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Project raiden-ts - v3.1.1

Raiden Light Client SDK Development

Architecture description, code style and patterns, tips & tricks, caveats, typing and pits to avoid!

The Raiden Light Client SDK requires a Web3 provider like MetaMask, Parity or Geth and is built on the following concepts and libraries:

Below is a detailed explanation of the SDK architecture as well as things to keep in mind when reading the code and writing new functionality.

Table of Contents


In this section we will dive into the the internal machinery of the SDK and outline how RxJS, Redux and Epics work together.

Vertical (Stack)

Instead of using classes as in object-oriented programming the SDK is written in a functional way and uses functions and type schemas like interfaces to separate logic and data.

The main entrypoint in the SDK is the Raiden, which provides access to all functionality. It is instantiated through the async Raiden.create static method. This method returns a ready-to-use Raiden client object which instantiates and starts a central Redux store.

The Redux store is responsible for handling the actions that change the state through the reducers.

All actions go through the Epics (observables factory functions) middleware where synchronous and asynchronous tasks can be performed with the help of observables. Any new action that is output gets fed back to the Redux store and continues down this actions pipeline.

The Raiden client dispatches request actions to the store and waits for a respective success or failure to flow through the actions pipeline. These actions are created using createAction and createAsyncAction with the Flux Standard Action schema/pattern.

All the business logic is contained in Epics. They accept a dependencies object as third parameter, which acts as a dependency injector (DI) and contains everything from configuration variables to the Ethers Provider instance. The Epics are factories that receive the actions$ and state$ observables and dependencies and output cold observables of new actions. They can listen and react to any kind of event or observable once subscribed.

The Blockchain interaction happens through ethers. TypeChain runs at build time and generates type declarations for the contracts. Both Ethers and TypeChain are available as dependencies at construction time.

Matrix interaction is done through matrix-js-sdk, but as it needs more complex async initialization (password signing, syncing, etc), it uses a initialization time epic which then makes the MatrixClient instance available through a matrix$: AsyncSubject dependency.

A visual representation of the inner architecture:

      user method calls
      |                |
      |   Raiden       |      dependencies
      |                +------------------------+
      +-+--------------+                        |
        |                       redux store     |
        |   +-------------------------------+   |
        |   |                               |   |
        v   |  action$       +-----------+  |   |
        +---+----------+---->+  reducer  |  |   |
        ^   |          |     +-----+-----+  |   |
        |   |          |           |        |   |
        |   +----------+-----------+--------+   |
        |              |           |            |
        |              |           |state$      |
        |              |           |            |
        |         +----v-----------v------------v--+
        |         |                                |
        |         |            Epics               |
        |         |                                |
        |         +------+--------^-------------^--+
        |                |        |             |
        +--------<-------+        |             |
         output actions     +-----v------+   +--v-----------+
                            |            |   |              |
                            |  Ξ ethers  |   |  Transport   |
                            |            |   |              |
                            +------------+   +--------------+

Horizontal (Folder Structure)

The project is structured in a domain-driven logic, each folder under src represents a semantic domain and should depend on the things inside of it as much as possible. Especially for actions*, _reducers, epics, state and specific *functions*.

  • abi, contracts and deployment are auto-generated data directories and don't contain any logic.
    • abi and deployment contains information about the deployed Raiden contracts for the Ethereum test networks, generated by copyContracts.js script at prepare time;
    • contracts is the output of the TypeChain contracts interfaces used for type safety, auto-generated from abi;
  • utils are common functions and types for the whole Light Client. The code here should not depend on any other SDK modules but can depend on external libraries.
  • channels is the contracts logic for the blockchain and channel manager. This is mostly code for listening to events and perform blockchain actions like opening a channel, detecting a deposit or informing that a closed channel is settleable.
  • transport is for the off-chain transport/communication. It is mainly matrix code, like login and initialization logic, room creation, invite and maintenance tasks as well as the actually sending and receiving of text messages between Raiden nodes; WebRTC is an optional faster p2p protocol, signaled through matrix, and also part of the transport;
  • messages are the messages data models and validation and serialization/deserialization utils.
  • transfers contains the transfers and withdraw logic, life cycle and validation; withdraw is present here because as well as transfers, they may change a channel state, and must be done in a locked context;
  • services is logic related to interactions with Raiden services.
  • db holds code responsible for syncing, saving and retrieving state from the persistence database;
  • ./src contains the Raiden client and public API, root, Epic, Reducer, Action, specific types, constants etc. Anything that should be global.

These are just suggestions on how to keep a well organized codebase. It is the developer's responsibility to decide in which module/domain any function, data or type belongs.

Data Persistence

The visual representation of the data handling and persistance:

                         |       State        |
          .............. |      [Redux]       | <.............
          .              |    (in memory)     |              .
          .              +--------------------+              .
          .                        ^                         .
          .                        .                         .
   async sync back         load data on start        read historic data
          .                        .                         .
          .                        .                         .
          .              +--------------------+              .
          .              |     Database       |              .
          .............> |     [PouchDB]      | ..............
                         |(persistent storage)|
          |                        |                        |
+--------------------+   +--------------------+   +--------------------+
|  LevelDB Adapter   |   | IndexedDB Adapter  |   |   Memory Adapter   |
|     (NodeJS)       |   |   (Web-Browser)    |   |      (Tests)       |
+--------------------+   +--------------------+   +--------------------+

Additional notes:

  • The database adapter gets chosen based on the environment the SDK is running inside.
  • The hot state in memory with Redux is limiting its size by not including historic transfers data.
  • The data synchronization from the memory to the storage does not block the protocol logic and gets minimized by state diffs. It's performed by a persister middleware.
  • During shutdown/stop, the final data synchronization is been safely awaited for.
  • The database is used as source to do dump or upload backups (can be transferred between clients).
  • Old database scheme versions get automatically migrated during startup before the load to the Redux state.
  • Clients requests which try to read historic data might be slower due to the database read, while all protocol relevant operations are blazing fast, operating on in-memory data.

Typing System

TypeScript helps us check for correctness and aid implementation, validation and integration of various parts of the codebase. We can tell TypeScript what type of argument, return value or variable is expected in a function which helps us avoid passing wrong types when writing our code, like passing a number to a function that expects a string.

However, when we are dealing with unknown data we cannot always be sure it matches our expectations. To bridge this gap we use the io-ts library.

io-ts solves this by allowing you to create codecs: real runtime objects which are able to verify the expectations (e.g. type) of any data, validating it and type guarding your code. They're also able to decode data from some (usually a more primitive) input type to the expected runtime instance/value, as well as encode a value to a given output format. Better yet, each codec have an associated compile-time type, to tell TypeScript what the output data of a codec looks like, allowing TypeScript to do its magic without needing to declare twice your data structure (one for runtime validation, other for compile-time type checks). Finally, codecs can be composed in almost any way supported by TypeScript, making it very powerful. Example:

import * as t from 'io-ts';
const Data = t.type({ key: t.number }); // this is the codec, a real object
type Data = t.TypeOf<typeof Data>; // this is the type for the above codec, actually: { key: number; }
const mydata = JSON.parse('{ "key": 123 }'); // mydata type is any
const decoded = Data.decode(mydata); // decoded is Either an error (left) or the expected value (right)
if (decoded.isLeft()) throw decoded.value;
// from now on, decoded.value is known to be of type Data, thus mydata.key is number
const sq: number = Math.pow(decoded.value.key, 2);

We use io-ts to validate unsafe data and provide strong guarantees, define our own codecs to serialize and deserialize custom objects, and provide typeguards to narrow broader types to more specific ones.

Branded types

TypeScript branded types (aka. poor man's nominal typing) helps developers provide hints/refinements about specific types which can be compared to full inheritance systems in OOP paradigms. It consists basically of making a branded type TB as the intersection of base type A with some brand B, which makes the branded type more specific. So, type TB = number & { brand } is equivalent in OO of making an inherited/child class TB extending number. You can still pass TB where number is expected (and it's a child of number), but you can't pass a simple number where TB is expected unless you type-cast or decode/validate it as such.

On TypeScript, all this normally happens only at compile-time (the brand usually is just an interface with a unique symbol), having no impact at runtime, when the variable would effectivelly be a simple number. io-ts allows us to have codecs which also validate if a parent type matches the expectations to be considered a branded/child type, allowing us to also have specific type safety beyond just validating if some data is a string or not.

For example, in our types, we declare the type Address, which is (actually) a string, which happens to be validated to also be a HexString of size 20 bytes, and which also happens to be in the checksummed format, without ceasing to be a string!

We try to make all the types we use as strict as needed, specially considering externally-originated data, like messages, as the security of the system may depend on doing the right thing, always. With proper TypeScript usage and tools (like io-ts and type-safe actions), we should always be able to narrow down the data type we're using in any part of the code. Avoid acting on any-typed data, much less declaring it as so. Literals and tagged unions help a lot to keep narrow/strict types whenever needed, with if, throw, typeof and even explicit typeguard functions. This way, we'll get the compiler to help development and enforce correctness.

A note about io-ts and type complexity

While developing our more complex types, we noticed a significant slowdown on TypeScript transpilation time (taking up to 5min), which also heavily affected tsserver for Intellisense, auto-completion, type validation, and also expressed itself as .d.ts declaration files of tens of MBs in size.

Further investigation have shown that this was caused by TypeScript somehow always inlining every reference to ALL type declarations exported as type, which was exponential on complex types as RaidenState, messages and actions, and peaked on the epics, which depends on all of this.

The fix was to use empty interfaces inheriting from the local type wherever possible, which causes TypeScript to use the imported declaration instead of inlining and duplicating the whole type tree on every reference.

export type RaidenState = t.TypeOf<typeof RaidenState>; // slow
export interface RaidenState extends t.TypeOf<typeof RaidenState> {} // fast

This works on all types which members are known at compile time, and should be preferred wherever possible.

Public API

The Raiden client class is the entrypoint for the public API. The focus of this class is Developer Experience and we should avoid exposing too much of its internals while still providing what is needed for every reasonable use case.

This balance is important to keep in mind. It is desirable that changes in the interface are as backwards compatible as possible.

Raiden must have the bare minimum property list, relying on the state machine for any action performing, and being mostly responsible for translating the state machine logic to a more developer-friendly interface. That's why, instead of exposing the whole action$ events pipeline and asking the user to interpret it, most state-changing methods actually return a Promise, and after dispatching the request action, translate the respective success or fail action to resolve or reject the returned promise.

For public interface simplicity and usability, a subset of the actions is exposed through an events$ observable as an alternative to duplicating almost everything on explicit reimplementations using EventEmitters or any other more common approach. channels$ list is also exposed through a public observable mapped from state$. state$ is publicly exposed for users willing to react to explicit state changes, although the database is required and must be persisted at all times;

Despite all of that, state machine correctness and simplicity is a priority over public API class implementation complexity. Therefore, non-state changing (aka read-only) methods may be implemented inside Raiden directly, or in pure separate utility functions when needed.


We follow the Flux Standard Action (FSA) pattern when creating actions. They should always be defined in the same module as the reducer which handles them.

We implemented custom functions to generate actions, with the direct advantage of using io-ts codecs to make them more powerful. Those functions and helpers are defined in src/utils/actions.ts.

  • createAction and createAsyncAction provide a simple way to create typesafe and serializable actions
  • createReducer simplifies creation of reducers which can be extended with additional actions handlers

FSA actions may contain data in both payload and meta properties. As FSA convention dictates that on error=true case payload should be the Error which happened, the rule of thumb is to use meta for any data which may be needed to filter the error action going through (e.g. { tokenNetwork, partner } on channel actions). It's also recommended to be consistent on meta on request/success/error-related actions. All other data should go on payload as usual.


