Penumbra Guide

[Penumbra] is a fully shielded zone for the Cosmos ecosystem, allowing anyone to securely transact, stake, swap, or marketmake without broadcasting their personal information to the world.

This site contains documentation on how to use, deploy, and develop the Penumbra software. The description of the protocol itself can be found in the protocol specification, and the API documentation can be found here.

Test networks

Penumbra is a decentralized protocol, so Penumbra Labs is building in public, launching (and crashing) lots of work-in-progress testnets to allow community participation, engagement, and feedback.

Currently, Penumbra only has a command line client, pcli (pronounced “pickle-y”), which bundles all of the client components in one binary, and a chain-scanning daemon, pviewd, which runs just the view service, without spend capability. To get started with the Penumbra test network, all that’s required is to download and build pcli, as described in Installation.

The Penumbra node software is the Penumbra daemon, pd. This is an ABCI application, which must be driven by Tendermint, so a Penumbra full node consists of both a pd instance and a tendermint instance.

The basic architecture of Penumbra is as follows:

          ╭   ┌───────┐
  spending│   │custody│
capability│   │service│
          ╰   └───────┘
               ▲     │
               │tx   │auth
               │plan │data
               │     ▼
          ╭   ┌───────┐
   viewing│   │wallet │ tx submission
capability│   │logic  │────────┐
          │   └───────┘        │
          │    ▲               │
          │    │view private state
          │    │               │
          │    │               │
          │   ┌───────┐        │
          │   │view   │        │
          │   │service│        │
          ╰   └───────┘        │
               ▲               │
               │sync private state
               │               │
          ╭ ┌──┼───────────────┼──────┐
    public│ │  │     Penumbra Fullnode│
     chain│ │  │               │      │
      data│ │  │               ▼      │
          │ │ ┌──┐ app   ┌──────────┐ │
          │ │ │pd│◀─────▶│tendermint│ │
          │ │ └──┘ sync  └──────────┘ │
          │ │               ▲         │
          ╰ └───────────────┼─────────┘
                       ,'   │ `.
                  .───;     │consensus
                 ;          │sync
               .─┤          │   ├──.
             ,'             │       `.
            ;   Penumbra    │         :
            :   Network  ◀──┘         ;
             ╲                       ╱
              `.     `.     `.     ,'
                `───'  `───'  `───'

The custody service holds signing keys and is responsible for authorizing transaction plans. The view service holds viewing keys and scans the chain state. Wallet logic can query the view service to get information about what funds are available, submit a transaction plan to the custody service for signing, and then use the returned signatures to build the transaction and submit it.

As a shielded chain, Penumbra’s architecture is slightly different than a transparent chain, because user data such as account balances, transaction activity, etc., is not part of the public chain state. This means that clients need to synchronize with the chain to build a copy of the private user data they have access to. This logic is provided by the view service, which is bundled into pcli, but can also be run as a standalone pviewd daemon.

Modeling authorization as an (asynchronous) RPC to a custody service means that the client software is compatible with many different custody flows by default – an in-process “SoftHSM”, a hardware wallet with user intervention, a cluster of online threshold signers, an offline threshold signing process, etc.