Relayers

Relayers allow you to send on-chain transactions via regular API requests or through other Defender modules, like Actions, Workflows, and Deploy. Relayers also automate the payment of gas fees and take care of private key secure storage, transaction signing, nonce management, gas pricing estimation, and resubmissions. With Relayers, you don’t have to worry about storing private keys on your back-end servers or monitoring gas prices and transactions to ensure they get confirmed.

Use cases

  • Execute transactions on smart contracts automatically to trigger a state transition.

  • Update an on-chain oracle with external data.

  • Send meta-transactions to build a gasless experience.

  • React to sign-ups in your app by airdropping tokens to your new users.

  • Sweep funds from protocol contracts to secure wallets,

  • Build bots with complete custom logic and flexibility.

What’s a Relayer?

A Relayer is an Ethereum-based externally-owned account (EOA) assigned exclusively to your team. Every time you create a new Relayer, Defender will create a new private key in a secure vault. Whenever you request Defender to send a transaction through that Relayer, the corresponding private key will be used for signing.

You can think of each Relayer as a queue for sending transactions, where all transactions sent through the same Relayer will be sent in order and from the same account, controlled exclusively by your team. Learn more about the technical implemention here.

Manage Relayers

To create a Relayer, simply click the Create Relayer button on the top-right section of the page, specify a name and select the network.

Manage Relayers Detail
Keep in mind that you’ll need to fund each Relayer individually with ETH (or the native chain token) to ensure they have enough funds to pay for the gas of the transactions you send. Defender will send you an email notification if a Relayer’s funds drop below 0.1 ETH.
Testnet Relayers created through the Deploy wizard will be automatically funded if possible. Read more here.

API Keys

Each Relayer can have one or more API keys associated with it. In order to send a transaction through a Relayer, you will need to authenticate the request with one an API key/secret pair. You can create or delete API keys as you see fit, and this will not change the sending address or Relayer balance.

To create an API key for a Relayer, click on the Relayer and then on the More button to expand the dropdown and select Create API Key.

Manage Relayers Create API Key

Once the API Key is created, make sure to write down the secret key. The API secret is only visible once during the creation — if you don’t write it down, it’s lost forever.

Manage Relayer API Key
The API key of a Relayer is not related to its private key. The private key is always kept within a secure key vault and never exposed (see the Security considerations section for more info). This decoupling allows you to freely rotate API keys while keeping the same address for your Relayer.

Addresses

Whenever you create a Relayer, a fresh EOA will be created to back it. For security reasons, it’s not possible to import an existing private key into a Relayer nor export the private key of a Relayer created by Defender. If you grant a privileged role to a Relayer address in your system to avoid lock-in, consider having an administrative method for switching it to a different one if needed.

Policies

You can limit a Relayer’s behavior by specifying policies.

To configure a Relayer’s policies, go to the Manage page, select the Relayer, and then go to the Policies tab. You will then see a form where you can opt to enable policies and tweak their parameters.

Manage Relayer Policies

Gas price cap

Specify a maximum gas price for every transaction sent with the Relayer. When this policy is enabled, Defender will overwrite the gasPrice or maxFeePerGas of any transaction that goes beyond the specified cap. Take into account that the gas price for a transaction is specified based on gas price oracles at the moment the Relayer actually sends the transaction to be mined, so this policy can be used as a protection on gas price surges.

In addition to the maximum gas price policy you can specify here, Defender implements a minimum gas price policy for networks that have minimum gas requirements. Check requirements with the individual networks you use.

Receiver whitelist

Specify a list of authorized contracts for every transaction sent using the Relayer. Defender will reject and discard any transaction whose destination address is not in the list.

The whitelist applies only to the to field of a transaction. It doesn’t filter ERC20 or other assets receivers.

EIP1559 Pricing

Specify if the transactions the Relayer sends should be EIP1559 by default or not. This applies whenever the Relayer sends a transaction with dynamic gas pricing or a non specified gasPrice or maxFeePerGas/maxPriorityFeePerGas. Note that this policy option is only shown for EIP1559 compatible networks.

EIP1559 Pricing policy is enabled by default for new Relayers. If you have a Relayer that was created without the default opt-in, you can always enable this flag.

Private transactions

Specify if the transactions should be sent via private mempool. This means that a transaction will not be publicly seen until it’s included in a block.

Private transactions are only enabled for mainnet by using the Flashbots Protect RPC. So, the same key considerations might apply while sending private transactions through Defender.

Sending transactions

The easiest way to send a transaction via a Relayer is using the Defender SDK package. The client is initialized with an API key/secret and exposes a simple API for sending transactions through the corresponding Relayer.

const { Defender } = require('@openzeppelin/defender-sdk');
const client = new Defender({
  relayerApiKey: 'YOUR_API_KEY',
  relayerApiSecret: 'YOUR_API_SECRET'
});

const tx = await client.relayerSigner.sendTransaction({
  to, value, data, gasLimit, speed: 'fast'
});

For better reliability of the relayers, we recommend sending no more than 50 transactions/min on a single relayer especially on fast moving chains like Polygon, Optimism, Arbitrum etc.. For example, if you want 250 transactions/min throughput, you would need to load balance across 5 relayers. These 5 relayers can be part of the same account.

You don’t need to enter a private key when initializing a Relayer client, since the private key is kept secure in the Defender vault.
Currently, zkSync doesn’t have a way to precisely calculate gasLimit other than using the eth_estimateGas endpoint. Therefore, Defender can’t do any gasLimit and overrides the user input with the RPC estimation.

Using ethers.js

The Relayer client integrates with ethers.js via a custom signer. This allows you switch to a Relayer and send transactions with minimal changes in your codebase.

const { Defender } = require('@openzeppelin/defender-sdk');
const { ethers } = require('ethers');

const credentials = { relayerApiKey: YOUR_RELAYER_API_KEY, relayerApiSecret: YOUR_RELAYER_API_SECRET };
const client = new Defender(credentials);

const provider = client.relaySigner.getProvider();
const signer = client.relaySigner.getSigner(provider, { speed: 'fast', validUntil });

const erc20 = new ethers.Contract(ERC20_ADDRESS, ERC20_ABI, signer);
const tx = await erc20.transfer(beneficiary, 1e18.toString());
const mined = await tx.wait();

In the example above, we are also using a DefenderRelayProvider for making calls to the network. The signer can work with any provider, such as ethers.getDefaultProvider(), but you can rely on Defender as a network provider as well.

You can read more about the ethers integration here.

Using web3.js

The Relayer client integrates with web3.js as well as via a custom provider. This allows you to send transactions with a Relayer and query the network using the familiar web3 interface.

const { Defender } = require('@openzeppelin/defender-sdk');
const Web3 = require('web3');

const credentials = { relayerApiKey: YOUR_RELAYER_API_KEY, relayerApiSecret: YOUR_RELAYER_API_SECRET };
const client = new Defender(credentials);

const provider = client.relaySigner.getProvider();

const web3 = new Web3(provider);

const [from] = await web3.eth.getAccounts();
const erc20 = new web3.eth.Contract(ERC20_ABI, ERC20_ADDRESS, { from });
const tx = await erc20.methods.transfer(beneficiary, (1e18).toString()).send();

In the example above, the transfer transaction is signed and broadcasted by the Relayer, and any additional JSON RPC calls are routed via Defender private endpoint.

You can read more about the web3 integration here.

EIP1559 support

Since not all of the supported networks are EIP1559 compatible, the EIP1559 transaction support is only enabled for those networks identified as compatible and enabled by the team.

A Relayer can send EIP1559 transactions in the following ways:

  • Sending a transaction via UI with the EIP1559Pricing policy enabled

  • Sending a transaction via API with both maxFeePerGas and maxPriorityFeePerGas specified

  • Sending a transaction via API with speed and with the EIP1559Pricing policy enabled

Once any transaction is sent, it will have the same type on every stage of its lifecycle (such as replacement and repricing), so it’s currently not possible to change the type if it’s already been submitted.

Any attempt to send maxFeePerGas or maxPriorityFeePerGas to non-EIP1559 compatible networks will be rejected and discarded by the Relayer.

You can tell if a network supports EIP1559 by looking at the Relayer policies. If the EIP1559Pricing policy doesn’t show up, it means that we haven’t added EIP1559 support for that network.

If you notice an EIP1559 compatible network that we already support but doens’t have the EIP enabled, please don’t hesitate to reach out via https://www.openzeppelin.com/defender2-feedback.

Private transactions

Private transaction allows a Relayer to send transactions without being visible on the public mempool, and instead, the transaction is relayed via a private mempool using a special eth_sendRawTransaction provider, which will vary depending on the network and current support (such as Flashbots network coverage).

A Relayer may send a private transaction in any of the following ways:

  • Sending a transaction via API with the privateTransactions policy enabled

  • Sending a transaction via API with isPrivate parameter set to true

  • Sending a transaction via UI and checking the Mempool Visibility checkbox

Mempool visibility checkbox on Relayer's send transaction view
Sending a transaction with the isPrivate flag set to true to a network that doesn’t support private transactions will be rejected and discarded by the Relayer.

Currently, only the following network is supported

Speed

Instead of the usual gasPrice or maxFeePerGas/maxPriorityFeePerGas, the Relayer may also accept a speed parameter, which can be safeLow, average, fast, or fastest. These values are mapped to actual gas prices when the transaction is sent or resubmitted and vary depending on the state of the network.

If speed is provided, the transaction would be priced according to the EIP1559Pricing Relayer policy.

Mainnet gas prices and priority fees are calculated based on the values reported by EthGasStation, EtherChain, GasNow, Blockative, and Etherscan. In Polygon and its testnet, the gas station is used. In other networks, gas prices are obtained from a call to eth_gasPrice or eth_feeHistory to the network.

Fixed Gas Pricing

Alternatively, you may specify a fixed gasPrice or a fixed combination of maxFeePerGas and maxPriorityFeePerGas for a transaction, by setting either the gasPrice parameter or maxFeePerGas and maxPriorityFeePerGas parameters. Transactions with a fixed pricing are either mined with the specified pricing or replaced with a NOOP transaction if they couldn’t be mined before validUntil time.

Keep in mind that you have to provide either speed, gasPrice, maxFeePerGas/maxPriorityFeePerGas or none, but not a mix between them in a send transaction request.

Whenever a send transaction request is sent without any pricing parameter, it will be priced with a fast default speed.
If you’re providing both fixed maxFeePerGas and maxPriorityFeePerGas, make sure that maxFeePerGas is greater or equal than maxPriorityFeePerGas. Otherwise, it’ll be rejected.

Valid Until

Every transaction via a Relayer is valid for submission to the network until validUntil time. After validUntil time the transaction is replaced by a NOOP transaction in order to prevent Relayers from getting stuck at the transaction’s nonce. A NOOP transaction does nothing except advancing the Relayer’s nonce.

validUntil defaults to 8 hours after the transaction creation. Note that you can combine validUntil with a fixed pricing to achieve extremely fast mining times and beating other transactions on gasPrice or maxFeePerGas.

If you’re using ethers.js, you may set a validForSeconds option instead of validUntil. In the example below, we configure a DefenderRelaySigner to issue a transaction which will be valid for 120 seconds after its creation.

const signer = new DefenderRelaySigner(credentials, provider, { validForSeconds: 120 });
validUntil is a UTC timestamp. Make sure to use a UTC timezone and not a local one.

Transaction IDs

Since a Relayer may resubmit a transaction with an updated gas pricing if it does’t get confirmed in the expected time frame, the hash of a given transaction may change over time. To track the status of a given transaction, the Relayer API returns a transactionId identifier you can use to query it.

const tx = await relayer.query(tx.transactionId);
The query endpoint will return the latest view of the transaction from the Defender service, which gets updated every minute.

Replace Transactions

While a Relayer will automatically resubmit transactions with increased gas pricing if they are not confirmed, and will automatically cancel them after their valid-until timestamp, you can still manually replace or cancel your transaction if it has not been mined yet. This allows you to cancel a transaction if it is no longer valid, tweak its TTL, or bump its speed or gas pricing.

To do this, use the replaceByNonce or replaceById of the @openzeppelin/defender-sdk-relay-client:

// Cancel tx payload (tx to a random address with zero value and data)
replacement = {
  to: '0x6b175474e89094c44da98b954eedeac495271d0f',
  value: '0x00',
  data: '0x',
  speed: 'fastest',
  gasLimit: 21000
};

// Replace a tx by nonce
tx = await relayer.replaceTransactionByNonce(42, replacement);

// Or by transactionId
tx = await relayer.replaceTransactionById('5fcb8a6d-8d3e-403a-b33d-ade27ce0f85a', replacement);

You can also replace a pending transaction by setting the nonce when sending a transaction using the ethers or web3.js adapters:

// Using ethers
erc20 = new ethers.Contract(ERC20_ADDRESS, ERC20_ABI, signer);
replaced = await erc20.functions.transfer(beneficiary, 1e18.toString(), {
  nonce: 42
});

// Using web3.js
erc20 = new web3.eth.Contract(ERC20_ABI, ERC20_ADDRESS, { from });
replaced = await erc20.methods.transfer(beneficiary, (1e18).toString()).send({
  nonce: 42
});
You can only replace transactions of the same type. For example, if you’re trying to replace an EIP1559 transaction, it can’t be replaced with a legacy transaction. Also, if speed is provided instead, the transaction will be repriced as its original type requires with the given speed.

List Transactions

You can also list the latest transactions sent via your Relayer, optionally filtering by status (pending, mined, or failed). This can be particularly useful to prevent your Actions scripts from re-sending a transaction already in-flight: before sending a transaction, you can use the list method filtered by pending status to see if there is a transaction in the queue with the same destination and calldata as the one you are about to send.

const txs = await relayer.list({
  since: new Date(Date.now() - 60 * 1000),
  status: 'pending', // can be 'pending', 'mined', or 'failed'
  limit: 5, // newest txs will be returned first
})

Signing

In addition to sending transactions, a Relayer can also sign arbitrary messages according to the EIP-191 Standard (prefixed by \x19Ethereum Signed Message:\n) using its private key. You can access this feature via the sign method of the client or the equivalent ethers.js method.

const signResponse = await relayer.sign({ message });
As opposed to most libraries, Relayers use non-deterministic ECDSA signatures. This means that if you request a Relayer to sign the same message multiple times, you will get multiple different signatures, which may differ to the result you get by signing using ethersjs or web3js. All those different signatures are valid. See RFC6979 more information.

