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Staking Pool Operation

AWS vs Home Cardano Staking Pool

This post is about the reason behind why I picked AWS versus a home staking pool when I start to consider running a staking pool around March 2021.

Initially, I was planning to run a Cardano staking pool at home using Raspberry Pi. Here is a list of wish list for my home setup.

Home Setup Considerations :

  • 1GB Business Internet Plan to obtain static IP.
  • New firewall for home (Ubiquiti DreamMachine Pro)
  • 4 Raspberry Pi 4B 8GB Ram (Block, Relay x 2, AirGap machine)
  • 3 x 250GB SSD, with SSD adapter for Raspberry Pi

Without even consider any other accessories (cable, power, cases, etc), the hardware cost from my list would be in the $1200.

ItemUnit CostQtyTotal
Ubiquiti DreamMachine Pro$5101$510
Raspberry Pi 4B 8GB (4 nodes)$1284$512
250GB SSD (Block and Relay nodes)$503$150
Total$1172

Then I look into Amazon AWS hosting, I was using the requirement at the time (March 2021), 2 vcpu, 4GB ram, 30GB storage. It comes down to about $120 a month, using three t3.medium as nodes, and a t3.micro as a bastion host. So by comparing hosting at home and at AWS, for $1200, that equals to about 1 year of AWS hosting. Keep in mind that the $120 AWS is underestimated, and I will explain why later. The actual cost could be over $200 a month, depending on what you picked. I will write another article on the actual cost of running my Cardano staking pool on AWS.

So my consideration comes down to these Pros and Cons :

Home Staking Pool:

  • Pros : Fixed one time cost, the future running cost is just home Internet, which I have to pay anyway, just changed from home to business plan, the cost increase is minimal.
  • Pros : Home network security increased by using a better firewall
  • Cons : Initial investment is big.
  • Cons : Your pool’s availability is controlled by the ISP. If they have maintenance, or downtime, your pool will be offline during that time, and nothing you can do about it. Same goes for power outage, which isn’t a problem for AWS (99.9% of the time).
  • Cons : Home use firewall will not be as good as AWS’s security. You can go for more enterprise firewall (Cisco, Meraki), but the cost will be much higher, and the learning curve could be high.
  • Cons : Currently the latest Raspberry Pi has 8GB Ram. If the Cardano node system requirement changed to require more Ram, this whole setup will need to rebuilt, and purchase new equipment again.

AWS Staking Pool (or any other cloud hosting) :

  • Pros : Smaller initial investment, under $200 a month.
  • Pros : If you decide not want to run this anymore, you can shut it down anytime. Let say you shut it down in 3 months, you lose $600.
  • Pros : With AWS’s many ways of redundant setup, regions, availability zones, chances of downtime is minimal, expect your pool to run 24/7, infrastructure wise.
  • Pros : Faster implementation time, no hardware to maintain, lot of documentations and examples online you can learn about AWS.
  • Cons : The cost is ongoing subscription based, every year could be more than $2000. It is difficult for stake pool operator like me that don’t have a huge amount of pledge. It could be months or years before making any blocks.
  • Cons : Hidden cost. There are many other cost you won’t see until you start using AWS. There are also ways of cost saving too, I will have an article on that later
  • Cons : If you decided to quit, you will have nothing after. The home setup, at least you have your firewall and 4 Raspberry Pi.

So after weighting the Pros and Cons of each setup, I decided to go with AWS. I told myself I will give this a try for at least a year, and if it doesn’t workout, I lose out on $2000, I will treat that as a learning experience, both on Cardano and AWS infrastructure, which is not too bad. Think of any 5 days IT training course is way over $2000.

That being said, everyone’s situation is different. You might already have a bunch of Raspberry Pi hanging around. Your home firewall might be a really good one already. So this is just my decision base on what I have.

At the time of writing, I just start running my pool under a month. In a couple months, when my cost is settle, I will write another article about the true cost of my AWS setup.

I hope this will help you to decide how you will start your staking pool.

Good luck.

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