With the exponentially growing applications of blockchain, Intel has officially revealed its new energy efficient graphics processing unit (GPU) for blockchain applications like cryptocurrency mining and NFTs among others. “Blockchain is a technology that has the potential to enable everyone to own much of the digital content and services they create” said Raja Koduri, Intel’s senior vice president.
Even before Intel made the announcement, their interest in this space was hinted at in a draft itinerary list for the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC). Intel is planning on giving a presentation titled “Bonanza Mine: An Ultra-Low-Voltage Energy-Efficient Bitcoin Mining ASIC”. For those new to this topic, ASIC is an acronym for Application Specific Integrated Circuit and is a custom silicon designed for specific applications, which in this case, for blockchain application.
The primary goal of Intel’s blockchain accelerator, or processor, is to perform its task while demanding less power. Current hardware used for cryptocurrency mining consumes a lot of energy which has an environmental impact. Back in September of 2021, the New York Times published an article on the energy consumption of cryptocurrency mining. The process consumes 91 terawatt-hours of electricity annually. To put that figure into perspective, that is 0.5% of the global energy consumption, higher than the annual electricity of all of Finland and is seven times more than all of Google’s global operations.
Koduri said, “Our customers are asking for scalable and sustainable solutions, which is why we are focusing our efforts on realizing the full potential of blockchain by developing the most energy-efficient computing technologies at scale.” The early adopters of Intel’s new processor are Argo Blockchain, BLOCK (formerly known as Square) and GRIID Infrastructure, who all have sustainable goals in common.
Besides being more efficient, it is said to offer better performance over its rivals. “We expect that our circuit innovations will deliver a blockchain accelerator that has over 1000x better performance per watt than mainstream GPUs for SHA-256 based mining” said Koduri. He also added that to continue research and development to keep up with the latest advancements in the blockchain cpace, a new Custom Compute Group was created under Intel’s Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics business division. He elaborated, “The objective of this team is to build custom silicon platforms optimized for customers’ workloads, including blockchain and other custom accelerated supercomputing opportunities at the edge.”
For the initial batch, Intel is using a “tiny” piece of silicon to fabricate the processor as to not impact the supply of their current products. The processor is schedule to ship sometime later this year. Intel is reserving further details for their presentation at the ISSCC, happening virtually from the 20th to 28th February 2022.
Intel is not the only mainstream player to offer a mining processor in this space. Leading GPU manufacturer, Nvidia, has a GPU dedicated to cryptocurrency mining applications. This line was created to combat reports of miners hoarding consumer GPUs. Nvidia has also locked their newer consumer GPUs, like the new 3000 series models, with a low hash rate function that handicaps performance if mining operation is detected.
What do you think about cryptocurrencies and NFTs in general?