Intel blasts Bitcoin mining and unveils its own mining hardware • The Register
Just days ago, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger raged against Bitcoin, calling it a “climate crisis.”
“A single entry in the Bitcoin ledger consumes enough energy to power your home for almost a day. It’s a climate crisis. That’s not right,” he told Bloomberg in an interview. last week.
It was clearly attacking the power-hungry GPUs and similar chips needed to mine Bitcoin, which require country-sized amounts of electricity, as the House of States committee heard. States on Energy and Trade last month.
But in less than a minute in that same interview, Gelsinger – who is trying to favor an all-American farm boy at heart reputation, built in the “Silicon Heartland” in Ohio – abruptly changed its tone as a world savior.
“Intel offers a blockchain chip that is dramatically better,” he said.
This chip, dubbed Bonanza Mine, was detailed this month at the International Conference on Solid-State Circuits. This 7nm node ASIC does its best to minimize power consumption without reducing processing power to provide some degree of cost-effectiveness for miners.
Bitcoin uses a blockchain to enable peer-to-peer transactions without the need for a central clearinghouse. Instead, transactions are verified by validators, who are rewarded for solving complex computational problems known as proof-of-work that is part of this verification process, said Vikram Suresh, researcher at Intel, in an online presentation. A transaction is added to the Bitcoin distributed ledger once it has been validated. Validators are called miners.
The proof-of-work involves the SHA-256 cryptographic hash function, and all validators must run this algorithm – and they must run it fast, and a lot, to be efficient miners.
Better by design?
Bonanza Mine, previewed earlier this month, includes optimizations at various levels to improve the energy efficiency of hash calculations.
“This includes micro-architecture optimizations, optimizations in data path arithmetic circuitry, and a normal latch-based clock scheme,” Suresh said, adding “at the board level, we have a stack of matrix voltage. Each of these techniques offers an improvement in ASIC performance, area, and power efficiency.”
Intel not only developed this accelerator chip, but also created a Bitcoin mining system consisting of four circuit boards, each with 75 Bonanza Mine ASICs, totaling 300 ASICs in the system. It also has a programmable power supply, an Intel FPGA-based system controller, and four fans to cool the system.
The machine achieves a hash rate of around 40 terahashes per second while consuming 3.6 kW. The system controller uses an Intel FPGA with a mining daemon running on an Arm Cortex hard core. The system uses serial UART and I2C to orchestrate the hardware.
The Bitcoin network is currently operating at 188.29 exahashes per second. A top-of-the-line Antminer S19 Pro claims 110 terahashes per second with 3.25 kW. An AvalonMiner A1166 Pro claims 81 TH/s at 3.4kW. You can compare Intel’s specs to the rest of the market here. Intel said its mining machine compares favorably to the Bitfury Clarke and Canaan Avalon A9.
We’ll leave it up to you to decide how much or how much Intel’s chip contributes to Gelsinger’s climate crisis.
Bonanza Mine system overview… Source: Intel
Each Bonanza Mine ASIC consists of 258 SHA-256 dual-hash mining engines, which take up 95% of the die area. The ASIC also includes a controller core, sensors, and a GPIO. Communication with the ASICs is handled using UART daisy chain links. Bonanza Mine has a variable voltage and frequency system to balance performance and power consumption.
“The variable mode of operation provides the ability for a miner to trade off hash rate and power efficiency to optimize mining profit,” Suresh said.
He has the power
One slide showed throughput and power efficiency measurements at 75 degrees Celsius at a per-chip operating voltage of 355 mV. Each ASIC can achieve a throughput of 137 gigahashes per second, requiring 55 Joules per terahash.
“The Bonanza mining system software identifies outlier motors in each ASIC and disables them. This allows the remaining motors to run at the highest possible frequency to optimize the overall hash rate,” Suresh said.
The mining system can be configured in three operating modes: a high performance mode, a balanced mode and a power saving mode. Depending on the mode of operation, the measured throughput varies from 34.5 to 47.7 terahashes per second, with mining efficiency varying between 54 and 60 joules per terahash.
Suresh also talked about a clock technique based on a three-phase latch that resulted in 50% lower clock power.
Intel will ship accelerator hardware directly to major cryptocurrency miners; Argo Blockchain, BLOCK (formerly known as Square) and GRIID Infrastructure. But with the wonders of capitalism, it wouldn’t be surprising if scalpers unlucky with GPUs go in search of these ASICs, which won’t be available on the open market.
Intel’s experimental chip could be one of the first units to deliver an emerging market focused on distributed computing, also known as Web 3.0. We imagine this will involve the exchange of cryptocurrency and digital assets in a parallel virtual universe also known as the metaverse.
Computer hardware and chip makers are still trying to figure out the underlying hardware that will deliver this graphics-centric universe, which will require massive amounts of computing power and energy. Facebook has bet its future on this program, however, and Microsoft is factoring the metaverse into its future by buying Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion.
Gelsinger promised a “Grovean” and laser-focused return from Intel to its engineering roots, while avoiding distractions over low-hanging fruit, like a past disaster called smartphones. Bitcoin is a hot market, and Intel is tackling it in a limited way, but whether miners will like the new kit remains to be seen. ®