Reducers are one of the simplest parts to write. Just some heads-up:

  • State must be minimal. Put in state only what's really needed to be preserved across sessions, needed to reload the account on a different system, or very expensive to re-fetch on every run. Everything else is better to go on epic dependencies or stateful observable operators and events on a per-session basis.
  • As stated earlier, module/domain specific reducers should always as possible act only on actions declared on their module.
  • reducers should never mutate state directly. Use ... spread operator and if needed lodash/fp module to get mutated copies of the state you're acting on. Even when using it, be careful with object references, as you may still be mutating state through a reference to a nested object.
  • Try to always be as type strict as possible. lodash's get and set usually aren't typesafe (because of their nested sweetness), so add explicit declarations and narrowing checks whenever needed, to be warned when changing anything that could break a reducer.
  • Don't overthink reducers: you can always assume you're receiving a valid/consistent state and action, so no need to add too much checks besides the typing ones, just be sure to always return a valid/consistent state as well and we should be good.
  • Each action type must be handled only once, in a single and very specific place, to avoid issues with the reduce-reducers pattern used in the root reducer declaration.
  • The state must be JSON-serializable. Try to stay on the primitive types as much as possible, unless there's a good reason to have an instance there, and it must be serializable (with custom io-ts codecs, like BigNumber). Our custom functions to create actionCreators helps here, as it already provide explicit io-ts codecs.


Epics are just functions, which receive 3 parameters: action$, state$ and deps, and create a cold observable which, when subscribed, perform this epic's duties. They can choose to act on any action or state change, or even dependencies, but it's important they try to follow the UNIX philosophy: do one thing, and do it well. So, as much as possible, each epic should listen a single event type, and output only the minimal action set as outcome of its specific task. The action$ input observable should be declared as Observable<RaidenAction>, as every action goes through (although filtered as early as possible), but try to declare the output as specifically as possible, with a tagged union of any possible action output type.

Hints, tips & tricks and pitfalls when developing epics

  • Be careful to not complete the output observable if the system is still running, or its function will be lost, as subscriptions aren't restarted.
  • Any unhandled exception (which shouldn't happen in normal operation) will cause a raidenShutdown action which in turn triggers completion of the inputs (action$ and state$). The individual epics then have httpTimeout to detect this completion and gracefully complete on their own once they finish their latest async tasks/teardown. During this time some output action may still go through and change state, but this this will only be received by epics later in the subscription queue (as earlier epics should already have completed, i.e. a serial completion mechanism signaled by completion of the input observables). After this timeout, if some epic didn't complete, they're logged and then unsubscribed. Only after that the database is flushed and closed.
  • Notice that catching the error in the first-level operator pipeline in an epic may prevent sdk's shutdown, but unless you're returning a long-lived/useful epic inside catchError, the main observable will already have completed/errored here, and whatever is above it will be noop on new/further actions; if you want to catch and handle an action, make sure to handle this action inside a *Map operator, and catchError by the end of it before returning values back to your top-level pipe.
  • If an epic acts directly (like a map) on action$, take care to filter early on the specific action you listen to and output a different action, or else your action output will feedback on your epic and cause an infinite loop. Same if you depend on a state$ change and your output action causes the same state change that just went through.
  • A common epic pattern: => action$.pipe(filter(isActionOf(action)), withLatestFrom(state$), map((action, state) => ...))
  • Never subscribe explicitly inside an epic if not strictly necessary; maps and pipes help into getting a proper action pipeline where a single subscription is used for all epics, making the system more deterministic, declarative and performant.
  • Careful if you use withLatestFrom with action$ or state$ inside a mergeMap, concatMap, exhaustMap, etc, as the inner (returned) observable is created only when the outer value flows through and the callback of these operators is called. The use of deps.latest$, which is holding the current/latest emition of several reactive values (a ReplaySubject(1)), is safe in withLatestFrom.
  • This example showcases the problem mentioed above: withLatestFrom only starts "seeing" values of the input$ after it's created and subscribed, and will discard any source value while the input$ didn't fire at least once, meaning it can be a silent source of bugs when used inside these mapping operators. e.g. of problematic logic:
  mergeMap(action =>
      map((_, state) => ...), // will swallow input while state$ doesn't see a new state after mergeMap call
  • In the spirit of tips above, you should ALWAYS know when your (specially inner) observables are created, subscribed and unsubscribed.
    • On the outer/top level observable (the one returned by the epic), the creation and subscription is performed at the moment the SDK is instantiated, and unsubscription happens if the observable completes, errors or at SDK stop/shutdown.
    • mergeMap creates the inner observable when the a value goes through, and subscribes to it immediatelly. completing the inner observable won't complete the outer, but unhandled errors do error the outer observable.
    • concatMap creates the inner observable also at the exact moment a value goes through, but its subscription is only made when the previous observable completes. Keep an eye if the values you depended on at creation time are still valid/up-to-date at subscription time. Use defer if needed.
    • exhaustMap is like concatMap, but instead of queueing every output observable serially, it ignores the value if the previous subscription is still on, and outputs the next inner observable only on next value going through after previous observable completed.
  • Obvious but it's worth to mention: if you handle external/unsafe data, use proper data validation through io-ts. Distrust everything!