Signing Typed Data

Along with the sign api method, Relayers also implement a signTypedData, which you can use to sign messages according to the EIP712 Standard for typed data signatures. You can either provide the domainSeparator and hashStruct(message) or use the equivalent ethers.js method

const signTypedDataResponse = await relayer.signTypedData({
  domainSeparator,
  hashStructMessage
});

Relayer Info

A relayer’s address can be retrieved using the getAddress method of the DefenderRelaySigner class.

const address = await signer.getAddress();

If you need more info about a Relayer then checkout the getRelayer method of the client. It returns the following data:

const info = await relayer.getRelayer();
console.log('Relayer info', info);

export interface RelayerModel {
  relayerId: string;
  name: string;
  address: string;
  network: string;
  paused: boolean;
  createdAt: string;
  pendingTxCost: string;
}

Relayer Status

To gain better insight into the current status of a relayer, one can use the getRelayerStatus method from the DefenderRelaySigner class. This method provides real-time information about a relayer, such as its nonce, transaction quota, and the number of pending transactions.

const address = await signer.getRelayerStatus();

If you need info about a Relayer then checkout the getRelayer method of the client. It returns the following data:

export interface RelayerStatus {
  relayerId: string;
  name: string;
  nonce: number;
  address: string;
  numberOfPendingTransactions: number;
  paused: boolean;
  pendingTxCost?: string;
  txsQuotaUsage: number;
  rpcQuotaUsage: number;
  lastConfirmedTransaction?: {
    hash: string;
    status: string;
    minedAt: string;
    sentAt: string;
    nonce: number;
  };
}

Network calls

Defender also provides an easy way to make arbitrary JSON RPC calls to the network. You can use the low-level relayer.call method to send any JSON RPC HTTP request:

const balance = await relayer.call('eth_getBalance', ['0x6b175474e89094c44da98b954eedeac495271d0f', 'latest']);

If you are using ethers.js, this is supported via a custom DefenderRelayProvider provider object:

const provider = new DefenderRelayProvider(credentials);
const balance = await provider.getBalance('0x6b175474e89094c44da98b954eedeac495271d0f');

Withdrawing funds

You can withdraw funds from a Relayer on the Relayers Manage page, selecting the Relayer, and clicking on Withdraw.

Relayer Withdraw Button

At the Withdraw screen, you can choose to send funds in ETH or pick from a built-in list of ERC20 tokens.

Relayer Withdraw Funds Screen

Under the hood

Each Relayer is associated to a private key. When a request to send a transaction is received, the Relayer validates the request, atomically assigns it a nonce, reserves balance for paying for its gas fees, resolves its speed to a gasPrice or maxFeePerGas/maxPriorityFeePerGas depending on its EIP1559 pricing policy, signs it with its private key, and enqueues it for submission to the blockchain. The response is sent back to the client only after this process has finished. Then, the transaction is broadcasted through multiple node providers for redundancy and retried up to three times in case APIs are down.

Every minute, all in-flight transactions are checked by the system. If they have not been mined and more than a certain time has passed (which depends on the transaction speed), they are resubmitted with a 10% increase in their respective transaction type pricing (or the latest pricing for their speed, if it’s greater), which could be up to a 150% of the reported gas pricing for their speed. This process causes the transaction hash to change, but their ID is preserved. On the other hand, if the transaction has been mined, it is still monitored for several blocks until we consider it to be confirmed.

Concurrency and Rate Limiting

Relayers assign nonces atomically which allows them to handle many concurrent transactions. However, there do exist limits to optimize the infrastructure (all numbers below are cumulative of all Relayers in an account):

  • 100 total requests/second

  • 10 transactions/second

Security considerations

All private keys are stored in the AWS Key Management Service. Keys are generated within the KMS and never leave it, i.e., all sign operations are executed within the KMS. Furthermore, we rely on dynamically generated AWS Identity and Access Management policies to isolate access to the private keys among tenants.

As for API secrets, these are only kept in memory during creation when they are sent to the client. After that, they are hashed and stored securely in AWS Cognito, which is used behind the scenes for authenticating Relayer requests. This makes API keys easy to rotate while preserving the same private key on the KMS.

Rollups

When sending transactions to a rollup chain, such as Arbitrum or Optimism, Relayers currently depend on the chain’s sequencer/aggregator. This means that, if the sequencer goes down or censors transactions, Relayers will not bypass it and commit directly to layer 1.