HomeReferenceAccount Data Structures

Account data structures

Accounts are a fundamental part of any blockchain, and, in Substrate, accounts can be used in many different ways. This article describes how accounts are stored in Substrate and how the account data structure is used to manage the account lifecycle in the runtime logic.

Account

The Account data type is a storage map that is defined generically in the frame-system pallet:

/// The full account information for a particular account ID.
#[pallet::storage]
#[pallet::getter(fn account)]
pub type Account<T: Config> = StorageMap<
  _,
  Blake2_128Concat,
  T::AccountId,
  AccountInfo<T::Index, T::AccountData>,
  ValueQuery,
>;

The StorageMap for an Account consists of the following parameters:

  • The first parameter (_) is used in macro expansion.
  • Blake2_128Concat specifies the hashing algorithm to use.
  • T::AccountId is used as the key for over the AccountInfo<T::Index, T::AccountData> struct.

See StorageMap API for details.

AccountInfo

The AccountInfo for an account is defined in the frame_system pallet:

#[derive(Clone, Eq, PartialEq, Default, RuntimeDebug, Encode, Decode)]
pub struct AccountInfo<Index, AccountData> {
  /// The number of transactions this account has sent.
  pub nonce: Index,
  /// The number of other modules that currently depend on this account's existence. The account
  /// cannot be reaped until this is zero.
  pub consumers: RefCount,
  /// The number of other modules that allow this account to exist. The account may not be reaped
  /// until this and `sufficients` are both zero.
  pub providers: RefCount,
  /// The number of modules that allow this account to exist for their own purposes only. The
  /// account may not be reaped until this and `providers` are both zero.
  pub sufficients: RefCount,
  /// The additional data that belongs to this account. Used to store the balance(s) in a lot of
  /// chains.
  pub data: AccountData,
}

Every account has an AccountInfo consisting of:

  • The nonce indicating the number of transactions the account has sent.
  • The consumers reference counter indicating the number of other modules that currently depend on this account's existence.
  • The providers reference counter indicating the number of other modules that allow this account to exist.
  • The sufficients reference counter indicating the number of modules that allow this account to exist for their own purposes only.
  • The AccountData structure that you can configure to hold different kinds of data.

Account reference counters

The account reference counters track account dependencies in the runtime. For example, if you store data under a map controlled by an account, you wouldn't want to delete the account until the data stored under the map the account controls has been deleted.

The consumers and providers reference counters are designed to be used together. For example, the consumers reference counter in the Session pallet is incremented when an account setS its session keys prior of becoming a validator. The providers reference counter must be greater than zero before the consumer counter can be incremented.

The providers reference counter indicates if an account is ready to be depended upon. For example, the providers reference counter is incremented when a new account is created with more than the existential deposit [2].

The providers reference counter prevents Substrate pallets from storing data about an account until the account is active (providers > 0). The consumers reference counter prevents Substrate pallets from removing an account until data about the account is removed in all pallets (consumers == 0). The consumers reference counter holds users accountable for the data stored on-chain. If users want to remove their accounts and get back the existential deposit, they need to remove all of the data they have stored on all on-chain pallets to decrement consumers counter.

Pallets also have cleanup functions to decrement the providers reference counter to mark the account as deactivated within the pallet-managed scope. When the account providers reference counter is zero and the consumers is zero, the account is considered deactivated by all on-chain pallets.

The sufficients reference counter indicates if an account is self-sufficient and can exist by itself. For example, in the Assets pallet, an account can have sufficient number of certain assets but without owning any native account balance.

Runtime developers can update these counters using the inc_consumers(), dec_consumers(), inc_providers(), dec_providers(), inc_sufficients(), and dec_sufficients() methods exposed by the frame-system pallet. Each increment call of a certain counter should e accompanied by a corresponding decrement call of the counter in an account life cycle.

There are also three query functions to ease usage on these counters:

  • can_inc_consumer() to check if an account is ready to be used (providers > 0).
  • can_dec_provider() to check if an account is no longer referenced in runtime whatsoever (consumers == 0) before decrementing providers to 0.
  • is_provider_required() to check if an account has outstanding consumer references (consumers > 0).

See frame-system API for details.

AccountData trait and implementation

The AccountInfo can be any struct as long as the struct satisfies the associated type AccountData trait bound defined in the frame-system::pallet::Config trait. By default, the Substrate runtime configures AccountInfo to beas defined in pallet-balances.

Where to go next

For addtional technical details, see the following resources: