Lagoon is a dedicated testnet for operators on the Marlin network.
A lagoon is a body of water separated from larger bodies of water by a natural barrier. Similarly, the Lagoon testnet provides operators with a protected surrounding to test their limits before venturing into deeper waters, which is just a stone’s throw away.
There's a chicken and egg problem in the Marlin network today. Cluster operators need to attract enough delegations to get any messages from gateways. But without receiving messages, they can not check if their cluster works, and worse, their metrics don't appear in the dashboard for potential delegators to see. This results in nobody really delegating to these clusters and the operator is back to square one. The only solution to this currently is for the operator himself to delegate enough tokens and break the cycle. However, at the current minimum stake requirement of 0.5 MPond, this comes at a significant cost beyond the reach of most operators. They are also forced to bear the opportunity cost while any issues in the cluster are worked out. All in all, there is a significant barrier to entry for operators in the Marlin network.
Lagoon is a full-fledged testnet environment available at https://app.marlinstaging.com/relay/operator which is an isolated lookalike of the Larvanet staking platform at https://app.marlin.pro/relay/operator. It is backed by a separate set of token and staking contracts on the Kovan network, enabling operators to satisfy the minimum delegation requirement using testnet tokens at no real cost. The testnet also has a separate set of bootstrap servers for each chain supported by Marlin, further isolating it from the Larvanet on the network level. Once an operator has verified that his setup is working, they can easily switch to the Larvanet. It's also easier to attract delegations since they can point to a track record of good performance on the testnet.
Apart from providing a testnet for operators, it also provides a testbed for the development team to first test any updates to the network or the contracts without affecting the Larvanet.
Reach out on Discord if you'd like some testnet tokens to get started.