On Friday February 25 (EST), the Solana network froze, with many users facing ‘severe issues’ including disruptions to transactions and asset transfers. This led the validators of the Solana network to channel their inner ‘IT Crowd’ and opt for a total restart of the network, in what is quite literally a case of, “have you tried turning it off and again?”
In the first attempt to restart the Solana network, validators failed to find the correct point to reboot, further increasing the delay.
The problem began as a simple slowdown to transaction speeds and quickly spiralled into a full blown network shutdown. The Solana chain stopped producing new ‘blocks’ — which is kind of a problem for something called a blockchain — seeing all transactions halted.
The Solana network’s deep freeze continued through to Saturday as validators prepared themselves for a second restart attempt, this time hoping to restore normal functionality to users of the blockchain.
The network freeze rendered all transactions on the blockchain exactly that: frozen. Users of Solana found all of their Solana-based crypto assets completely unmovable, stuck in place until developers could get the network infrastructure back online.
In total, the Solana network went down for a total of nearly 20 hours and developers from the Solana Foundation (the entity responsible for maintaining Solana) still don’t know why the network went down in the first place.
“The cause of this is still unknown and under active investigation,” the Solana Foundation wrote in a blog post explaining the scenario.
Surprisingly the price of Solana’s native SOL token didn’t slide too much in the wake of the outage, only dropping down 6% since the beginning of the outage. Solana is the ninth largest blockchain network in terms of total value, with US$550 million worth of Total Value Locked (TVL) at the time of writing.
Solana was once touted as an ‘Ethereum killer’ for offering faster and cheaper transactions than the larger, more established blockchain. However, a string of outages and network freezes has seen the reputation of the blockchain take a significant hit.
How many times has Solana gone down?
At the time of writing, the Solana network has suffered some form of major outage a total of ten times. According to user Money_Reach, these are the following dates that the Solana network experienced interruptions and down time.
- September 14, 2021: Down for 17 hours 12 minutes due to a DDoS attack on a decentralised exchange(DEX).
- January 6 – 8, 2022: Outage for multiple days. Presumably DDoS attack.
- January 10, 2022: Assumed to be the same DDoS attack.
- January 22, 2022: 29 hours of downtime, lots of duplicate transactions causing congestion and outages.
- March 28, 2022: RPC nodes forked off when upgrade to v1.9 happened.
- April 30, 2022: seven hour outage due to millions of NFTs being minted.
- May 27, 2022: Block times delayed up to 30 minutes.
- June 1, 2022: “A runtime bug triggered by the durable nonce transactions feature allowed, under a specific set of circumstances, for a failed durable nonce transaction to be processed twice.” Lasted about 5 hours.
- October 1, 2022: A misconfigured node resulted in lost data and needs to restart from a previous point, which apparently crashes the entire chain.
- February 28, 2023: “Solana Mainnet is experiencing a large forking event right now, validators are investigating to determine the network health, root cause and next steps. Transactions may fail right now”. Lasted for about 20 hours.
Technically the network went down once while it was still in beta on December 4, 2020. A problem with the ‘Mainnet Beta cluster’ saw the blockchain cease to produce new blocks.
In stark contrast, blockchain networks like Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH) have never suffered a major outage.
Solana network status: back online (for now)
While the status of the Solana network is technically up and running again, members of the crypto community blasted the cryptocurrency and its development team on Twitter.
NFT artist Crypto Tea delivered a scathing criticism of the Solana freeze to her 80,000 followers, asking how this ‘PoS’ could be counted among the top ten tokens in crypto.
Still, not everyone was levelling criticism at the network. One Twitter user ‘Ilmoi‘ — a developer from NFT trading platform Tensor — claimed that while Solana’s overall approach is “more risky”, it allows for a higher pace of innovation.
Regardless of community opinions, blockchain networks simply shouldn’t be going down for unknown reasons, and the lack of insight into the issue from the Solana Foundation casts a reasonable shadow of doubt over the long-term status of the Solana network.