#blockchain #hardware

A consumer-grade computing device capable of performing local enterprise-level tasks, or rented to a larger computing pool to generate passive income for it's owner.

Technology

AMD Ryzen 8-core 1700X CPU
nVidia Titan V GPU
16GB DDR4 RAM
120GB SSD
Low-noise Noctua Fans
Custom BIOS and Firmware
TeamViewer remote control
Wemo remote power management

Objectives

Small-scale pilot
Beta product in production
Manufacture partner
Safety and security compliance

Client

Cloudgraph

The future has already arrived. It's just not evenly distributed yet.
WILLIAM GIBSON
AMERICAN WRITER
The Vision

Decentralized networks need to live on distributed hardware

The most scalable, decentralized blockchain networks are leveraging traditional cloud computing infrastructure. EOS, for example, is supported by block producers who use Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure infrastructure.

It would be a shame if Amazon, Google and Microsoft ran the decentralized computing networks of the future. We believe a commercial-grade computing device packaged in a consumer product will be the future of the cloud.

Our goal was to design, assemble, market, sell, ship and support a 10-15 unit pilot program where customers can own a hardware device that lives in their home but is operated remotely from a central command that directs the computer towards the most profitable distributed computing marketplaces.

Users simply unbox the device, plug it into a power source and an access point, and it automatically joins the network and begins mining. Users receive weekly payouts in whichever cryptocurrency they prefer.

Hardware experiments

Finding the right GPU

I tested almost every GPU from nVidia and AMD and found two viable options. The nVidia Titan V offered the highest capability per watt while the AMD Radeon Pro Duo gave us the best price-to-performance ratio.

The best CPU that would fit

In the mini-itx form factor, the AMD Ryzen CPU gave us the best price-to-performance and performance-per-watt. A Noctua CPU cooler and chassis fan keep the system quiet under load.

Tuning the package

Off-the-shelf software like Afterburner and CPU overclocking utilities were used to optimize the core components for blockchain computing. Custom or modified GPU BIOS and driver files were also used to push the hardware's performance levels for maximum profitability.

Powerful

Combining the most powerful consumer graphics processor unit (GPU) with the highest performing central processor unit (CPU) we were able to achieve unmatched crypto mining performance. Using a tri-mining approach, we were consistently hitting 80 MH/s on the Dagger Hashimoto algorithm (ETH), 2640 Mh/s on Decred and 566 H/s on Cryptonight (XMR).

Efficient

The nVidia GPU platform and AMD Ryzen CPU platform both lead their respective categories in performance per watt. Under steady load the entire platform only draws 270 continuous watts from the wall, costing less than $20/month in electricity to run. A "turbo" mode enables a 20% boost in performance while drawing 352 continuous watts.

Compact

The CPU and GPU is packaged into a mini ITX form-factor allowing anyone to host the device in any room. It's small enough to travel with and the modularity allows for future upgrades.

Running the pilot

We successfully launched the pilot program with a small group of customer-owned devices as well as a group of devices hosted in-house. Upon launch, the business model was profitable mining Ethereum (priced at ~$700 per ETH) and Monero (priced at ~$200 per XMR). As market prices for digital assets continued to decline through 2018, mining these assets at consumer electricity prices became unsustainable. During the sales process, our customers asked us what would happen if the market declined to a point where mining would not be profitable. Our response was that our equipment is not single-purpose crypto mining hardware and would sustain a decent market value through an extended crypto bear market. We could always liquidate the hardware in a bear market and purchase the bare digital asset with the proceeds.

Unfortunately this plan was put to the test and we helped some of our customers liquidate their devices. If they had purchased the bare asset rather than our mining hardware, they would have taken substantial drawdown on that investment over the same period. One of our customers spent 7 ETH to purchase our hardware product, and at the tail end of our pilot was able to liquidate the hardware and buy back 28 ETH proving our hedging strategy was effective at increasing his asset position. He was also able to mine a fair amount of ETH during the program.

Final Thoughts...

I continue to believe a distributed computing hardware infrastructure will be needed to fully realize the vision of what blockchain can help humanity accomplish. Wholesale electricity is a key factor in the success of a distributed hardware program. We spoke with a district powerplant who was interested in selling their electricity at $0.03 per kilowatt/h to a crypto mining operation. The general public needs access to wholesale electricity, a well-packaged computing device and a thriving computing marketplace for this kind of project to really take off. I plan to revisit this opportunity once the blockchain ecosystem has matured.