Bitfury Clarke: A new generation of SHA-256 crypto mining chip
That might be bad news at a bad time for Bitmain.
Bitfury's Bitfury Clarke was revealed on 19 September, as a SHA-256 ASIC mining chip able to reach hashrates up to 71 TH/s, and energy consumption as low as 88 mJ/HG, almost certainly not at the same time.
"The Bitfury Clarke ASIC is energy-efficient and designed to keep your mining operation low-cost and environmentally responsible [ie. cheap]," BitFury says.
"Aside from selling Bitfury Clarke chipsets, Bitfury is integrating Bitfury Clarke into its other industry-leading bitcoin mining hardware, including its mining servers and BlockBoxes, as well as in its own bitcoin mining centers in Canada, Norway, Iceland and the Republic of Georgia," BitFury says.
Individual mileage will naturally vary, but the peak performance numbers are quite impressive, depending on the unit price.
Competitor Bitmain's latest SHA-256 revealed, the water-cooled Hydro variant of the same Antminer S9 chip, is rated at 18 TH/s with energy consumption of 1728W.
On either side of the scale – more hash rate or less energy consumption – the Clarke beats it quite handily.
"The 14nm Bitfury Clarke ASIC is fully customized for SHA256 bitcoin mining. It can execute a hashrate up to 120 gigahashes per second (GH/s) and a power efficiency rate as low as 55 millijoules per gigahash (mJ/GH). The supply voltage required by Bitfury Clarke can be as low as 0.3 volts," BitFury says.
It also touts the customisability of the chip, letting miners adapt it for higher hash rate or lower energy consumption as needed. With many mining operations spending most of their lives teetering on the brink of unprofitability, the ability to downshift operations when bitcoin prices are low, and kick them up a notch when prices are high, could be a valuable option.
"Bitfury is looking at all factors, including silicon packaging, chip efficiency, optimal power distribution, cooling designs and speed of development when designing our mining hardware," said Valery Vavilov, CEO of Bitfury. "We think that this will lead to solutions that deliver the best ROI to our customers — regardless of ASIC size."
If it can deliver as promised, it might be bad news for competitor Bitmain, at perhaps the worst time possible.
Injury to insult
Crypto miner manufacturer and mining outfit Bitmain has recently been dogged by rumours of financial trouble after what seems to have been a disastrous gamble on Bitcoin Cash. Rumour has it that the planned Bitmain IPO is just a slightly desperate attempt to raise funds for continuing operations.
It might have backfired. New rumours suggest that disgruntled investors are now suing Bitmain for withholding crucial information (such as how illiquid its BCH holdings are) from investors. By many appearances, Bitmain is in a much tougher financial spot than its enormous on-paper earnings would suggest.
The Clarke now stands to hit Bitmain's profit margins in several exciting new ways, especially if it can deliver reliable performance close to the advertised peak.
Firstly, it might simply be a better product than anything Bitmain has put on the market. The Hydro is Bitmain's higher performing SHA-256 miner, but it has the major downside of needing an external water source and still might not be able to match the energy efficiency or performance of the next generation Clarke.
Secondly, Bitmain will be using the same miner for itself in operations around the world. This might herald sharper further rises in bitcoin's hash rate, much of it coming from Bitfury's side of the fence. This might hit its mining profits, and push Bitmain much closer to the deadly unprofitability line.
The nature of the mining industry means outfits whose hardware falls behind are at risk of falling off the wagon permanently. In proof of work, the most cost efficient miner at any given time is profitably growing their hash power share and setting a new benchmark. Every other miner has a short time in which to achieve similar cost effectiveness. Those which don't get there soon enough go out of business.
In this case, BitFury might be about to make a significant jump in cost-effectiveness, which will reset the clock for other mining firms.
Disclosure: At the time of writing the author holds ETH, IOTA, ICX, VET, XLM, BTC, ADA