Mining for digital currency has created the latest race for computing power. This new contest will ask much of microprocessor and ASIC designers and power system architects.
Time to market has always been important in our industry. For the mining of cryptocurrencies, it is even more so the case. (Let's skip over the question of whether a mathematically protected digital currency outside of any governmental or institutional control may or may not be a good thing.) In addition to the uncertainty over both its immediate and long-term future, mining for Bitcoin -- the best known virtual currency available today -- is certainly highly demanding, in terms of computational power, getting the currency in an efficient manner, and getting there fast.
We know the theory that in the specific case of Bitcoin it will become increasingly difficult to mine. There is an upper limit set on the amount available, at least at the moment, and therefore increased energy will be required to solve these mathematical problems to maintain the transaction "block chain."
The cooling required for all this high-end computing power is an issue, in addition to getting access to renewable and safe forms of energy, such as hydropower. Hence the attraction of placing ultra-high-capacity mining datacenters in far northern regions of the globe. There are an increasing number of companies setting up datacenters to offer high-performance mining services at locations near the Artic Circle, in countries such as Iceland, Sweden, Norway, and Finland.
Mining for digital currency has created the latest race for computing power. This new contest will ask much of microprocessor and ASIC designers and of power-system architects. Powering custom-designed multicore processor-based ASICs in an energy-efficient way is a huge challenge, particularly so if one considers that the time-to-market in this field is absolutely critical. As soon as you have your machine you can start mining.
This means that board power designers will have absolutely no room for complexity in their system designs. This is where "digital power" can make a significant contribution. While uptake for the technology has generally been firm, rather than explosive thus far, digital currency mining is just the sort of application that can really highlight its value.
Within a remarkably short period of time, digital power enables power system architects to manage complex power schemes, optimizing energy utilization and lowering voltage ripple. Digital power delivers excellent management and control abilities via the PMBus. It can handle changes quickly in load and system temperature, enabling significant energy savings. Some of the largest benefits reside in the simplicity of the orchestration of different power sequences (demonstrated here on Ericsson's YouTube channel) to optimize energy utilization and reduce ripple and noise, while also retaining a very high level of flexibility such as the ability to change any parameter and at any time without hardware changes.
Highly demanding applications, such as cryptocurrency mining, that employ substantial technical know-how and expertise in the field and also fully leverage technologies such as digital power to their utmost, can deliver a five-fold reduction in time-to-market. Companies operating in the more traditional fields of datacom and telecom -- some of which thus far have remained highly conservative toward the possibilities of digital power -- should take note of what is happening in this revolutionary field of computing endeavor…