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Draining Data Center power: Bitcoin mining

In the virtual currency realm, creating a new Bitcoin will require a great amount of power to be drawn from the power supplies in the data/server racks filled with power-hungry processors turning energy into “gold”.

The possible ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ is innovations are being developed for energy-saving approaches that can allow the Bitcoin technology to expand into other new applications1 like health care management and solar-power trading.

Read more about Blockchain: [Blockchain & Supply Chain: Early But Promising]

See Reference 2 for the original paper that describes the Bitcoin system design, but in essence a shared public ledger called a ‘blockchain’ is maintained by users in that community. In order to make the system ‘hackproof’, the blocks are chained together. The problem comes in when writing new blocks (known as mining) will consume a great deal of energy. Here is why: Each block of transitions must be encoded via an iterative process known as cryptographic hashing—this is an intensive computation that will require a great deal of energy from the server power supply.

One independent researcher estimates that in order to sustain the level of computation that Bitcoin miners were generating per month it would consume 500 MW of energy or enough to power about 325,000 homes.

Although power supply designers are developing more efficient solutions for data centers, that effort may not be able to keep up with the rate at which Bitcoin is consuming energy right now.

Read more about Data Center Power supplies: [Data center next generation power supply solutions for improved efficiency]

A Bitcoin farm in Inner Mongolia (Image courtesy of Reference 3; Giulia Marchi)

A Bitcoin farm in Inner Mongolia (Image courtesy of Reference 3; Giulia Marchi)

I think the power management solution lies in more clever software and improved blockchain architectures in the future. For now, crank up the fans and liquid cooling along with incremental improvements in power supply architectures in case Bitcoin grows even more in this uncertain new technology field. See the recent NY Times article by Nathaniel Popper3 .

Or maybe we need to submerge the power supplies.

A submerged processor like those in a data center (Image courtesy of Electronic Products)

A submerged processor like those in a data center (Image courtesy of Electronic Products)

Read about that here: [Submerge our power supply, and other options]

What do you think? Please share your thoughts and experiences with our esteemed audience.

References

1 The Ridiculous Amount of Energy It Takes to Run Bitcoin, Peter Fairley, IEEE Spectrum, 2017

2 Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System, Satoshi Nakamoto

3 There is nothing virtual about bitcoin’s energy appetite, Nathaniel Popper, NY Times, Jan. 21, 2018

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