The withLatestFrom issue mentioned above caused a pattern to emerge: multicasting outer input values (usually mapped) to some ReplaySubject(1), which were then used in inner observables which depended on having a way to fetch the latest values which may have been calculated even before the inner ones got subscribed. To avoid repeating this again and again, creating a callback-hell of nested observables and multicasted subjects, we decided to collect some of these more relevant values on a single, central subject, kept on the epics dependencies: deps.latest$.

This subject gets populated by a special latestEpic, which is the first one to receive actions/state changes notifications, and is the last one to be unsubscribed; it then maps the actions and keeps relevant values in a single object, which gets updated when any of these values change.

Example: if you need to map some action/observable and consult the reactive state, but ensure you react/test as soon as possible with the latest state, you can use withLatestFrom(latest$.pipe(pluck('state'))) operator to get the latest state ever, but also be reactive if it changes while this inner observable is hot.

This object's interface/schema is kept in the Latest type. If you want to react only to changes to a specific property of this object, pluckDistinct custom operator integrates pluck and distinctUntilChanged.

Be careful when adding new properties to this object, as often this is something used only once, and may as well be reactively fetched from the inputs as usual; in any case though, ensure your code is always reactive and using the latest values of any property/state, instead of static references to values which may be outdated.


The SDK tests are located at the raiden-ts/tests subfolder. The testing framework used is jest, and the complete suite can be run with yarn test command in the SDK root folder. This will run both unit and integration tests (files ending with .spec.ts), and collect coverage in the raiden/.coverage folder. Keeping an eye on raiden/.coverage/lcov-report/index.html during test writting can be a good guide to writing them, although just covering the lines isn't enough, and some thought must be put into imagining possible scenarios, invariants, critical and edge states, and testing them throughout the respective tests.

Unit tests

The unit tests try to cover as much as possible the individual functions, by testing behavior through expected and unexpected inputs, and their respective outputs. For that, we use extensively jest mocks to contextually replace external and internal dependencies of each tested function, and force the external logic to behave on the different (possible, conceivable) ways and ensure the our tested logic handles all of them. Most of the unit mocks are in raiden/tests/unit/mocks.ts, but some others are needed to be put in the beginning of the respective test files, for the mocking to take place before importing code using the mocked logic.

We try to split unit tests by kind of tested function. Most of the tested functions are pure (like utils, or reducers). To add a new test, simply add the describe and test calls to the respective function type.

