Disclaimer: These are planning documents. The functionalities described here may be unimplemented, partially implemented, or implemented differently than the original design.

Circuit Disband


This document presents the design to disband a circuit which enables the circuit to be deleted. The ability to delete a circuit affords greater flexibility in production and testing environments. Disbanding a circuit is dependent on the circuit’s circuit_status, which may be Active, Disbanded, or Abandoned. Only Active circuits are able to be disbanded. Once a circuit is created, it has created a network amongst its members and is considered Active. In order to delete a circuit this networking capability must first be removed. As such, disbanding a circuit involves a multi-step process to ensure the circuit is removed safely for each node. This feature also validates the admin service protocol version and circuit version being used, meaning circuits created by nodes running a stable or older Splinter release will not be able to use the disband functionality.

Circuit members may take the first step towards removing a circuit entirely from state by choosing to disband. A single node may also choose to abandon a circuit, which does not take the same considerations as disbanding, but will also remove the circuit’s networking capability.

Abandoning a circuit is an alternative route to disbanding a circuit. A node may choose to abandon a circuit to disable the circuit’s networking from their node’s perspective. Other circuit members will then be unable to send the abandoning node any messages over the abandoned circuit. More information can be found in the Circuit Abandon feature document. Disbanding, when compared to abandoning, is a safe operation as it requires all members to agree before a circuit is completely removed from the network. Once a circuit has been disbanded, it is only available locally. This means it has had its networking capability removed, but the circuit and any service data remains in state.

Guide-level explanation

Disbanding a circuit

Disbanding a circuit entails removing a circuit’s networking capabilities. Before a circuit is disbanded, however, all members of the circuit must agree to disband, following a similar procedure to creating a circuit. A node’s administrator may request to disband the circuit, which will create a proposal with the new state of the circuit. This newly created proposal then goes through validation to ensure the operation is able to be performed. Validating the disband request includes the following:

  • The specified circuit in the request is present within the admin store and has a circuit_status of Active
  • The protocol version used by the admin services connected to the specified circuit is above 1
  • The specified circuit in the request has a circuit_version of at least 2
  • The requester’s public key has the correct permission to propose on the associated node
  • The specified circuit does not already have an associated proposal

Once the disband request has been validated, the proposal is available to all circuit members. Then all members are either able to accept or reject the proposal. If the proposal is rejected, the proposal is removed and the circuit remains active. If the proposal is accepted, the circuit state for all member nodes is changed to match the content of the proposal and the networking capability of the circuit is switched off. The following section explains this procedure in greater detail.

Reference-level explanation


For a node’s administrator to request that a circuit is disbanded, a CircuitDisbandRequest must be first sent to the node’s admin service. The CircuitDisbandRequest is defined as follows:

message CircuitDisbandRequest {
    // The unique circuit name
    string circuit_id = 1;

This request is then wrapped in a CircuitManagementPayload before being submitted to the admin service. CircuitManagementPayloads are used for various actions pertaining to creating and now deleting a circuit. The CircuitManagementPayload for a disband request would appear as follows:

message CircuitManagementPayload {
    header =
        Header {
            action = CIRCUIT_DISBAND_REQUEST;
            requester = <Bytes of the requester’s public key>;
            payload_sha512 = <Bytes of the hash of the payload’s action>;
            requester_node_id = <Node ID of the requester submitting the payload>;
    signature = <Signature of the header included in the request>;
    circuit_disband_request = <`CircuitDisbandRequest` with the circuit ID of the circuit to be disbanded>;

Handling the CircuitDisbandRequest

Once this request has been submitted to the admin service, the admin service validates the payload based on the guidelines explained previously. If the payload is successfully validated, the admin service creates a CircuitProposal to represent the disbanded state of the circuit and makes this proposal available to other nodes. This proposal is the same type of proposal used when creating a circuit, except the ProposalType is Disband. The circuit (being disbanded) defined within the proposal also has the same information as the existing active circuit, except with a circuit_status of Disbanded.

Voting on the disband proposal

Voting on this proposal follows the same procedure as when voting to create a circuit. That is, all members must first vote to accept the proposal to disband the circuit before the circuit state is updated. If any circuit members vote to reject the proposal, the proposal will be removed from the admin store and the circuit will remain active. If the proposal to disband is accepted, however, the circuit state will be updated for each of the circuit members to reflect the disbanded state. This also means the circuit’s networking is turned off.

Result of disbanding

Specifically, the ability of the nodes to communicate over the circuit will no longer be available. On disband, each node will remove the references to the peers from the circuit and remove the circuit from the admin service’s RoutingTable. This will disable messages from being able to be sent over the disbanded circuit. Disbanding a circuit also includes stopping the services that were running on the circuit. The admin service for each node uses the ServiceOrchestrator to stop the circuit’s associated services. This operation will only stop internal services, and does not have any effect on services running externally. These services must be stopped externally. Any operations attempted on the disbanded circuit via a Splinter service will ultimately fail as all services have been stopped once the circuit is disbanded.


Removing a circuit from its networking capabilities may cause concern for node administrators. As such, the disband feature allows time for each system administrator to come to a decision externally before agreeing to disband a circuit. This also gives administrators the option to reject the disbanding, to ensure each administrator has full control over the state of their Splinter network. Disbanding a circuit is a safer operation compared to the available alternative. For information on abandoning a circuit, the alternative to disbanding, see the Circuit Abandon feature document.

Prior art

Prior to this feature, circuit deletion has not been implemented. The process of the disband feature does follow the design used to create a circuit, using the CircuitCreate message.