Operation Solo Staker

ether.fi
ether.fi
Published in
5 min readNov 8, 2023

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Written by: ether.fi and Obol

What we are trying to achieve

At ether.fi, we’ve etched “Decentralization is a primary objective” as a guiding principle of our beliefs. While we celebrate the strides made in these domains, amongst many others, we acknowledge a critical missing link — decentralization of the Ethereum consensus layer through a distributed validator set. The essence of decentralization is diluted if the platforms we build are anchored to centralized structures. Currently, the narrative of Ethereum’s decentralization is somewhat marred by the reality: a mere ~4,000 nodes uphold the network, which may seem like a substantial number, however this is misguided when we consider that a portion is housed in the hands of a small number of data centres.

Enter Operation Solo Staker

Our objectives led us directly to the inception of Operation Solo Staker, which we believe to mark a significant stride towards addressing this dichotomy. The program came to life in May 2023, shortly after The Merge, when Ethereum became proof of stake.

Things began with a group of 12 solo stakers who shared our same passion and beliefs. For many, this is an opportunity otherwise stifled by financial constraints. These solo stakers were provided the opportunity to validate Ethereum blocks from their homes. Thanks to partners such as Obol paving the way with Distributed Validator Technology (DVT) we were able to eliminate the upfront collateral costs (typically a minimum of 8 ETH, or appox. $13.6k at the time of writing). This was a natural fit with ether.fi’s non-custodial technology and ambitions to continue to push the innovative frontier. Further to this point, other partners such as Dappnode provided hardware solutions that made it possible to remove advanced technical limitations by providing out of the box hardware and software packages.

Crazy right? Ethereans running physical machines in their home, not in centralized data centers to help secure the Ethereum network. True decentralization advocates for inclusivity, removing high barriers to entry, and this initiative and technological triumphs resonated with that ethos.

In addition to the removal of financial constraints and technical know-how, this ambitious journey was aimed at removing geographical boundaries, with solo stakers spread across 12 different nations and 5 continents — Hong Kong, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Canada, Australia, Spain, Belgium, France, Greece, Thailand, England, and the Netherlands. Although initially small, the program carries a vision of scaling to encompass hundreds, eventually thousands, of individuals globally.

Watch how it kicked off: Operation Solo Staker

How far we have come

Now that we are 5 months in, we reflect on some of the achievements to date:

While the scale is small, these are no small feats. By paving the way with a passionate group of trailblazers, we are setting the foundation for a solution that can be scaled out to the masses.

Proof of Solo Staker from our early brave few

We have continued our mission to bring stakers online across the globe. We have now onboarded 40+ solo stakers from 35+ countries. Including a validator in Kenya 🇰🇪

Map of Solo Stakers

It is our understanding that many projects are taking on this challenge with us. We applaud them for these efforts as we can’t do this alone. It is important to understand however that although many are working hard on achieving this mission, we as a community collectively continue to put simplicity over decentralization by running nodes from centralized servers. I always advocate for simplicity whenever it is possible, however this is one time to choose the path of most resistance. Having validators in different geographical locations (even if this is just in the sense of data centers) is important, but what will transcend the network is having home operators step up and play a meaningful part in validating the network to ensure that we are truly censorship resistant.

What lies ahead

We have come a long way, but are still laser focused on the objective at hand, decentralizing Ethereum. Scaling this is not an easy feat. We still need to continue to iterate on the technology to be able to get it to a point where we have latency and reliability that rivals our data center counterparts. We understand that achieving this is a task not suited for the faint of heart, however where would decentralization be if we didn’t try.

That being said, our roadmap includes the following:

  • Permissionless DVT onboarding and key sharding
    Having this will allow the ether.fi protocol to remove any intermediary work involved relating to spinning up validators. It will allow solo stakers to seamlessly post bids and be matched with ETH once they have been vetted.
  • 2 ETH bond for a further DVT infused permissionless experience
    Building off the back of the success of Operation Solo staker, this will allow an alternative option for solo stakers to onboard without the need for any extensive background checks in relation to their prior staking track record. As previously discussed, having DVT within the stack allows for reduced bond requirements.
  • Raspberry Pi solutions allowing a light node to attest to the network for under $100
    This topic in itself requires a deeper dive into the mechanics of the staking stack, however the end state is focused on allowing users to attest to the Ethereum network with hardware costing under $100.
  • Advanced metric tracking and Solo Staker onboarding.

How to get involved

Thanks to our frens and partners.

We can’t extend enough gratitude for our frens and partners throughout this process. This list includes Obol, dappnode, Avado, Eridian and the DVstaker team, ETHstaker, Homenode, and countless others.

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ether.fi
ether.fi

Decentralized non-custodial liquid staking protocol