Hyperledger Sawtooth is an enterprise blockchain platform for building distributed ledger applications and networks. The design philosophy targets keeping ledgers distributed and making smart contracts safe, particularly for enterprise use.

Sawtooth simplifies blockchain application development by separating the core system from the application domain. Application developers can specify the business rules appropriate for their application, using the language of their choice, without needing to know the underlying design of the core system.

Sawtooth is also highly modular. This modularity enables enterprises and consortia to make policy decisions that they are best equipped to make. Sawtooth’s core design allows applications to choose the transaction rules, permissioning, and consensus algorithms that support their unique business needs.

Sawtooth is an open source project under the Hyperledger umbrella. For information on how to contribute, see Join the Sawtooth Community.

About Distributed Ledgers

A “distributed ledger” is another term for a blockchain. It distributes a database (a ledger) of transactions to all participants in a network (also called “peers” or “nodes”). There is no central administrator or centralised data storage. In essence, it is:

  • Distributed: The blockchain database is shared among potentially untrusted participants and is demonstrably identical on all nodes in the network. All participants have the same information.
  • Immutable: The blockchain database is an unalterable history of all transactions that uses block hashes to make it easy to detect and prevent attempts to alter the history.
  • Secure: All changes are performed by transactions that are signed by known identities.

These features work together, along with agreed-upon consensus mechanisms, to provide “adversarial trust” among all participants in a blockchain network.

Distinctive Features of Sawtooth

Separation Between the Application Level and the Core System

Sawtooth makes it easy to develop and deploy an application by providing a clear separation between the application level and the core system level. Sawtooth provides smart contract abstraction that allows application developers to write contract logic in a language of their choice.

An application can be a native business logic or a smart contract virtual machine. In fact, both types of applications can co-exist on the same blockchain. Sawtooth allows these design decisions to be made in the transaction-processing layer, which allows multiple types of applications to exist in the same instance of the blockchain network.

Each application defines the custom transaction processors for its unique requirements. Sawtooth provides several example transaction families to serve as models for low-level functions, such as maintaining chain-wide settings and storing on-chain permissions, and for specific applications such as performance analysis and storing block information.

Transaction processor SDKs are available in multiple languages to streamline creation of new contract languages, including Python, JavaScript, Go, C++, Java, and Rust. A provided REST API simplifies client development by adapting validator communication to standard HTTP/JSON.

Private Networks with the Sawtooth Permissioning Features

Sawtooth is built to solve the challenges of permissioned (private) networks. Clusters of Sawtooth nodes can be easily deployed with separate permissioning. There is no centralized service that could potentially leak transaction patterns or other confidential information.

The blockchain stores the settings that specify the permissions, such as roles and identities, so that all participants in the network can access this information.

Parallel Transaction Execution

Most blockchains require serial transaction execution in order to guarantee consistent ordering at each node on the network. Sawtooth includes an advanced parallel scheduler that splits transactions into parallel flows. Based on the locations in state which are accessed by a transaction, Sawtooth isolates the execution of transactions from one another while maintaining contextual changes.

When possible, transactions are executed in parallel, while preventing double-spending even with multiple modifications to the same state. Parallel scheduling provides a substantial potential increase in performance over serial execution.

Event System

Hyperledger Sawtooth supports creating and broadcasting events. This allows applications to:

  • Subscribe to events that occur related to the blockchain, such as a new block being committed or switching to a new fork.
  • Subscribe to application specific events defined by a transaction family.
  • Relay information about the execution of a transaction back to clients without storing that data in state.

Subscriptions are submitted and serviced over a ZMQ Socket.

Ethereum Contract Compatibility with Seth

The Sawtooth-Ethereum integration project, Seth, extends the interoperability of the Sawtooth platform to Ethereum. EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine) smart contracts can be deployed to Sawtooth using the Seth transaction family.

Pluggable consensus algorithms

In a blockchain, consensus is the process of building agreement among a group of mutually distrusting participants. Algorithms for achieving consensus with arbitrary faults generally require some form of voting among a known set of participants. General approaches include Nakamoto-style consensus, which elects a leader through some form of lottery, and variants of the traditional Byzantine Fault Tolerance (BFT) algorithms, which use multiple rounds of explicit votes to achieve consensus.

Sawtooth abstracts the core concepts of consensus and isolates consensus from transaction semantics. The interface supports plugging in various consensus implementations. More importantly, Sawtooth allows different types of consensus on the same blockchain. The consensus is selected during the initial network setup and can be changed on a running blockchain with a transaction.

