Execution layer triggerable exits

Allows validators to trigger exits via their execution layer (0x01) withdrawal credentials
DraftStandards Track: Core
Created: 2023-05-09
Danny Ryan (@djrtwo), Mikhail Kalinin (@mkalinin), Ansgar Dietrichs (@adietrichs), Hsiao-Wei Wang (@hwwhww)
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Adds a new stateful precompile that allows validators to trigger exits to the beacon chain from their execution layer (0x01) withdrawal credentials.

These new execution layer exit messages are appended to the execution layer block to reading by the consensus layer.


Validators have two keys -- an active key and a withdrawal credential. The active key takes the form of a BLS key, whereas the withdrawal credential can either be a BLS key (0x00) or an execution layer address (0x01). The active key is "hot", actively signing and performing validator duties, whereas the withdrawal credential can remain "cold", only performing limited operations in relation to withdrawing and ownership of the staked ETH. Due to this security relationship, the withdrawal credential ultimately is the key that owns the staked ETH and any rewards.

As currently specified, only the active key can initiate a validator exit. This means that in any non-standard custody relationships (i.e. active key is separate entity from withdrawal credentials), that the ultimate owner of the funds -- the possessor of the withdrawal credentials -- cannot independently choose to exit and begin the withdrawal process. This leads to either trust issues (e.g. ETH can be "held hostage" by the active key owner) or insufficient work-arounds such as pre-signed exits. Additionally, in the event that active keys are lost, a user should still be able to recover their funds by using their cold withdrawal credentials.

To ensure that the withdrawal credentials (owned by both EOAs and smart contracts) can trustlessly control the destiny of the staked ETH, this specification enables exits triggerable by 0x01 withdrawal credentials.

Note, 0x00 withdrawal credentials can be changed into 0x01 withdrawal credentials with a one-time signed message. Thus any functionality enabled for 0x01 credentials is defacto enabled for 0x00 credentials.





VALIDATOR_EXIT_PRECOMPILE_ADDRESSTBDWhere to call and store relevant details about exit mechanism
EXIT_MESSAGE_QUEUE_HEAD_STORAGE_SLOT2Pointer to head of the exit message queue
EXIT_MESSAGE_QUEUE_TAIL_STORAGE_SLOT3Pointer to the tail of the exit message queue
EXIT_MESSAGE_QUEUE_STORAGE_OFFSET4The start memory slot of the in-state exit message queue
MAX_EXITS_PER_BLOCK16Maximum number of exits that can be dequeued into a block

Execution layer


  • FORK_BLOCK -- the first block in a blockchain with the timestamp greater or equal to FORK_TIMESTAMP.

Exit operation

The new exit operation consists of the following fields:

  1. source_address: Bytes20
  2. validator_pubkey: Bytes48

RLP encoding of an exit MUST be computed as the following:

rlp_encoded_exit = RLP([ source_address, validator_pubkey, ])

Validator Exit precompile

The precompile requires a single 48 byte input, aliased to validator_pubkey.


  • Ensure enough ETH was sent to cover the current exit fee (check_exit_fee())
  • Increase exit count by 1 for the current block (increment_exit_count())
  • Insert an exit into the queue for the source address and validator pubkey (insert_exit_to_queue())
  • Return any unspent ETH in excess of the exit fee with an EXCESS_RETURN_GAS_STIPEND gas stipend (return_excess_payment())

Specifically, the functionality is defined in pseudocode as the function trigger_exit():

