Interview Mining

Immersion FPGA mining – to new heights

With the growth of the market, mining is recovering. Meanwhile, mining technology also did not stand still all this time. The ASICs are now replacing by the FPGA cards that were already used for mining before. And they brought new problems – in terms of cooling.

Mining dialectics

The field-programmable gate array, FPGA, were already used in the mining as an alternative to GPU. They were less energy consuming and more productive. But they seemed complicated and expensive, and mining went the way of using ASIC. However, with the consolidation of the market and the centralization of ASIC farms, a danger of 51% attack appeared. Cryptocurrency developers began to apply protection in the form of modified hashing algorithms. Thus, ASIC-farm turned into scrap metal. And the miners suffered heavy losses. Again they remembered the FPGA. Unlike ASIC, which is programmed once during production, FPGA can be programmed many times for changing algorithms while working. Thus, the miners were able to protect their investments. In addition, FPGA can be configured to mine any coin, depending on the market situation. To do this, the card have to be bitsreamed. Bitstreaming is made by low level languages (Verilog or VHDL). So in mining, the well-known law of dialectics – development in a spiral – worked out.

You get what you pay for

FPGA cards were originally intended to work in air, and the chip’s operating temperature reaches 100 degrees Celsius. In such circumstances, the manufacturer’s warranty covers only 3 months. Evgeny Belov, CTO of the Beeminer Group, notes:

– Depending on the bitstream, FPGA cards can consume and, accordingly, produce as thermal energy, up to 500 watts. And this is a real problem. The fact is that if an ASIC, for example, S9, has 189 chips, and each has its own radiator, they are distributed on 3 hashboards, then the FPGA card has one chip and it has a very small radiator.

Buying expensive equipment for 3 months is not a business approach. The Beeminer Group immediately noticed that the return of FPGA-cards perfectly matches to their main business – production of immersion cooling systems for mining. Beeminer Group’s production had been developing together with the market. They started with GPU-based installations, then switched to ASIC. In all cases, immersion cooling showed its best. With the return of mining to the FPGA technology, Beeminer Group began to test installations with FPGA cards – and they again showed excellent results. Moreover, higher than even in the segment of immersion mining in general. It is believed that, in general, immersion cooling can reduce the temperature to 80 degrees Celsius. At the same time, the board and chips work in ideal conditions. This significantly increases their lifespan, and additionally increases the rate of hashing. But Beeminer Group with their equipment achieves temperature as low as 60 degrees. With a corresponding increase in the card’s lifespan. E. Belov notes:

– When mining with FPGA, if we are talking about installations from 10 to 100 or 1000 cards – there is no alternative to immersion cooling. Despite the fact that FPGA cards have been known for many years, an increased interest in them is inflaming right now. It is not uncommon to order installations for 1000 BCU-1525 cards. Customers – from all over Russia, from Kazakhstan, from the countries of the Middle East. Well, FPGA cards are used not only for mining, but they help to create neural networks, artificial intelligence, this is a solution to problems in the space field, in medicine, etc. I think this is the future.

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