top of page
  • Writer's pictureJeffrey Scholz

The Transparent Upgradeable Proxy Pattern Explained in Detail

Updated: 7 days ago

The Transparent Upgradeable Proxy is a design pattern for upgrading a proxy while eliminating the possibility of a function selector clash.


A functional Ethereum proxy needs at least the following two features:

  • A storage slot holding the address of the implementation contract

  • A mechanism for an admin to change the implementation address


The ERC-1967 standard dictates where the storage slot holding the address of the implementation should be held so that the chance of a storage collision is minimized. However, the ERC-1967 standard does not dictate how to change the address of the implementation.


The problem with putting an additional function inside the proxy to change the implementation (such as updateImplementation(address _newImplementation)) is that the update function has a non-negligible chance of clashing with a function in the implementation.


Function Selector Clashing

Declaring public functions inside the proxy to update the implementation address introduces the possibility of a function selector clash.


Here is a trivial example:

contract ProxyUnsafe {

    function changeImplementation(
            address newImplementation
    ) public {
        // some code...
    }

    fallback(bytes calldata data) external payable (bytes memory) {
        (bool ok, bytes memory data) = getImplementation().delegatecall(data);
        require(ok, "delegatecall failed");
        return data;
    }
}

contract Implementation {
    // an identical function is declared here -- they will clash
    function changeImplementation(
            address newImplementation
    ) public {

    }
    //...
}

Remember, the fallback is always checked last. Before the fallback is called, the Proxy contract will check if the 4 byte function selector matches changeImplementation (or any other public function in the proxy).


Therefore, if a public function is declared in the proxy, there are two kinds of function selector clashes that can occur:


  1. If the implementation contract implements a function with the same signature, that function will be uncallable because the proxy’s public function with the same signature will be called, not the fallback. And if the fallback is not triggered, there won’t be a delegatecall to the implementation.

  2. If the implementation contract has a function with the same function selector as the public function in the proxy, it will also be uncallable for the same reason. This scenario is a function selector clash that can happen by random chance when the four-bytes match. The probability of the two different functions having the same selector is 1 in 4.29 billion; a function selector consists of 4 bytes, so there are 4.29 billion possibilities. That is a small probability, but not negligible. For example, clash550254402() has the same function selector as proxyAdmin().


The Transparent Upgradeable Proxy Pattern Prevents Function Selector Clashing Entirely

The Transparent Upgradeable Proxy Pattern is a design pattern to completely eliminate the possibility of function selector clashing.


Specifically, the Transparent Upgradeable Proxy Pattern dictates that there should be no public functions on the proxy except the fallback.


But with only a fallback function, how do we call the function to upgrade the proxy?


The answer is to detect if msg.sender is the admin.

contract Proxy is ERC1967 {
    address immutable admin;

    constructor(address admin_) {
            admin = admin_
    }

    fallback() external payable {
            if (msg.sender == admin) {
                    // upgrade logic
            } else {
                    // delegatecall to implementation
            }
    }
}

The implication of this is that the admin cannot directly use the proxy since their calls are always routed away from the delegatecall. However, using a different mechanism we will discuss later, it is still possible for the admin to call the proxy and the proxy to delegatecall to the implementation as a normal transaction.


Changing an immutable admin

In the code snippet above, the admin is immutable. This means that the contract technically does not comply with ERC-1967 which states that the admin must be kept in storage slot 0xb53127684a568b3173ae13b9f8a6016e243e63b6e8ee1178d6a717850b5d6103 or bytes32(uint256(keccak256('eip1967.proxy.admin')) - 1).


To be compatible with ERC-1967, the Transparent Upgradeable Proxy stores the address of the admin in that storage slot, but it does not use that storage variable.


The presence of an address in that storage slot will signal to block explorers that the contract is a proxy (one of the intents of ERC-1967). However, reading from storage every time a call to the proxy is made adds another 2,100 gas to the call. Hence, it is desirable to use an immutable variable.


“Changing” the admin

However, it is still desirable to be able to update the admin address — but initially this seems impossible because the Proxy uses an immutable variable.


