Consensus algorithms and total order broadcast

The best-known fault-tolerant consensus algorithms are Viewstamped Replication (VSR) [94, 95], Paxos [96, 97, 98, 99], Raft [22, 100, 101], and Zab [15, 21, 102]. There are quite a few similarities between these algorithms, but they are not the same [103]. In this book we won’t go into full details of the different algorithms: it’s sufficient to be aware of some of the high-level ideas that they have in common, unless you’re implementing a consensus system yourself (which is probably not advisable—it’s hard [98, 104]).

Most of these algorithms actually don’t directly use the formal model described here (proposing and deciding on a single value, while satisfying the agreement, integrity, validity, and termination properties). Instead, they decide on a sequence of values, which makes them total order broadcast algorithms, as discussed previously in this chapter (see “Total Order Broadcast” on page 348).

Remember that total order broadcast requires messages to be delivered exactly once, in the same order, to all nodes. If you think about it, this is equivalent to performing several rounds of consensus: in each round, nodes propose the message that they want to send next, and then decide on the next message to be delivered in the total order [67].

So, total order broadcast is equivalent to repeated rounds of consensus (each consensus decision corresponding to one message delivery):

  • • Due to the agreement property of consensus, all nodes decide to deliver the same messages in the same order.
  • • Due to the integrity property, messages are not duplicated.
  • • Due to the validity property, messages are not corrupted and not fabricated out of thin air.
  • • Due to the termination property, messages are not lost.

Viewstamped Replication, Raft, and Zab implement total order broadcast directly, because that is more efficient than doing repeated rounds of one-value-at-a-time consensus. In the case of Paxos, this optimization is known as Multi-Paxos.

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