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Authenticated gRPC

Oasis Core nodes communicate between themselves over various protocols. One of those protocols is gRPC which is currently used for the following:

  • Compute nodes talking to storage nodes.
  • Compute nodes talking to key manager nodes.
  • Key manager nodes talking to other key manager nodes.
  • Clients talking to compute nodes.
  • Clients talking to key manager nodes.

All these communications can have access control policies attached specifying who is allowed to perform certain actions at which point in time. This first requires an authentication mechanism.


In order to authenticate both ends of a connection, gRPC is always used together with TLS. However, since this is a decentralized network, there are some specifics on how peer verification is performed when establishing a TLS session between two nodes.

Instead of relying on Certificate Authorities, we use the registry service provided by the consensus layer. Each node publishes its own trusted public keys in the registry as part of its signed node descriptor. TLS sessions use its own ephemeral Ed25519 key pair that is used to (self-)sign a node’s X509 certificate. When verifying peer identities the public key on the certificate is compared with the public key(s) published in the registry.

All TLS keys are ephemeral and nodes are encouraged to frequently rotate them (the Oasis Core implementation in this repository supports this automatically).

For details on how certificate verification is performed see the VerifyCertificate implementation in go/common/crypto/tls.


Oasis Core uses some specific conventions that depart from the most common gRPC setups and are described in the following sections.

CBOR Codec

While gRPC is most commonly used with the Protocol Buffers codec the gRPC protocol is agnostic to the actual underlying serialization format. Oasis Core uses CBOR for encoding of all messages used in our gRPC services.

This requires that the codec is explicitly configured while setting up connections. Our gRPC helpers automatically configure the correct codec so using it should be transparent. The only quirk of this setup is that service codegen is not available with arbitrary codecs, so glue code for both the server and the client needs to be generated manually (for examples see the grpc.go files in various api packages).


As gRPC provides very limited error reporting capability in the form of a few defined error codes, we extend this mechanism to support proper error remapping.

Detailed errors are returned as part of the gRPC error details structure. The Value field of the first detail element contains the following CBOR-serialized structure that specifies the (namespaced) error:

type grpcError struct {
Module string `json:"module,omitempty"`
Code uint32 `json:"code,omitempty"`

If you use the provided gRPC helpers any errors will be mapped to registered error types automatically.

Service Naming Convention

We use the same service method namespacing convention as gRPC over Protocol Buffers. All Oasis Core services have unique identifiers starting with oasis-core. followed by the service identifier. A single slash (/) is used as the separator in method names, e.g., /oasis-core.Storage/SyncGet.

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