Intel claims durability for its custom chip that mines bitcoins faster than GPUs

Intel this week announced details of its new Blockscale ASIC chip designed specifically for more efficient blockchain computing than CPUs or GPUs. Two months ago, it first said it made such a chip.

Blockscale is specifically designed to handle the Secure Hash Algorithm-256 (SHA-256) used by blockchain and its performance is phenomenal, at least on paper. Blockscale has a hash rate of up to 580GH/s or gigahashes per second.

In comparison, the Nvidia RTX 3090, the best GPU on the market, has a hash processing speed in the mega hashes per second: 120MH/s to 150MH/s. When Intel announced plans for a blockchain accelerator last February, it claimed it would be 1,000 times faster than GPUs. That turned out not to be hyperbole.

Blockscale’s power consumption can also be an asset. “Intel’s decades of R&D in cryptography, hashing techniques and ultra-low voltage circuitry enable blockchain applications to scale their computing power without compromising sustainability,” said Balaji Kanigicherla, vice president and general manager of Intel’s Custom Compute in the Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics Group in a statement.

The SHA-256 algorithm is popular in all blockchain transactions because it is used to verify that a file has not been modified, which is the hallmark of the blockchain. SHA-256 is never broken and is widely used for secure transactions.

But all kinds of SHA-256 processing is also energy intensive. Research from the University of Cambridge estimates that global power consumption for crypto mining is 121.36 terawatts/hour per year, more than the entire country of Argentina consumes in a year.

Thus, this chip has the potential to be a very viable alternative to GPU cards while reducing power consumption for hash cultivation through improved performance.

“We are aware that some blockchains require a tremendous amount of computing power, which unfortunately translates into a tremendous amount of energy,” Intel’s Raja Koduri, senior vice president and general manager of the Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics Group, wrote in a blog post. in February when the company announced plans to make this chip.

“Our customers demand scalable and sustainable solutions, so we focus our efforts on realizing the full potential of blockchain by developing the most energy-efficient computing technologies at scale.”

Since bitcoin mining is currently done with GPUs, Blockscale could alleviate the shortage of GPUs for other purposes. Specifically, bitcoin farms have bought up the entire range of GPU cards on the market, leaving gamers furious and frustrated.

Shipment of the Blockscale chip will begin in the third quarter of 2022.

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