################### # Public function # ################### def trigger_exit(Bytes48: validator_pubkey): check_exit_fee(msg.value) increment_exit_count() insert_exit_to_queue(msg.sender, validator_pubkey) return_excess_payment(msg.value) ################### # Primary Helpers # ################### def check_exit_fee(int: fee_sent): exit_fee = get_exit_fee() require(fee_sent >= exit_fee, 'Insufficient exit fee') # Note: consider mapping `MIN_EXIT_FEE` -> 0 fee def insert_exit_to_queue(address: source_address, Bytes48: validator_pubkey): queue_tail_index = sload(VALIDATOR_EXIT_PRECOMPILE_ADDRESS, EXIT_MESSAGE_QUEUE_TAIL_STORAGE_SLOT) # Each exit takes 3 storage slots: 1 for source_address, 2 for validator_pubkey queue_storage_slot = EXIT_MESSAGE_QUEUE_STORAGE_OFFSET + queue_tail_index * 3 sstore(VALIDATOR_EXIT_PRECOMPILE_ADDRESS, queue_storage_slot, source_address) sstore(VALIDATOR_EXIT_PRECOMPILE_ADDRESS, queue_storage_slot + 1, validator_pubkey[0:32]) sstore(VALIDATOR_EXIT_PRECOMPILE_ADDRESS, queue_storage_slot + 2, validator_pubkey[32:48]) sstore(VALIDATOR_EXIT_PRECOMPILE_ADDRESS, EXIT_MESSAGE_QUEUE_TAIL_STORAGE_SLOT, queue_tail_index + 1) def increment_exit_count(): exit_count = sload(VALIDATOR_EXIT_PRECOMPILE_ADDRESS, EXIT_COUNT_STORAGE_SLOT) sstore(VALIDATOR_EXIT_PRECOMPILE_ADDRESS, EXIT_COUNT_STORAGE_SLOT, exit_count + 1) def return_excess_payment(int: fee_sent, address: source_address): excess_payment = fee_sent - get_exit_fee() if excess_payment > 0: (bool sent, bytes memory data) = source_address.call{value: excess_payment, gas: EXCESS_RETURN_GAS_STIPEND}("") require(sent, "Failed to return excess fee payment") ###################### # Additional Helpers # ###################### def get_exit_fee() -> int: excess_exits = sload(VALIDATOR_EXIT_PRECOMPILE_ADDRESS, EXCESS_EXITS_STORAGE_SLOT) return fake_exponential( MIN_EXIT_FEE, excess_exits, EXIT_FEE_UPDATE_FRACTION ) def fake_exponential(factor: int, numerator: int, denominator: int) -> int: i = 1 output = 0 numerator_accum = factor * denominator while numerator_accum > 0: output += numerator_accum numerator_accum = (numerator_accum * numerator) // (denominator * i) i += 1 return output // denominator
Gas cost


Once functionality is reviewed and solidified, we'll estimate the cost of running the above computations fully in the EVM, and then potentially apply some discount due to reduced EVM overhead of being able to execute the above logic natively.

Block structure

Beginning with the FORK_BLOCK, the block body MUST be appended with a list of exit operations. RLP encoding of the extended block body structure MUST be computed as follows:

block_body_rlp = RLP([ field_0, ..., # Latest block body field before `exits` field_n, [exit_0, ..., exit_k], ])

Beginning with the FORK_BLOCK, the block header MUST be appended with the new exits_root field. The value of this field is the trie root committing to the list of exits in the block body. exits_root field value MUST be computed as follows:

def compute_trie_root_from_indexed_data(data): trie = Trie.from([(i, obj) for i, obj in enumerate(data)]) return trie.root block.header.exits_root = compute_trie_root_from_indexed_data(block.body.exits)

Block validity

Beginning with the FORK_BLOCK, client software MUST extend block validity rule set with the following conditions:

  1. Value of exits_root block header field equals to the trie root committing to the list of exit operations contained in the block. To illustrate:
def compute_trie_root_from_indexed_data(data): trie = Trie.from([(i, obj) for i, obj in enumerate(data)]) return trie.root assert block.header.exits_root == compute_trie_root_from_indexed_data(block.body.exits)
  1. The list of exit operations contained in the block body MUST be equivalent to list of exits at the head of the exit precompile's exit message queue up to the maximum of MAX_EXITS_PER_BLOCK, respecting the order in the queue. This validation MUST be run after all transactions in the current block are processed and MUST be run before per-block precompile storage calculations (i.e. a call to update_exit_precompile()) are performed. To illustrate:
class ValidatorExit(object): source_address: Bytes20 validator_pubkey: Bytes48 queue_head_index = sload(VALIDATOR_EXIT_PRECOMPILE_ADDRESS, EXIT_MESSAGE_QUEUE_HEAD_STORAGE_SLOT) queue_tail_index = sload(VALIDATOR_EXIT_PRECOMPILE_ADDRESS, EXIT_MESSAGE_QUEUE_TAIL_STORAGE_SLOT) num_exits_in_queue = queue_tail_index - queue_head_index num_exits_to_dequeue = min(num_exits_in_queue, MAX_EXITS_PER_BLOCK) # Retrieve exits from the queue expected_exits = [] for i in range(num_exits_to_dequeue): queue_storage_slot = EXIT_MESSAGE_QUEUE_STORAGE_OFFSET + (queue_head_index + i) * 2 source_address = address(SLOAD(VALIDATOR_EXIT_PRECOMPILE_ADDRESS, queue_storage_slot)[0:20] validator_pubkey = ( SLOAD(VALIDATOR_EXIT_PRECOMPILE_ADDRESS, queue_storage_slot + 1) + SLOAD(VALIDATOR_EXIT_PRECOMPILE_ADDRESS, queue_storage_slot + 1) + SLOAD(VALIDATOR_EXIT_PRECOMPILE_ADDRESS, queue_storage_slot + 1) + SLOAD(VALIDATOR_EXIT_PRECOMPILE_ADDRESS, queue_storage_slot + 1)[0:16] ) exit = ValidatorExit( source_address=Bytes20(source_address), validator_pubkey=Bytes48(validator_pubkey), ) expected_exits.append(exit) # Compare retrieved exits to the list in the block body assert block.body.exits == expected_exits

A block that does not satisfy the above conditions MUST be deemed invalid.

Block processing

Per-block precompile storage calculations

At the end of processing any execution block where block.timestamp >= FORK_TIMESTAMP (i.e. after processing all transactions and after performing the block body exit validations):

  • The exit precompile's exit queue is updated based on exits dequeued and the exit queue head/tail are reset if the queue has been cleared (update_exit_queue())
  • The exit precompile’s excess exits are updated based on usage in the current block (update_excess_exits())
  • The exit precompile's exit count is reset to 0 (reset_exit_count())

Specifically, the functionality is defined in pseudocode as the function update_exit_precompile():

################### # Public function # ################### def update_exit_precompile(): update_exit_queue() update_excess_exits() reset_exit_count() ########### # Helpers # ########### def update_exit_queue(): queue_head_index = sload(VALIDATOR_EXIT_PRECOMPILE_ADDRESS, EXIT_MESSAGE_QUEUE_HEAD_STORAGE_SLOT) queue_tail_index = sload(VALIDATOR_EXIT_PRECOMPILE_ADDRESS, EXIT_MESSAGE_QUEUE_TAIL_STORAGE_SLOT) num_exits_in_queue = queue_tail_index - queue_head_index num_exits_dequeued = min(num_exits_in_queue, MAX_EXITS_PER_BLOCK) new_queue_head_index = queue_head_index + num_exits_dequeued if new_queue_head_index == queue_tail_index: # Queue is empty, reset queue pointers sstore(VALIDATOR_EXIT_PRECOMPILE_ADDRESS, EXIT_MESSAGE_QUEUE_HEAD_STORAGE_SLOT, 0) sstore(VALIDATOR_EXIT_PRECOMPILE_ADDRESS, EXIT_MESSAGE_QUEUE_TAIL_STORAGE_SLOT, 0) else: sstore(VALIDATOR_EXIT_PRECOMPILE_ADDRESS, EXIT_MESSAGE_QUEUE_HEAD_STORAGE_SLOT, new_queue_head_index) def update_excess_exits(): previous_excess_exits = sload(VALIDATOR_EXIT_PRECOMPILE_ADDRESS, EXCESS_EXITS_STORAGE_SLOT) exit_count = sload(VALIDATOR_EXIT_PRECOMPILE_ADDRESS, EXIT_COUNT_STORAGE_SLOT) new_excess_exits = 0 if previous_excess_exits + exit_count > TARGET_EXITS_PER_BLOCK: new_excess_exits = previous_excess_exits + exit_count - TARGET_EXITS_PER_BLOCK sstore(VALIDATOR_EXIT_PRECOMPILE_ADDRESS, EXCESS_EXITS_STORAGE_SLOT, new_excess_exits) def reset_exit_count(): sstore(VALIDATOR_EXIT_PRECOMPILE_ADDRESS, EXIT_COUNT_STORAGE_SLOT, 0)

Consensus layer

Sketch of spec:

  • New operation ExecutionLayerExit
  • Will show up in ExecutionPayload as an SSZ List bound by length MAX_EXITS_PER_BLOCK
  • New function in process_execution_layer_exit that has similar functionality to process_voluntary_exit but that can fail validations (e.g. validator is already exited) without the block failing (similar to deposit coming from EL)
  • process_execution_layer_exit called in process_operations for each ExecutionLayerExit found in the ExecutionPayload


Stateful precompile

This specification utilizes a stateful precompile for simplicity and future-proofness. While precompiles are a well-known quantity, none to date have associated EVM state at the address.