Integration tests

The integration tests combine multiple units of the SDK and test if they work together as intended by their interface definitions. In the center of these tests are the epics which implement the Raiden protocol. They are the natural hub of the SDK where all units come together. Here the units dealing with the blockchain come together with units handling message on the transport layer. These test must not use any external end but rather to continue using mocks and stubs where needed while continuously remove mocks for 1st party units.

The hardest to unit test are the epics. As they conceive most of the Raiden logic, are async and may depend on multiple parts working together (e.g. an output action changing input state). In the past we called epics directly, but the setup turned out to be to cumbersome to use. Therefore now the tests set up the whole state machine and subscribe to all epics at once. Inputs and requests are injected in the store, and outputs are collected in an output array per client. This new pattern has shown to be orders of magnitude easier to write and more correct to set up, while as fast. Individual utils and helpers are still unit-tested independently whenever possible.

E2E tests

The end-to-end tests check the SDK without any mocking by running it on custom chain and with running synapse matrix servers. This setup is run in a container, with the configuration being available in the e2e-environment directory.

The key of these end-to-end tests is to find a good balance. The most important and extensive end-to-end tests are run by the Scenario Player on a nightly time shift. These test runs take very long, use a real blockchain with a real deployed Raiden Service Bundle. Furthermore they run on a special server cluster. Therefore it is the purpose of the end-to-end tests here to provide a more light-weight and fast complementation. The requirements are that they can run in an independent environment on any developers local PC, as well as within a continuous integration environment to verify pull requests. And they need to run fast enough so they do not hinder developers daily workflow (i.e. in maximum a couple of minutes). The goal of these tests is to increase the trust in changes by a pull request and decreasing the stress of developers (and reviewers). The tests should be just as good as it is necessary to catch mistakes early and before the nightlies must fail. The nightly tests by the Scenario player should fail rarely by changes introduced of a recent pull request. Merging a pull request to the master branch should be quite safe without the need of frequent follow-up PRs on the next day to fix the errors that got introduced, but discovered too late by the Scenario Player.

The end-to-end tests are defined in e2e.spec.ts. They only test the API of the Raiden object.


The SDK being a TypeScript/JavaScript library, debugging it can use a lot of the standard webapp/browser/node tools and interfaces.

Browser/live session:

  1. Build the SDK: on root folder, run yarn workspace raiden-ts build
  2. Run the dApp on development mode: on the root folder, run yarn workspace raiden-dapp serve
  3. On a browser, go to the local dApp instance, usually http://localhost:8080
  4. Open Dev Tools (usually, shortcut Ctrl+Shift+I). You can already see the redux-logger output in Console tab, which can be very useful to see the live actions going through the Redux state machine, as you navigate through the dApp.
  5. Install Vue DevTools for Firefox or Chrome: now, you can go to the Vue tab, click on the app component (which will be bound to the console's $vm0 var), and access the SDK instance from with raiden = $vm0.$raiden.raiden. Now, the variable raiden is the SDK instance, and one can use it to access and call properties and methods from the API. await or .then() can be useful when dealing with the async methods.
  6. State can be inspected from the app's indexedDB, in the Storage or Application tabs.
  7. While most epics variables and dependencies aren't persisted in the Raiden instance, but only used contextually in its epic, one can log them in any step and access it by right-clicking in the logged out object. If the need arises, the RaidenEpicDeps object can be saved in a Raiden property in the constructor and acessed from the console as well, giving full access to the instance details and variables.
  8. Looking at the in-browser sourcecode can be tricky, as even with proper maps, it'll be the webpacked version of the tsced sourcecode. Comparing the sources in webpack-internal to the actual .ts sourcecode can give good hints on what's failing.
  9. The Redux store can be visualized and even be modified with the Redux DevTools Extension. Install it for Firefox or Chrome and go to the Redux tab in your Dev Tools.

With tests

Debugging unit tests is way easier and usually more efficient, as one can properly pick source code lines, pause and jump on exact conditions, and inspect execution directly with tools like chrome-inspector. Refer to jest docs to debug on testing.

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