Crypto inferno: Intel's Bitcoin-mining Blockscale ASIC to arrive in Q3

Gelsinger's firm drops details on crypto chip – including hash rate of up to 580GHps

Intel has disclosed more details of its Blockscale ASIC, the firm's entry into the realm of cryptocurrency mining with a dedicated chip built to provide users with energy-efficient hashing for proof-of-work consensus networks.

As previously revealed, the chip now identified as the Intel Blockscale ASIC is designed to provide hardware acceleration for SHA-256 (Secure Hash Algorithm-256) processing for blockchain proof-of-work applications. It will start shipping in the third quarter of 2022.

Intel has now claimed that its Blockscale ASIC has a hash rate of up to 580GHps, or giga hashes per second, and can support up to 256 integrated circuits per chain. The latter means that a customer could theoretically build and operate a mining system comprising 256 of the Blockscale chips, which would be capable of over 148THps, or tera hashes per second.

The compute requirements for blockchains utilizing proof-of-work consensus mechanisms is growing rapidly, Intel says, and requires an enormous amount of energy, citing this as its motivation for developing Blockscale – delivering new technologies that can provide the requisite power in a more energy-efficient manner.

Each Blockscale ASIC has a power efficiency rating of up to 26J/TH, or joules per terahash, says the chipmaker. This implies that a system with the maximum 256 Blockscale chips would consume about 3,860W of power for that blockchain processing performance of 148THps.

According to Bitcoin Magazine (yes, there had to be one), this compares with the "flagship air-cooled mining system of the current global market leader, Bitmain," which it says delivers 140THps of performance for an energy consumption of 3,010W, meaning it has a power efficiency of 21.5J/TH.

However, there are other reasons why the availability of the Blockscale ASIC might be a good thing: Intel says that because of the silicon technology used to produce the ASIC, it will be able to supply it in volume without compromising the supply of new CPUs or GPUs.

This is a reference to complaints from gamers that it can be difficult to obtain many graphics cards, as cryptocurrency miners snap up the best performing cards in order to use the GPU's performance for blockchain processing.

Nvidia even went as far as lowering the hash rate performance of some of its cards, in order to make them less attractive to miners, while introducing specialised crypto-mining cards.

Intel's general manager for Blockchain and Business Solutions, Jose Rios, said in a statement: "Intel is committed to advancing blockchain technology in a responsible way, and we're proud to collaborate with and provide solutions to companies that are creating a more sustainable cryptocurrency ecosystem globally."

Intel said the first shipments of its Blockscale ASICs will start in in the third quarter of 2022, and will go first to customers it had previously announced, such as Argo Blockchain, Block Inc, Hive Blockchain Technologies and GRIID Infrastructure, to develop new systems based on the silicon. ®

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