The approach of the Transparent Upgradeable Proxy to enable the alteration of the proxy contract admin is twofold. First, it designates another contract, known as ProxyAdmin, to be the admin of the proxy contract.

Diagram showing the relationship of proxy, proxyadmin and owner in transparent upgradeable proxy

A smart contract’s address will never change, so this is compatible with the Transparent Upgradeable Proxy storing the address of the admin in an immutable variable.


Second, the owner of ProxyAdmin is the “true” admin. The ProxyAdmin simply routes calls from the owner to the Proxy. The “true” admin calls the ProxyAdmin and the ProxyAdmin calls the Transparent Proxy. By changing the owner of the ProxyAdmin we can change who has the ability to upgrade the Transparent Proxy.


AdminProxy

Below is the code from the OpenZeppelin AdminProxy (with the comments removed). Observe that there is only a single function upgradeAndCall() which can only call upgradeToAndCall() on the Proxy.

pragma solidity ^0.8.20;

import {ITransparentUpgradeableProxy} from "./TransparentUpgradeableProxy.sol";
import {Ownable} from "../../access/Ownable.sol";

contract ProxyAdmin is Ownable {
    string public constant UPGRADE_INTERFACE_VERSION = "5.0.0";

    constructor(address initialOwner) Ownable(initialOwner) {}

    function upgradeAndCall(
        ITransparentUpgradeableProxy proxy,
        address implementation,
        bytes memory data
    ) public payable virtual onlyOwner {
        proxy.upgradeToAndCall{value: msg.value}(implementation, data);
    }
}

There is a common misconception that the admin of the Transparent Proxy is not able to use the contract because their calls get forwarded to the upgrade. However, the owner of the AdminProxy can use the Proxy with no issues, as the diagram below demonstrates.


In fact, we will see later there is a mechanism for the ProxyAdmin to make an arbitrary call to the proxy, as the function name upgradeToAndCall() implies.

Diagram of possible call routes for owner and user in a transparent upgradeable proxy

Making the proxy non-upgradeable

If the owner is changed to be address zero, or another smart contract that is not able to properly use the function upgradeAndCall() (or change the owner), then the Transparent Upgradeable Proxy won’t be upgradeable anymore. This can happen, for example, if the owner of the AdminProxy is set to be a different AdminProxy contract.


Implementation Details

The OpenZeppelin Transparent Upgradeable Proxy implements the standard with three contracts:

  • Proxy.sol

  • ERC1967Proxy.sol (inherits Proxy.sol)

  • TransparentUgradeableProxy.sol (inherits ERC1967Proxy.sol)


Parentmost contract: Proxy.sol

The base contract is Proxy.sol. Given an implementation address, it sends a delegatecall to the implementation. The _implementation() function is not implemented in Proxy — it is overriden and implemented by its child ERC1967Proxy which will make it return the relevant storage slot.

proxy.sol contract code snippet

Child of Proxy.sol: ERC1967Proxy.sol

ERC1967Proxy.sol inherits from Proxy.sol. This adds (and overrides) the internal _implementation() function which returns the implementation address stored at the slot specified by ERC-1967. The constructor of this contract stores the implementation in the storage slot specified ERC-1967. However, the Transparent Upgradeable Proxy will not make use of this function — instead using its own immutable variable.

erc1967 proxy contract conde snippet

Child of ERC1967Proxy.sol: TransparentUpgradeableProxy.sol

Finally, TransparentUpgradeableProxy.sol inherits from ERC1967Proxy.sol. In the constructor of this contract, the ProxyAdmin is deployed and the immutable admin (first variable in the contract) is set to be the address of the ProxyAdmin in the constructor.

transparent upgradeable proxy contract code snippet

Let’s consider the case where msg.sender is the _proxyAdmin. In that case, the call gets routed to _dispatchUpgradeToAndCall(), but _fallback() first checks that the function selector provided is the function selector for upgradeToAndCall. The “selector” here is not a “real” selector, since the Transparent Upgradeable Proxy does not have public functions. However, to allow the ProxyAdmin to make a Solidity interface call (high level call), it needs to accept the ABI Encoded calldata for upgradeToAndCall() from the ProxyAdmin.


