Case Study: From Hetzner to Bare Metal

Notional validates more than 30 IBC-enabled blockchains in the Cosmos ecosystem. Some of these we have done 'bare metal' on computers run from our office in Hanoi. Others we run on rented computers in a Hetzner data center in Germany. Hetzner recently made headlines by banning Solana nodes and publically stating that its machines are not for crypto users.

Notional responded to this by beginning a process of migrating all its nodes to bare metal machines. This is in keeping with Notional's philosophy of running on in-house bare metal machines to maximize decentralization. Notional previously founded the Bare Metal Alliance - a group of validators running on in-house hardware.

This was later renamed the Good Validator's Alliance to include other top operators who do not run on bare metal. Each of Notional's validator nodes is now being moved to a physical computer in the Hanoi headquarters, where infrastructure staff work in shifts through the night seven days per week to ensure fast response times to any validator missing blocks, or request from chain teams to troubleshoot issues.

Notional has advanced its bare metal validators over the last year:
  • It began with several validators on a large computer that was also used for working on
  • This moved to a smaller computer (around 50% the size of a regular desktop)
  • This later moved to a computer about the size of a Nespresso machine, with one computer for each validator node
  • We now use computers half the width of these, saving space seeing as our validators don't require a GPU
We only use commercial-grade equipment and put an emphasis on cost-saving. We do this for two reasons:
  • Parts are easy to replace within hours
  • We can share these configurations with others who can implement them cheaply and quickly
We set up our nodes so that they start producing blocks as soon as they're turned on, with no need for a screen or manual setup, just plug in, turn on, and boom - blocks. We document all of this on our GitHub. Our aim is to share this information widely so that it can be used by the communities of IBC-enabled Cosmos blockchains.