Sawtooth currently supports these consensus implementations:

  • Proof of Elapsed Time (PoET), a Nakamoto-style consensus algorithm that is designed to be a production-grade protocol capable of supporting large network populations. PoET relies on secure instruction execution to achieve the scaling benefits of a Nakamoto-style consensus algorithm without the power consumption drawbacks of the Proof of Work algorithm.
  • PoET simulator, which provides PoET-style consensus on any type of hardware, including a virtualized cloud environment.
  • Dev mode, a simplified random-leader algorithm that is useful for development and testing.

Sample Transaction Families

In Sawtooth, the data model and transaction language are implemented in a transaction family. While we expect users to build custom transaction families that reflect the unique requirements of their ledgers, we provide several core transaction families as models:

  • IntegerKey - Used for testing deployed ledgers.
  • Settings - Provides a reference implementation for storing on-chain configuration settings.
  • Identity - Handles on-chain permissioning for transactor and validator keys to streamline managing identities for lists of public keys.

Additional transaction families provide models for specific areas:

  • Smallbank - Handles performance analysis for benchmarking and performance testing when comparing the performance of blockchain systems. This transaction family is based on the H-Store Smallbank benchmark.
  • BlockInfo - Provides a methodology for storing information about a configurable number of historic blocks.

For more information, see Transaction Family Specifications.

Real-world Application Examples

  • XO: Demonstrates how to construct basic transactions by playing Tic-tac-toe. The XO transaction family includes create and take transactions, with an xo command that allows two participants to play the game. For more information, see Introduction to the XO Transaction Family.
  • Sawtooth Supply Chain: Helps you trace the provenance and other contextual information of any asset. Supply Chain provides a complete example application with a transaction processor, custom REST API, and web app. This application also demonstrates a secure and decentralized solution for in-browser transaction signing, and illustrates how to synchronize the blockchain state to a local database for complex queries. For more information, see the sawtooth-supply-chain repo on GitHub.
  • Sawtooth Marketplace: Allows users to exchange specific quantities of customized assets with other users on the blockchain. This application contains a number of components that, together with a Sawtooth validator, will run a Sawtooth blockchain and provide a simple RESTful API to interact with it. For more information, see the sawtooth-marketplace repo on GitHub.
  • Sawtooth Private UTXO: Demonstrates how assets can be created and traded. It shows how to use SGX to allow for assets to be transferred off ledger and privately traded, where only the trading parties know the details of the transaction. For more information, see the sawtooth-private-utxo repo on GitHub.

Getting Started with Application Development

Try Hyperledger Sawtooth

The Sawtooth documentation explains how to set up a local validator for demonstrating Sawtooth functionality and testing an application. Once running, you will be able to submit new transactions and fetch the resulting state and block data from the blockchain using HTTP and the Sawtooth REST API. These methods apply to the included example transaction families, as well as to any transaction families you might write yourself.

Sawtooth validators can be run from pre-built Docker containers, installed natively using Ubuntu 16.04, or launched in AWS from the AWS Marketplace.

To get started, see Installing and Running Sawtooth.

Develop a Custom Application

In Sawtooth, the data model and transaction language are implemented in a transaction family. Transaction families codify business rules used to modify state, while client programs typically submit transactions and view state. You can build custom transaction families that reflect your unique requirements, using the provided core transaction families as models.

Sawtooth provides a REST API and SDKs in several languages - including Python, C++, Go, Java, JavaScript, and Rust - for development of applications which run on top of the Sawtooth platform. In addition, you can write smart contracts in Solidity for use with the Seth transaction family.

For more information, see Application Developer’s Guide, SDK API Reference, and REST API Reference.

Participating in Core Development

Learn about Sawtooth Architecture

See Architecture Description for information on core Sawtooth features such as global state, transactions and batches (the atomic unit of state change in Sawtooth), permissioning, the validator network, the event system, and more.

Get the Sawtooth Software

The Sawtooth software is distributed as source code with an Apache license. You can get the code to start building your own distributed ledger.

  • sawtooth-core: Contains fundamental classes used throughout the Sawtooth project, as well as the following items:
    • The implementation of the validator process which runs on each node
    • SDKs for writing transaction processing or validation logic in a variety of languages
    • Dockerfiles to support development or launching a network of validators
    • Source files for this documentation
  • Seth: Deploy Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) smart contracts to Sawtooth
  • Sawtooth Marketplace: Exchange customized “Assets” with other users on the blockchain
  • Sawtooth Supply Chain: Trace the provenance and other contextual information of any asset
  • Sawtooth Private UTXO: Create and trade assets, using SGX to allow assets to be transferred off-ledger and traded privately

Join the Sawtooth Community

Sawtooth is an open source project under the Hyperledger umbrella. We welcome working with individuals and companies interested in advancing distributed ledger technology. Please see Community for ways to become a part of the Sawtooth community.


This project uses software developed by the OpenSSL Project for use in the OpenSSL Toolkit (

This project relies on other third-party components. For details, see the LICENSE and NOTICES files in the sawtooth-core repository.