Becoming a validator

After starting your node, you should now be participating in the network as a fullnode. If you wish to run a validator, you’ll need to perform additional steps.

Every validator on Penumbra is a fullnode that has been “promoted” to validator status. Make sure you are comfortable running a fullnode before you attempt to run a validator, because validators are subject to penalties for downtime.

Validator definitions in Penumbra

A validator definition contains fields defining metadata regarding your validator as well as funding streams, which are Penumbra’s analogue to validator commissions.

The root of a validator’s identity is their identity key. Currently, pcli reuses the spend authorization key in whatever wallet is active as the validator’s identity key. This key is used to sign validator definitions that update the configuration for a validator.

IMPORTANT: The validator identity cannot be changed, ever! This means that if you are running a production validator, you definitely should use a secure custody setup for the wallet which backs the identity key. Strongly consider using the threshold backend of pcli for this purpose. More details about validator custody can be found under the validator custody section of the pcli guide.

Creating a template definition

First, make sure you’ve installed pcli. To create a template configuration, use pcli validator definition template:

$ pcli validator definition template \
    --tendermint-validator-keyfile ~/.penumbra/testnet_data/node0/cometbft/config/priv_validator_key.json \
    --file validator.toml
$ cat validator.toml
# This is a template for a validator definition.
# The identity_key and governance_key fields are auto-filled with values derived
# from this wallet's account.
# You should fill in the name, website, and description fields.
# By default, validators are disabled, and cannot be delegated to. To change
# this, set `enabled = true`.
# Every time you upload a new validator config, you'll need to increment the
# `sequence_number`.

sequence_number = 0
enabled = false
name = ''
website = ''
description = ''
identity_key = 'penumbravalid1kqrecmvwcc75rvg9arhl0apsggtuannqphxhlzl34vfamp4ukg9q87ejej'
governance_key = 'penumbragovern1kqrecmvwcc75rvg9arhl0apsggtuannqphxhlzl34vfamp4ukg9qus84v5'

type = 'tendermint/PubKeyEd25519'
value = 'HDmm2FmJhLHxaKPnP5Fw3tC1DtlBx8ETgTL35UF+p6w='

recipient = 'penumbrav2t1cntf73e36y3um4zmqm4j0zar3jyxvyfqxywwg5q6fjxzhe28qttppmcww2kunetdp3q2zywcakwv6tzxdnaa3sqymll2gzq6zqhr5p0v7fnfdaghrr2ru2uw78nkeyt49uf49q'
rate_bps = 100

recipient = "CommunityPool"
rate_bps = 100

and adjust the data like the name, website, description, etc as desired.

The enabled field can be used to enable/disable your validator without facing slashing penalties. Disabled validators can not appear in the active validator set and are ineligible for rewards.

This is useful if, for example, you know your validator will not be online for a period of time, and you want to avoid an uptime violation penalty. If you are uploading your validator for the first time, you will likely want to start with it disabled until your CometBFT & pd instances have caught up to the consensus block height.

Note that by default the enabled field is set to false and will need to be enabled in order to activate one’s validator.

In the default template, there is a funding stream declared to contribute funds to the Community Pool. This is not required, and may be altered or removed if you wish.

Setting the consensus key

In the command above, the --tendermint-validator-keyfile flag was used to instruct pcli to import the consensus key for the CometBFT identity. This works well if pcli and pd are used on the same machine. If you are running them in separate environments, you can omit the flag, and pd will generate a random key in the template. You must then manually update the consensus_key. You can get the correct value for consensus_key from your cometbft configs:

$ grep -A3 pub_key ~/.penumbra/testnet_data/node0/cometbft/config/priv_validator_key.json
  "pub_key": {
    "type": "tendermint/PubKeyEd25519",
    "value": "Fodjg0m1kF/6uzcAZpRcLJswGf3EeNShLP2A+UCz8lw="

Copy the string in the value field and paste that into your validator.toml, as the value field under the [consensus_key] heading.

Configuring funding streams

Unlike the Cosmos SDK, which has validators specify a commission percentage that goes to the validator, Penumbra uses funding streams, a list of pairs of commission amounts and addresses. This design allows validators to dedicate portions of their commission non-custodially – for instance, a validator could declare some amount of commission to cover their operating costs, and another that would be sent to an address controlled by the Community Pool.

Uploading a definition

After setting up metadata, funding streams, and the correct consensus key in your validator.toml, you can upload it to the chain:

pcli validator definition upload --file validator.toml

And verify that it’s known to the chain:

pcli query validator list --show-inactive

However your validator doesn’t have anything delegated to it and will remain in an Inactive state until it receives enough delegations to place it in the active set of validators.

Delegating to your validator

First find your validator’s identity key:

pcli validator identity

And then delegate some amount of penumbra to it:

pcli tx delegate 1penumbra --to [YOUR_VALIDATOR_IDENTITY_KEY]

You should then see your balance of penumbra decreased and that you have received some amount of delegation tokens for your validator:

pcli view balance

Voting power will be calculated on the next epoch transition after your delegation takes place. Assuming that your delegation was enough to place your validator in the top N validators by voting power, it should appear in the validator list as Active after the next epoch transition. The epoch duration and the active validator limit are chain parameters, and will vary by deployment. You can find the values in use for the current chain in its genesis.json file.

Updating your validator

First fetch your existing validator definition from the chain:

pcli validator definition fetch --file validator.toml

Then make any changes desired and make sure to increase sequence_number by at least 1! The sequence_number is a unique, increasing identifier for the version of the validator definition.

After updating the validator definition you can upload it again to update your validator metadata on-chain:

pcli validator definition upload --file validator.toml