RISE Seminar 8/31/18: Dr. Dahlia Malkhi, VMWare Research: BFT in the lens of Blockchains and Blockchains in the lens of BFT

August 31, 2018

Title:                   BFT in the lens of Blockchains and Blockchains in the lens of BFT

Speaker:            Dahlia Malkhi

Affiliation:         VMWare Research

Date and location: Friday, August 31, 12:30 – 1:30 pm; Wozniak Lounge (430 Soda Hall)


Blockchain is a Byzantine Fault Tolerant (BFT) replicated state machine, in which each state-update is by itself a Turing machine with bounded resources.  The core algorithm for achieving BFT in a Blockchain appears completely different from classical BFT algorithms:

  • Classical solutions like DLS, PBFT solve BFT among a small-to-medium group of known participants. Such algorithms consist of multiple rounds of message exchanges carrying votes and safety-proofs. They are evidently quite intimidating to the non-expert.
  • In contrast, Bitcoin solves BFT among a very large group of unknown users. In each time-period, one user broadcasts a single message carrying a Proof-of-Work (PoW). No other messages or information is exchanged.

What a difference between the two worlds!

Recent advances in blockchain technology blur these boundaries. Namely, hybrid solutions such as Byzcoin, Bitcoin-NG, Hybrid Consensus, Casper and Solida, anchor off-chain BFT decisions inside a PoW chain or the other way around. Moreover, innovative solutions in the age of blockchains, such as Honeybadger, ALGORAND, Tendermint, SBFT, and Hot-Stuff, revisit the BFT setting with greater scalability and simplicity.

Confused? Come hear this keynote in which we describe Blockchain in the lens of BFT and BFT in the lens of Blockchain, and provide common algorithmic foundations for both.


Dahlia Malkhi carries applied and foundational research in broad aspects of reliability and security in distributed systems since the early nineties. In 2014, after the closing of the Microsoft Research Silicon Valley lab, she co-founded  VMware Research and became a Principal Researcher at VMware. From 2004-2014, she was a principal researcher at Microsoft Research, Silicon Valley. From 1999-2007, she was a tenured associate professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 2004, leaving for a brief sabbatical at Microsoft Research, she was bitten by the Silicon Valley bug and stayed there.

Dr. Malkhi was elected ACM fellow in 2011, received the IBM Faculty award in 2003 and 2004, and the German-Israeli Foundation (G.I.F.) Young Scientist career award 2002.  She currently co-leads the VMware blockchain research project.In the past decde, she founded and led the Corfu project, a database-less database. The Corfu data platform currently drives VMware’s NSX-T distributed control plane. [Corfu github repo] Her homepage is https://dahliamalkhi.wordpress.com/.