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SNS cycle management

The need to observe the canisters' cycles


An SNS community must ensure that all SNS and dapp canisters have sufficient cycles by manually sending cycles when necessary to each individual SNS canister.

  1. Manually means that someone has to monitor the cycles of the canisters and actively make calls to send additional cycles to them when the canisters' cycles balance get low.
  2. This process has to be repeated for each indiviudal SNS canister and also for each dapp canister.

At least the latter is not new to developers who built a dapp on the IC. Nevertheless, we want to underline the importance of this in the context of an SNS: If the SNS governance or SNS ledger canister run out of cycles and get deleted, this is of course critical as users loose their liquid and staked tokens and as the dapp canisters cannot be governed anymore. Also, as the SNS canisters are owned by a community, some coordination might be needed to ensure that some individuals feel responsible for these steps.

Cycles in the archive canisters

The SNS community should be aware of most SNS and associated dapp canisters are either installed when the SNS is initiated or they are explicitly added to the SNS by a proposal. One exception are the archive canisters of the ledger canister. Due to limited storage, the ledger cannot keep all blocks forever and thus it spawns separate archive canisters to do so. The ledger spawning a new archive affects the cycles as follows: The ledger takes a predefined number X of cycles from its current cycle balance and creates the archive with these X cycles as the initial balance. The number X is set when the SNS ledger canister is first initialized.

This specifically means that SNS communities should be aware of the following:


The SNS ledger canister automatically spawns new archive canisters. When this happens, the cycles balance of these new canisters has to be managed. The ledger's cycles balance decreases by a significat amount if a new archive is spawned. If an archive canister runs out of cycles, ledger blocks might be lost.

To help SNS communities manage cycles, the SNS is initiated as follows:

  • SNS canisters are started with already a large number of cycles, namely 180T
  • the SNS ledger is started with 60T (2*30T) cycles such that when the first archive is spawn, both should have roughly 30T cycles (as have all other SNS canisters when they are installed).

How to observe and manage the canisters' cycles

We next describe in more detail how you can monitor and manage the cycles of the SNS and dapp canisters.

1. Find all SNS and governed dapp canisters and their cycle balance.

SNS root knows about all these canisters and their cycles. You can get all the SNS and associated dapp canisters' status, which includes the cycles, by using the SNS root canister's method get_sns_canisters_summary.

2. Send new cycles to a given canister

If the first step shows that one of SNS or dapp canisters runs low on cycles, you can top up the canister's cycles.

To do this, you need a wallet with sufficient cycles. In an SNS, can look for people who donate cycles in this way. Otherwise, you can make a proposal that transfers some ICP from the SNS treasury to an individual who is trusted to convert these to cycles and make such payments.

The (possible) future of cycles management

As this page shows, the current management of cycles is quite some work. Therefore the community is thinking about some enhancements might be added in the future. Some examples are:

1) Canister groups: Canister groups would allow to manage the cycles for groups of canisters rather than for individual canisters. If all SNS and SNS-governed dapp canister could be in the same group, this might considerably simplify SNS cycles management.

2) SNS enhancements to automate some cycle management: It is conceivable that the task of taking ICP from the SNS's treasury, converting them to cycles, and sending those cycles to the SNS canisters can be automated at least to some extent.