Deep Dive Research

M3TA Deep Dive: Avalanche Network Faces Downtime, Highlighting Growing Pains of Blockchains
Avalanche Network had downtime on March 26, the second time in a week. It's now part of the Frequent Downtime Club with Solana and Polygon. Learn what happened and who was affected.


Long Nguyen


29 Mar 2023


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Avalanche Network experienced a downtime incident on March 26, with block production halted for an hour. This is the second time in a row validators on the C-Chain have been forced to deal with the inconvenience within a week. As past events have demonstrated, Avalanche somehow happened to join the Frequent Downtime Club with Diamond members being Solana and Polygon blockchains. Dive in to find out what happened, how much it hurt validators, and what could have been at fault.



What Happened?

The Avalanche C-Chain, also known as the Contract Chain, is a component of the Avalanche network that provides the infrastructure and tools necessary for developers to create and deploy decentralized applications (dApps) and smart contracts on the Avalanche network. 

A tweet from Wu Blockchain revealed that the Avalanche C-Chain had stopped producing blocks for an hour on March 26 (around 10:30 AM UTC), sparking concerns among users and investors alike. While the exact cause of the halt has yet to be confirmed, some speculate that it was a bug or feature in the network's system.


The official Twitter account of Avalanche CEO and Avalanche itself did not publicly respond to the problem right away. However, a personal @kasperbaobei commented below Wu Blockchain's announcement that the incident had affected some validators and a patch version v1.9.16 was released to address the issue.

This prompt reaction was resounded with Avalanche's development activity reaching its peak on March 26 in the past week, suggesting that developers are actively addressing the network's issues.

Figure 1. AVAX's Development Activity (in Purple) (Source: Santiment)

6 hours later, Avalanche CEO Kevin Sekniqi then addressed the issue, admitting it was a bug in v1.9.12, an older software version, yet claiming that “No network is safe from nation-level attacks” while assuring users that the network was back online and fully operational.

He also shed some light on the drawbacks Ethereum network might encounter in the future when obliged to compare Ethereum and Avalanche. Accordingly, Geth, a widely adopted Ethereum client, could halt the Ethereum PoS network if a bug prevents 1/3 of nodes from making progress, while Avalanche currently updates its functionality much faster than Ethereum.


The final block output halt confirmed was 1 hour and 20 minutes.




The Damages Done

The South Korea-based UpBit exchange temporarily suspended AVAX transactions due to the network disruption. 

Pausing block production stops the network, as transactions can't be recorded or verified. While this pause helps fix system bugs, it raises concerns about immutability (the inability to change) and decentralization. Despite the pauses, Avalanche continued operating, and AVAX's price remained unaffected.

Figure 2. AVAX/USD price (Source: Trading View)

The confidence of investors did not seem to waver. In fact, the slightly raised weighted sentiment can even be a restoration of investor confidence to some extent on the same day.

Figure 3. AVAX's Weighted Sentiment (in Yellow) (Source: Santiment)



The Frequent Downtime Club: Solana and Polygon

This incident is not the first of its kind in the blockchain market, as similar downtime events have occurred on other networks such as Solana and Polygon.

Figure 4. Solana’s Outage Time (Source: Solana Uptime)

In the case of Solana, the network experienced a crash following a fork incident, leaving users and validators scrambling to fix the issue on February 25. 

Solana has experienced several network disruptions, with 11 significant and 3 minor incidents in 2022. These outages varied in duration, lasting from 1 hour and 15 minutes to 17 hours and 7 minutes. The most recent disruption was the longest in more than a year. According to Solana's uptime records, the network encountered an 18-hour, 50-minute outage on February 25th, marking the first interruption of 2023.

Figure 5. Solana's Price (Source: DeCrypt)

According to DBCrypt0 Twitter account, the shut-down keeps happening because of an intrinsic design flaw Solana adheres to. 

Solana uses an on-chain consensus model, which means network transactions include both consensus communication between validators and actual transactions like token transfers and minting.

Figure 6. The pink section represents actual transactions and light blue indicates validator verification communications (Source: @DBCrypt0)

Since 90-95% of transaction volume comes from validator messages, it can slow down the system. When the network experiences downtime, validators cannot communicate with each other. In such cases, they turn to Discord to discuss next steps. However, a two-thirds majority agreement is required for any action, which can be difficult to achieve timely if some validators are offline and unaware of the outage.

Also, as reported by CoinDesk, when the incident took place, validator operators and network technicians believed that a flaw in the recently launched Solana code version might be the cause of the issue. But no one was able to identify the bug. Therefore, the optimal solution at the time was to deploy the older version before the new code is applied.

The network was eventually restarted, but the outage lasted almost a day before it was fully resolved. Decrypt reported that the Solana weekend outage did not have a lasting impact on the price of its native token, SOL.

In another instance, the Polygon network went offline for 11 hours due to a temporary issue with its Proof of Stake (PoS) system on March 10. The Polygon network comprises 02 main chains: a verifier layer using proof-of-stake technology (called Heimdall) and a block producer layer (called Bor). Heimdall, which was impacted, doesn't manage user transactions but is utilized for validator-related bridging and operations.

According to Polygon's official blog, the outage resulted from a bug in the implementation of the Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP)-712. The Polygon team was quick to address the issue, providing updates via Twitter as they worked to resolve the problem. 


Eventually, the network was brought back online via a hotfix (a temporary fix), and the price of its native token, MATIC, did not witness any protracted correction.

Figure 7. MATIC price as of time of writing (Source: Trading View)

Before the frozen Heimdall issue, PolygonScan, the explorer site of Polygon, also briefly crashed. According to Greg Lang from Rivet, a node infrastructure provider on Polygon, the cause of the network's issues seems to be related to an abnormally large block reorganization that took place two minutes before nodes lost synchronization.

These downtime incidents highlight the challenges faced by blockchain platforms as they strive to achieve mainstream adoption. The rapid evolution of the market, combined with the increasing demand for decentralized solutions, puts considerable pressure on networks to deliver consistent, reliable service. As the industry continues to grow, it is crucial for platforms to invest in the development and maintenance of their infrastructure to minimize the risk of future disruptions.




In conclusion, the recent downtime incidents on Avalanche, Solana, and Polygon networks underscore the importance of robust, scalable infrastructure in the blockchain market. While these events may cause temporary disruptions, they also serve as learning opportunities for the platforms involved. By addressing and resolving these challenges, blockchain networks can continue to innovate and drive the industry forward.




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