DSN 2020
Conference paper

Online Payments by Merely Broadcasting Messages

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We address the problem of online payments, where users can transfer funds among themselves. We introduce Astro, a system solving this problem efficiently in a decentralized, deterministic, and completely asynchronous manner. Astro builds on the insight that consensus is unnecessary to prevent double-spending. Instead of consensus, Astro relies on a weaker primitive - -Byzantine reliable broadcast - -enabling a simpler and more efficient implementation than consensus-based payment systems. In terms of efficiency, Astro executes a payment by merely broadcasting a message. The distinguishing feature of Astro is that it can maintain performance robustly, i.e., remain unaffected by a fraction of replicas being compromised or slowed down by an adversary. Our experiments on a public cloud network show that Astro can achieve near-linear scalability in a sharded setup, going from 10K payments/sec (2 shards) to 20K payments/sec (4 shards). In a nutshell, Astro can match VISA-level average payment throughput, and achieves a 5× improvement over a state-of-the-art consensus-based solution, while exhibiting sub-second 95th percentile latency.