Intel has just announced a new cryptocurrency mining chip. Called Blockscale, Intel’s new chip promises to be more energy efficient than others in SHA-256 hashing, which is most commonly used in bitcoin mining. Sounds wonderful if you own a bitcoin mining farm. Although before you get depressed about this, Intel at least says that producing this new chip won’t compromise the production of its CPUs and GPUs.
This is because it is able to avoid any compromise due to the “nature of the silicon that powers this technology”. Presumably this means that the process node in which the Blockscale chip will be produced will not be the same one used by your CPU and GPUs. This could mean that you are using older technology, but it is more likely that you are using a very recent node.
Just not necessarily your own.
Intel had previously outlined two generations of its cryptocurrency chip, known as Bonanza Mine. The first generation was more of a prototype, while the second is the basis for the Blockscale Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) we are seeing today.
The first generation test unit was confirmed using a 7nm process node. Although this hasn’t been confirmed as Intel’s own Intel 4 node or a rival such as TSMC. Despite having its own manufacturing facilities around the world, Intel has purchased supplies through TSMC for its lineup of upcoming Arc GPUs and other products, so it’s very possible that’s the case here.
Intel has not yet confirmed which Blockscale process, née Bonanza Mine of second generation, uses, but it has been linked to TSMC’s 5nm process.
This means that it is possible for Blockscale to use a different process node than Intel’s CPUs, which are mostly built by Intel’s own foundries; and GPUs, which are built by TSMC but may be using capacity from a different process node than their other products or may no longer impact the wafer capacity that Intel has secured with the company.
So yes. It seems that Intel’s chip supply will not be affected by this new mining. However, it is still the ability that is being used, and we humans there’s not much left now.
Nvidia equally promised their cryptocurrency GPUs, CMP, would not interfere with providing GeForce for gaming as they were expected to be using chips not suitable for any GeForce SKU. Nvidia reports that demand for these cards decreased a bit since launch.
Although Intel’s foray into cryptocurrency mining is interesting in its own right. Not only the company’s top bosses – including Raja Kodurigeneral manager of Intel’s Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics (AXG) Group – said blockchain technology is a powerful tool for future computing, and the company also formed a new custom computing group to focus on accelerating workloads, including cryptocurrency mining.
The Blockscale chip on which some of these hopes rest seems pretty efficient as far as cryptocurrency ASICs are concerned – which means cryptocurrency mining remains an energy-hungry endeavor and requires energy consumption. comparable to entire countries to operate— running at 580GH/s and efficiency up to 26 J/TH. Although this is only for a single chip and Intel boasts a higher speed when many chips are combined into a single mining unit. A miner is expected to run at 135TH/s, which puts it on par with the best Bitmain ASIC miner.
Of course, bitcoin mining doesn’t have much of an impact on GPU supply today, as bitcoin has moved away from the capabilities of the humble graphics card to more powerful ASICs. Graphics cards were being bought by ethereum miners as ethereum uses an ASIC resistant algorithm.
But even the demand for ethereum seems to have dropped lately as the profitability of cryptocurrency mining has fallen. Whether that’s the main reason we’re seeing GPUs back in stock at major retailers or not is hard to say. However, it is at least looking a little better for GPU provisioning in 2022.