Zero-knowledge proofs (ZKPs) are cryptographic techniques that enable one party (the prover) to prove the validity of a statement to another party (the verifier) without revealing any additional information beyond the statement’s truth. Privacy-preserving chains like Zcash and Aleo, layer-2 scaling solutions such as ZKSync and StarkNet, and applications like Filecoin and Semaphore rely on ZKPs to maintain security and privacy.
However, generating ZK proofs involves computationally intensive processes, with bottlenecks typically being Fast Fourier Transforms (FFTs) and multi-scalar multiplications (MSMs). Although research has led to more efficient algorithms, proof generation for a ZK rollup block can still take 10 to 20 minutes. At the same time, a privacy-preserving transaction may require over a minute due to proof generation within a local wallet or browser.
Hardware Acceleration: The Game Changer
Marlin’s ZK Provers leverage hardware acceleration to optimize proof generation by using devices designed for ZK computations, such as GPUs, FPGAs, and ASICs. FPGAs offer a cost-effective and energy-efficient alternative to GPUs, while ASICs, though less flexible and more expensive to develop, can provide even greater performance improvements.
The Marlin network consists of nodes equipped with FPGAs to which ZK-proof generation tasks can be outsourced. An Oyster scheduler within the network delegates client requests to registered nodes and sends the generated proofs back to the clients. Marlin nodes also feature enclaves, allowing secrets that cannot be publicly shared in ZK computations to be securely shared with third-party nodes within the network.
Outsourcing ZK proof generation to specialized hardware can greatly benefit user-friendly applications by reducing the computational burden on users’ devices. Some prime use cases include:
Mobile wallets: By outsourcing ZK-proof generation, mobile wallets can prevent device overload and provide a seamless user experience.
ZK rollups: Sequencers in ZK rollups can minimize proof generation time and cost by utilizing shared, outsourced infrastructure instead of relying on their own hardware.
Marlin’s ZK Provers offer a cutting-edge solution to the challenges posed by ZK proof generation. By harnessing the power of hardware acceleration and secure enclaves, Marlin enables privacy-preserving applications to benefit from faster, more efficient proof generation while maintaining security and privacy. This innovative approach has the potential to significantly improve the user experience for a range of blockchain applications, from mobile wallets to ZK rollups.
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