Solana's Congestion Woes: Fixed at Last?

By  Pratik April 24, 2024

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Each new day seems like a new problem for Solana. While lauded for its low fees and rapid transactions, the network has encountered its fair share of setbacks, including congestion, halts, and even total blackouts over the years. A recent incident saw the network struggling with congestion for nearly a week, with transaction failure rates reaching as high as 75%.

Solana's Rise: Catalyst for its Fall?

As per the official statement, the Solana Foundation attributed the current network congestion issues to several factors, including high demand for Solana's block space and the delayed implementation of patches designed to address network-related problems.

Solana experienced a rapid surge in popularity over the past few months, with the network hosting a vast array of meme coins and being hailed as a superior alternative to Ethereum. However, this growth was accompanied by increased bot activity, which contributed to the spike in transaction failure rates.

There's no doubt that the Solana network has now become a major hub for various activities such as NFTs, Games and DeFi—leading to a significant increase in demand and usage. Moreover, transaction volumes have skyrocketed to $4 billion in March, a significant increase from the typical daily figures of under $500 million in 2023. But, this surge in popularity has also heightened the network's congestion issues.

A Fix for Solana's Challenges

In response to the persistent network congestion issues on the Solana blockchain, developers have introduced a mainnet beta update, v1.17.31. The official announcement indicated that this update is recommended for general use by Mainnet Beta validators and is expected to "alleviate the ongoing congestion" problems.

Key upgrades in the update include:

  • Version 1.17.31 initiates a series of planned updates to address network congestion.
  • The patch introduces enhancements in data packet handling, node classification based on stake, and default settings.
  • Congestion problems have been linked to a surge in spam transactions and heightened activity due to the meme coin frenzy.
  • Version 1.18, scheduled for release this month, will focus on making transaction scheduling more predictable.

Overall, version 1.17.31 introduces an update that prioritizes transactions from "good" validators—which are defined as those with significant stakes—to a node leader for final confirmation. The primary objective of this prioritization system is to safeguard against potential network slowdowns caused by transactions from lower-quality validators, thereby delivering enhanced service to Solana validators with greater stakes.

Final Thoughts

Amidst the turmoil, Solana's development arm, Anza, has managed to somewhat stabilize the situation. Solana co-founder Anatoly Yakovenko commented on the recent update, mentioning that it usually takes about 30 incremental updates to develop and confirm a major software version.

Currently, data from blockchain explorer Solana Beach indicates that two-thirds or 88% of all validators are now operating on v1.17.31 of the validator client. As these updates unfold, the coming weeks will be pivotal in evaluating whether the implemented fixes can fully restore Solana's efficiency and reliability for good.