concordium-std 10.1.0

A standard library for writing smart contracts for the Concordium blockchain in Rust.

A standard library providing a high-level interface for writing smart contracts for the Concordium blockchain in the Rust programming language.


For maintainers

High-level design of the library

The library aims to provide an easy to use API to use the chain API, as well as to ensure that users do not make mistakes. There are two kinds of API that are exposed by the library. The high-level API which sacrifices some performance and code size but almost allows the users to pretend that the contract state is an in-memory state, as opposed to an external database, which is what it is in reality. The low-level API exposes essentially the API that the chain provides, albeit in a Rust-like manner, so that users do not have to deal with pointers directly.

The design of the high-level API uses Rust features extensively to prevent errors, and it assumes that the low-level API is not used at the same time. That is, the high-level API maintains invariants that can be broken by using the low-level API. The invariants are maintained by a combination of encapsulation (i.e., hiding implementation details) and the type system, including extensive use of lifetimes.

The low-level API exposes a key-value store, which is also the interface exposed by the chain. Keys are arbitrary byte arrays, and values are byte arrays. The API is structured around entries. When looking up a key an entry is returned. This entry can then be read and written, using the Read and Write traits.

The high-level API is structured around an "allocator". It exposes three high-level collections

  • a map
  • a set
  • a "box", i.e., a value behind an indirection.

Nested maps are supported, as well as sets as values inside maps.

The high-level API works not with byte arrays directly, but with normal structured Rust types. Serialization of these types to byte arrays (both for keys and for values) is handled automatically. The API maintains the invariant that if a value of type T is stored, then it can later be retrieved and deserialized. This can be violated by the use of the low-level API, since that can be used to write arbitrary data at arbitrary keys.

The second invariant that is maintained by the high-level API is that the structure of the map cannot be modified (that is, no insertions or deletions) while there is an active iterator over the map. This is achieved via lifetimes, and the fact that mutable references in Rust are unique, and cannot exist alongside immutable references (to the same object, see lifetime passthrough for details) in a similar style to how it is achieved for standard Rust collections, e.g., BTreeMap. This restriction is necessary since the API exposed by the node does not allow modification of the part of the tree that is iterated over.

These invariants make it so that in many places in the code we abort the program if an operation might fail, but is ensured by the invariant. For example, when looking up a value in a map, we assume that deserialization cannot fail.

Another noteworthy item is the use of Drop to ensure data is written to the contract state. The concrete case here is modifications of entries. When, e.g., looking we look up an entry in the map, we may then get a &mut reference to the value stored inside the entry. This can then be used to modify the value. However all of this happens in-memory and at some point must be written to the actual contract state. One option would have been to require the user to use a function such as commit to achieve this, however this is very error prone, especially in light of the API which looks very close to the normal collections API. Thus we use the Drop implementation to commit the changes to the contract state. There are a few optimizations, so that we avoid this writing to contract state in cases where it is clear no changes were made. But this is not very precise (it is an overapproximation, i.e., it will often deem it to be modified), and one should generally not acquire &mut references if one does not attempt to write to the state.

This use of Drop does rely on the second invariant listed above, that overlapping modifications of the map are not allowed due to lifetime restrictions. If this was not the case we would risk having inconsistent views of the state, with the value in memory being different from the value looked up.

High-level API layout

The root of the high-level state is stored at the empty key, i.e., at &[]. This will typically be a Rust struct, or some other structured type. Inside this there might be maps or sets, or boxes. These are allocated via the allocator. The allocator determines the next free location to store the map. The allocator itself must be stored in the contract state, and it is stored at location [0,0,0,0,0,0,0,0]. The value stored at this location is a 64-bit integer which is interpreted as the location (in little endian bytes). Creating a new map looks up the allocator value, and updates it.

The high-level API relies on it being the only one that is updating this allocator. Modifying the value via other methods will lead to unpredictable results.

Thus each map (and set) is associated with a location , a 64-bit integer. A key-value pair (K, V) in the map is then stored at key (in the contract state) that is constructed by combining (in little endian) together with the serialization of K.