Recall, the ProxyAdmin is making an interface call to upgradeToAndCall in the Proxy even though the proxy has no public functions besides the fallback (ProxyAdmin code show next):

proxy admin code snippet with the upgradeToAndCall function highlighted

Below is a video showing all three code blocks side by side and how the different contracts in the inheritance chain (Proxy, ERC1967Proxy, and TransparentUpgradeableProxy) interact with each other:

Why upgradeToAndCall() instead of just upgradeTo()?

When upgrading the implementation contract, it's possible to make a call to it as if the ProxyAdmin were msg.sender and have the transaction delegatecalled to the implementation as if it were a normal proxy interaction. Of course, this does not happen inside the fallback because calls from ProxyAdmin are routed to the upgrade logic.


The code below is from ERC1967Utils.sol which the TransparentUpgradeableProxy composes with to enable updating the implementation slot. The library provides an internal helper function to update the storage slot holding the implementation address.

/** 
* @dev Performs implementation upgrade with additional setup call if data is nonempty. 
* This function is payable only if the setup call is performed, otherwise `msg.value` is rejected 
* to avoid stuck value in the contract. 
* 
* Emits an {IERC1967-Upgraded} event. 
*/

function upgradeToAndCall(address newImplementation, bytes memory data) internal {
    _setImplementation(newImplementation);
    emit IERC1967.Upgraded(newImplementation);
    if (data.length > 0) {
        Address.functionDelegateCall(newImplementation, data);
    } else {
        _checkNonPayable();
    }
}

It will only make a delegatecall to the implementation contract if data.length > 0.


upgradeToAndCall() also makes a delegatecall from the Proxy to the implementation in the same transaction as the upgrade. This is the same as if ProxyAdmin called the proxy using whatever calldata is specified in data, and then the proxy made a delegatecall to the implementation.


In this manner, the ProxyAdmin can make arbitrary calls to the Proxy.


Note that upgradeToAndCall does not require the upgraded contract to be a different implementation — it is possible to “upgrade” to the same implementation.


The implication of this is that the ProxyAdmin contract can make arbitrary delegatecalls to the implementation contract via the Proxy — but the msg.sender from the Transparent Proxy’s perspective is the ProxyAdmin.


This is not a “problem” that the ProxyAdmin can use the contract — the ProxyAdmin has the ability to completely change the implementation — the owner of the ProxyAdmin already has admin control over the Proxy.


The only restriction the ProxyAdmin has on upgrading is that they cannot upgrade to an empty contract (an address with no bytecode). The _setImplementation function checks if the code length of the new implementation is greater than zero:

/**
 * @dev Stores a new address in the ERC-1967 implementation slot.
 */
function _setImplementation(address newImplementation) private {
    if (newImplementation.code.length == 0) {
        revert ERC1967InvalidImplementation(newImplementation);
    }
    StorageSlot.getAddressSlot(IMPLEMENTATION_SLOT).value = newImplementation;
}

Summary of Transparent Upgradeable Proxy

  • The Transparent Upgradeable Proxy is a design pattern to prevent function selector clashing between the proxy and the implementation.

  • The fallback function is the only public function on the Transparent Upgradeable Proxy.

  • The upgrade functionality can only be invoked by the admin via the fallback function. All calls from non-admin addresses turn into delegatecalls to the proxy.

  • The Transparent Upgradeable Proxy uses an immutable variable to store the admin to save gas. To be compliant with ERC-1967, it stores the address of the admin in the admin slot specified by ERC-1967, even though it never reads from that slot.

  • Because the admin cannot be changed, the admin is set to be a smart contract called the AdminProxy. The AdminProxy exposes a single function upgradeAndCall() which can only be called by the owner of the AdminProxy. The owner of the AdminProxy can be changed. Such a change alters who can update the implementation slot in the Transparent Upgradeable Proxy.



We would like to thank @ernestognw from OpenZeppelin for reviewing this article and providing helpful suggestions.

433 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment


whacksailing
18 hours ago

The infographics and visuals used to illustrate the concepts presented in this essay are both visually appealing and educational. basket random

Like
bottom of page