Credit-Only Accounts

This design covers the handling of credit-only and credit-debit accounts in the runtime. Accounts already distinguish themselves as credit-only or credit-debit based on the program ID specified by the transaction's instruction. Programs must treat accounts that are not owned by them as credit-only.

To identify credit-only accounts by program id would require the account to be fetched and loaded from disk. This operation is expensive, and while it is occurring, the runtime would have to reject any transactions referencing the same account.

The proposal introduces a num_readonly_accounts field to the transaction structure, and removes the program_ids dedicated vector for program accounts.

This design doesn't change the runtime transaction processing rules. Programs still can't write or spend accounts that they do not own, but it allows the runtime to optimistically take the correct lock for each account specified in the transaction before loading the accounts from storage.

Accounts selected as credit-debit by the transaction can still be treated as credit-only by the instructions.

Runtime handling

credit-only accounts have the following properties:

  • Can be deposited into: Deposits can be implemented as a simple atomic_add.
  • read-only access to account data.

Instructions that debit or modify the credit-only account data will fail.

Account Lock Optimizations

The Accounts module keeps track of current locked accounts in the runtime, which separates credit-only accounts from the credit-debit accounts. The credit-only accounts can be cached in memory and shared between all the threads executing transactions.

The current runtime can't predict whether an account is credit-only or credit-debit when the transaction account keys are locked at the start of the transaction processing pipeline. Accounts referenced by the transaction have not been loaded from the disk yet.

An ideal design would cache the credit-only accounts while they are referenced by any transaction moving through the runtime, and release the cache when the last transaction exits the runtime.

Credit-only accounts and read-only account data

Credit-only account data can be treated as read-only. Credit-debit account data is treated as read-write.

Transaction changes

To enable the possibility of caching accounts only while they are in the runtime, the Transaction structure should be changed in the following way:

  • program_ids: Vec<Pubkey> - This vector is removed. Program keys can be placed at the end of the account_keys vector within the num_readonly_accounts number set to the number of programs.

  • num_readonly_accounts: u8 - The number of keys from the end of the transaction's account_keys array that is credit-only.

The following possible accounts are present in an transaction:

  • paying account
  • RW accounts
  • R accounts
  • Program IDs

The paying account must be credit-debit, and program IDs must be credit-only. The first account in the account_keys array is always the account that pays for the transaction fee, therefore it cannot be credit-only. For these reasons the credit-only accounts are all grouped together at the end of the account_keys vector. Counting credit-only accounts from the end allow for the default 0 value to still be functionally correct, since a transaction will succeed with all credit-debit accounts.

Since accounts can only appear once in the transaction's account_keys array, an account can only be credit-only or credit-debit in a single transaction, not both. The runtime treats a transaction as one atomic unit of execution. If any instruction needs credit-debit access to an account, a copy needs to be made. The write lock is held for the entire time the transaction is being processed by the runtime.


Read locks for credit-only accounts can keep the runtime from executing transactions requesting a write lock to a credit-debit account.

When a request for a write lock is made while a read lock is open, the transaction requesting the write lock should be cached. Upon closing the read lock, the pending transactions can be pushed through the runtime.

While a pending write transaction exists, any additional read lock requests for that account should fail. It follows that any other write lock requests will also fail. Currently, clients must retransmit when a transaction fails because of a pending transaction. This approach would mimic that behavior as closely as possible while preventing write starvation.

Program execution with credit-only accounts

Before handing off the accounts to program execution, the runtime can mark each account in each instruction as a credit-only account. The credit-only accounts can be passed as references without an extra copy. The transaction will abort on a write to credit-only.

An alternative is to detect writes to credit-only accounts and fail the transactions before commit.

Alternative design

This design attempts to cache a credit-only account after loading without the use of a transaction-specified credit-only accounts list. Instead, the credit-only accounts are held in a reference-counted table inside the runtime as the transactions are processed.

  1. Transaction accounts are locked. a. If the account is present in the ‘credit-only' table, the TX does not fail. The pending state for this TX is marked NeedReadLock.
  2. Transaction accounts are loaded. a. Transaction accounts that are credit-only increase their reference count in the credit-only table. b. Transaction accounts that need a write lock and are present in the credit-only table fail.
  3. Transaction accounts are unlocked. a. Decrement the credit-only lock table reference count; remove if its 0 b. Remove from the lock set if the account is not in the credit-only table.

The downside with this approach is that if the lock set mutex is released between lock and load to allow better pipelining of transactions, a request for a credit-only account may fail. Therefore, this approach is not suitable for treating programs as credit-only accounts.

Holding the accounts lock mutex while fetching the account from disk would potentially have a significant performance hit on the runtime. Fetching from disk is expected to be slow, but can be parallelized between multiple disks.