The alternative designs are (1) to utilize a precompile or opcode for the functionality and write a separate specified space in the EVM -- e.g. 0xFF..FF -- or (2) to place the required state into the block and require the previous block header as an input into the state transition function (e.g. like EIP-1559 base_fee).

Alternative design (1) is essentially using a stateful precompile but dissociating the state into a separate address. At first glance, this split appears unnecessarily convoluted when we could store the location of the CALL and the associated state in the same address. That said, there might be unexpected engineering constraints around precompiles in existing clients that make this a preferable path.

Alternative design (2) has two main drawbacks. The first is that with the message queue contains an unbounded amount of state (as opposed to simple the base_fee in the similar EIP-1559 design). Additionally, even if the state was constrained to a single variable or two, this design pattern reinforces that the Ethereum state transition function signature be more than f(pre_state, block) -> post_state by putting another dependency on the pre_block_header. These additional dependencies hinder the elegance of future stateless designs. Providing these dependencies within the EVM state as specified, allows for them to show up naturally in block witnesses.

validator_pubkey field

Multiple validators can utilize the same execution layer withdrawal credential, thus the validator_pubkey field is utilized to disambiguate which validator is being exited.

Note, validator_index also disambiguates validators but is not used because the execution-layer cannot currently trustlessly ascertain this value.

Exit message queue

The exit precompile maintains and in-state queue of exit messages to be dequeued each block into the block and thus into the execution layer.

The number of exits that can be passed into the consensus layer are bound by MAX_EXITS_PER_BLOCK to bound the load both on the block size as well as on the consensus layer processing. 16 has been chosen for MAX_EXITS_PER_BLOCK to be in line with the bounds of similar operations on the beacon chain -- e.g. VoluntaryExit and Deposit.

Although there is a maximum number of exits that can passed to the consensus layer each block, the execution layer gas limit can provide for far more calls to the exit precompile at each block. The queue then allows for these calls to successfully be made while still maintaining a system rate limit.

The alternative design considered was to have calls to the exit precompile fail after MAX_EXITS_PER_BLOCK successful calls were made within the context of a single block. This would eliminate the need for the message queue, but would come at the cost of a bad UX of precompile call failures in times of high exiting. The complexity to mitigate this bad UX is relatively low and is currently favored.

Utilizing CALL to return excess payment

Calls to the exit precompile require a fee payment defined by the current state of the precompile. Smart contracts can easily perform a read/calculation to pay the precise fee, whereas EOAs will likely need to compute and send some amount over the current fee at time of signing the transaction. This will result in EOAs having fee payment overages in the normal case. These should be returned to the caller.

There are two potential designs to return excess fee payments to the caller (1) use an EVM CALL with some gas stipend or (2) have special functionality to allow the precompile to "credit" the caller's account with the excess fee.

Option (1) has been selected in the current specification because it utilizes less exceptional functionality and is likely simpler to implement and ensure correctness. The current version sends a gas stipen of 2300. This is following the (outdated) solidity pattern primarily to simplify precompile gas accounting (allowing it to be a fixed instead of dynamic cost). The CALL could forward the maximum allowed gas but would then require the cost of the precompile to be dynamic.

Option (2) utilizes custom logic (exceptional to base EVM logic) to credit the excess back to the callers balance. This would potentially simplify concerns around precompile gas costs/metering, but at the cost of non-standard EVM complexity. We are open to this path, but want to solicit more input before writing it into the speficiation.

Rate limiting using exit fee

Transactions are naturally rate-limited in the execution layer via the gas limit, but an adversary willing to pay market-rate gas fees (and potentially utilize builder markets to pay for front-of-block transaction inclusion) can fill up the exit operation limits for relatively cheap, thus griefing honest validators that want to exit.

