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Version: v7.3.x

Overview

Synopsis

Learn how to build IBC light client modules and fulfill the interfaces required to integrate with core IBC.

IBC uses light clients in order to provide trust-minimized interoperability between sovereign blockchains. Light clients operate under a strict set of rules which provide security guarantees for state updates and facilitate the ability to verify the state of a remote blockchain using merkle proofs.

The following aims to provide a high level IBC light client module developer guide. Access to IBC light clients are gated by the core IBC MsgServer which utilizes the abstractions set by the 02-client submodule to call into a light client module. A light client module developer is only required to implement a set interfaces as defined in the modules/core/exported package of ibc-go.

A light client module developer should be concerned with three main interfaces:

  • ClientState encapsulates the light client implementation and its semantics.
  • ConsensusState tracks consensus data used for verification of client updates, misbehaviour detection and proof verification of counterparty state.
  • ClientMessage used for submitting block headers for client updates and submission of misbehaviour evidence using conflicting headers.

Throughout this guide the 07-tendermint light client module may be referred to as a reference example.

Concepts and vocabulary

ClientState

ClientState is a term used to define the data structure which encapsulates opaque light client state. The ClientState contains all the information needed to verify a ClientMessage and perform membership and non-membership proof verification of counterparty state. This includes properties that refer to the remote state machine, the light client type and the specific light client instance.

For example:

  • Constraints used for client updates.
  • Constraints used for misbehaviour detection.
  • Constraints used for state verification.
  • Constraints used for client upgrades.

The ClientState type maintained within the light client module must implement the ClientState interface defined in core/modules/exported/client.go. The methods which make up this interface are detailed at a more granular level in the ClientState section of this guide.

Please refer to the 07-tendermint light client module's ClientState definition containing information such as chain ID, status, latest height, unbonding period and proof specifications.

ConsensusState

ConsensusState is a term used to define the data structure which encapsulates consensus data at a particular point in time, i.e. a unique height or sequence number of a state machine. There must exist a single trusted ConsensusState for each height. ConsensusState generally contains a trusted root, validator set information and timestamp.

For example, the ConsensusState of the 07-tendermint light client module defines a trusted root which is used by the ClientState to perform verification of membership and non-membership commitment proofs, as well as the next validator set hash used for verifying headers can be trusted in client updates.

The ConsensusState type maintained within the light client module must implement the ConsensusState interface defined in modules/core/exported/client.go. The methods which make up this interface are detailed at a more granular level in the ConsensusState section of this guide.

Height

Height defines a monotonically increasing sequence number which provides ordering of consensus state data persisted through client updates. IBC light client module developers are expected to use the concrete type provided by the 02-client submodule. This implements the expectations required by the Height interface defined in modules/core/exported/client.go.

ClientMessage

ClientMessage refers to the interface type ClientMessage used for performing updates to a ClientState stored on chain. This may be any concrete type which produces a change in state to the IBC client when verified.

The following are considered as valid update scenarios:

  • A block header which when verified inserts a new ConsensusState at a unique height.
  • A batch of block headers which when verified inserts N ConsensusState instances for N unique heights.
  • Evidence of misbehaviour provided by two conflicting block headers.

Learn more in the Handling update and misbehaviour section.