Dingledine arma at
Mon May 4 23:12:10 UTC 2009

Filename: 160-bandwidth-offset.txt
Title: Authorities vote for bandwidth offsets in consensus
Version: $Revision$
Last-Modified: $Date$
Author: Roger Dingledine
Created: 4-May-2009
Status: Open
Target: 0.2.2.x

1. Motivation

  As part of proposal 141, we moved the bandwidth value for each relay
  into the consensus. Now clients can know how they should load balance
  even before they've fetched the corresponding relay descriptors.

  Putting the bandwidth in the consensus also lets the directory
  authorities choose more accurate numbers to advertise, if we come up
  with a better algorithm for deciding weightings.

  Our original plan was to teach directory authorities how to measure
  bandwidth themselves; then every authority would vote for the bandwidth
  it prefers, and we'd take the median of votes as usual.

  The problem comes when we have 7 authorities, and only a few of them
  have smarter bandwidth allocation algorithms. So long as the majority
  of them are voting for the number in the relay descriptor, the minority
  that have better numbers will be ignored.

2. Options

  One fix would be to demand that every authority also run the
  new bandwidth measurement algorithms: in that case, part of the
  responsibility of being an authority operator is that you need to run
  this code too. But in practice we can't really require all current
  authority operators to do that; and if we want to expand the set of
  authority operators even further, it will become even more impractical.
  Also, bandwidth testing adds load to the network, so we don't really
  want to require that the number of concurrent bandwidth tests match
  the number of authorities we have.

  The better fix is to allow certain authorities to specify that they are
  voting on bandwidth "offsets": how much they think the weight should
  be changed for the relay in question. We should put the offset vote in
  the stanza for the relay in question, so a given authority can choose
  which relays to express preferences for and which not.

3. Security implications

  If only some authorities choose to vote on an offset, then a majority of
  those voting authorities can arbitrarily change the bandwidth weighting
  for the relay. At the extreme, if there's only one offset-voting
  authority, then that authority can dictate which relays clients will
  find attractive.

  This problem isn't entirely new: we already have the worry wrt
  the subset of authorities that vote for BadExit.

  To make it not so bad, we should deploy at least three offset-voting

  Also, authorities that know how to vote for offsets should vote for
  an offset of zero for new nodes, rather than choosing not to vote on
  any offset in those cases.

4. Design

  First, we need a new consensus method to support this new calculation.

  Now v3 votes can have a new weight on the "w" line:
    "Bandwidth_Offset=" INT.
  Once we're using the new consensus method, the new way to compute the
  Bandwidth weight is by taking the old vote (explained in proposal 141:
  median, then choose the lower number in the case of ties), and adding
  or subtracting the median offset (using the offset closer to 0 in the
  case of ties, and with a sum of 0 if the sum is negative).

  Then the actual consensus looks just the same as it did before,
  so clients never have to know that this additional calculation is

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