There are two general approaches to combat this griefing -- (a) only allow validators to send such messages and with a limit per time period or (b) utilize an economic method to make such griefing increasingly costly.

Method (a) (not used in this EIP) would require EIP-4788 (the BEACON_ROOT opcode) against which to prove withdrawal credentials in relation to validator pubkeys as well as a data-structure to track exits per-unit-time (e.g. 4 months) to ensure that a validator cannot grief the mechanism by submitting many exits. The downsides of this method are that it requires another cross-layer EIP and that it is of higher cross-layer complexity (e.g. care that might need to be taken in future upgrades if, for example, the shape of the merkle tree of BEACON_ROOT changes, then the exit precompile and proof structure might need to be updated).

Method (b) has been utilized in this EIP to eliminate additional EIP requirements and to reduce cross-layer complexity to allow for correctness of this EIP (now and in the future) to be easier to analyze. The EIP-1559-style mechanism with a dynamically adjusting fee mechanism allows for users to pay MIN_EXIT_FEE for exits in the normal case (fewer than 2 per block on average), but scales the fee up exponentially in response to high usage (i.e. potential abuse).

TARGET_EXITS_PER_BLOCK configuration value

TARGET_EXITS_PER_BLOCK has been selected as 2 such that even if all ETH is staked (~120M ETH -> 3.75M validators), the 64 validator per epoch target (2 * 32 slots) still exceeds the per-epoch exit churn limit on the consensus layer (defined by get_validator_churn_limit()) at such values -- 57 validators per epoch (3.75M // 65536).

Exit fee update rule

The exit fee update rule is intended to approximate the formula exit_fee = MIN_EXIT_FEE * e**(excess_exits / EXIT_FEE_UPDATE_FRACTION), where excess_exits is the total "extra" amount of exits that the chain has processed relative to the "targeted" number (TARGET_EXITS_PER_BLOCK per block).

Like EIP-1559, it’s a self-correcting formula: as the excess goes higher, the exit_fee increases exponentially, reducing usage and eventually forcing the excess back down.

The block-by-block behavior is roughly as follows. If block N processes X exits, then at the end of block N excess_exits increases by X - TARGET_EXITS_PER_BLOCK, and so the exit_fee in block N+1 increases by a factor of e**((X - TARGET_EXITS_PER_BLOCK) / EXIT_FEE_UPDATE_FRACTION). Hence, it has a similar effect to the existing EIP-1559, but is more "stable" in the sense that it responds in the same way to the same total exits regardless of how they are distributed over time.

The parameter EXIT_FEE_UPDATE_FRACTION controls the maximum downwards rate of change of the blob gas price. It is chosen to target a maximum downwards change rate of e(TARGET_EXITS_PER_BLOCK / EXIT_FEE_UPDATE_FRACTION) ≈ 1.125 per block. The maximum upwards change per block is e((MAX_EXITS_PER_BLOCK - TARGET_EXITS_PER_BLOCK) / EXIT_FEE_UPDATE_FRACTION) ≈ 2.279.

Exits inside of the block

Exits are placed into the actual body of the block (and execution payload in the consensus layer).

There is a strong design requirement that the consensus layer and execution layer can execute independently of each other. This means, in this case, that the consensus layer cannot rely upon a synchronous call to the execution layer to get the required exits for the current block. Instead, the exits must be embedded in the shared data-structure of the execution payload such that if the execution layer is offline, the consensus layer still has the requisite data to fully execute the consensus portion of the state transition function.

Backwards Compatibility

This EIP introduces backwards incompatible changes to the block structure and block validation rule set. But neither of these changes break anything related to current user activity and experience.

Security Considerations

Impact on existing custody relationships

There might be existing custody relationships and/or products that rely upon the assumption that the withdrawal credentials cannot trigger exits. We are currently confident that the additional withdrawal credentials feature does not impact the security of existing validators because:

  1. The withdrawal credentials ultimately own the funds so allowing them to exit staking is natural with respect to ownership.
  2. We are currently not aware of any such custody relationships and/or products that do rely on the lack of this feature.

In the event that existing validators/custodians rely on this, then the validators can be exited and restaked utilizing 0x01 withdrawal credentials pointing to a smart contract that simulates this behaviour.

Copyright and related rights waived via CC0.

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