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ASICs vs GPUs: Understanding The Great Crypto Mining Debate

10 September 2019 13:46, UTC
Philip Salter

Some see a great debate where others see a simple business decision.

Crypto mining boils down to solving complicated math problems faster than anyone else, and collecting a financial reward in the process. Miners have two categories of tools at their disposal in their quest to collect that reward first: multi-purpose GPUs (graphics processing units) and purpose-built ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits).

In both cases, miners depend on electricity, efficiency, and raw computing power to mine effectively. But the choice between ASIC and GPU mining hardware has become polarizing and political within the crypto community. Even though both work to solve the exact same problems, ASICs represent a significant improvement over GPU technology — hobbyists running their own GPU mining rigs are being left behind by businesses that use more-powerful ASIC hardware at an industrial scale.

05-08-2019 17:33:00  |   News
It’s like being uninvited from a party that you helped organize in the first place. Here’s what you need to know about why ASIC and GPU miners clash so severely.

There’s a mismatch of goals between businesses and developers

The crypto community has technical people who enjoy developing and furthering technology, as well as business-minded people in search of profit. For every miner passionate about decentralization and the overarching philosophy behind cryptocurrency, there’s another one out there simply looking for a way to squeeze a few more dollars out of this sector.

The technical crew has historically been the one to push this technology forward and drive its adoption. They enjoy hands-on problem-solving and ushering in a new era of financial technology. The business crowd, by contrast, tends to have a bottom-line profit-seeking mindset. That’s why they deploy supercharged ASIC mining hardware, nudging the smaller players aside in the process.

I think this problem can be solved with good old-fashioned communication. These people operate in the same industry, so they ought to be far more united than they are at present. Working together, they can nurture a sustainable crypto ecosystem that doesn’t have to reinvent itself every six months to keep pace with rapidly developing technology. When miners have a stable foundation to operate from, they can make better decisions. Hobbyists and businesses alike will benefit.

But mining tends toward ASIC hardware regardless

Crypto mining businesses must seek out every efficiency they can if they’re going to generate viable long-term revenue. This means they’re going to universally favor powerful hardware that’s fed by cheap electricity. The purpose-built ASICs are simply too good at their jobs, so businesses seeking a profit can’t responsibly ignore them.

Communities across different cryptocurrencies have made efforts in the past to push back against ASIC mining’s formidable firepower. Ethereum’s core development team has most recently moved forward with plans to release a new ASIC-resistant proof of work algorithm that will bring existing Ether-mining ASIC hardware to a screeching halt. But this isn’t a simple solution to the problem — let’s talk about Monero for a moment.

11-03-2019 10:15:13  |   News
Unveiled in 2014, the Monero cryptocurrency was designed to be ASIC-resistant for sake of letting GPU miners play a meaningful role in building out the ecosystem. Before long, there were high-powered ASIC chips on the market capable of blowing past any GPU’s efforts to mine the currency. Predictably grumpy about this development, the Monero community pushed out a hard fork establishing a new and improved ASIC-resistant algorithm, and things were back to normal.

But this return to normalcy was short-lived — still-newer ASIC chips emerged that compensated for this so-called “ASIC-resistant” algorithm, and GPU miners were left behind once again. This dance between GPU and ASIC dominance has continued as long as Monero’s been available. That’s why there’s a semi-annual hard fork to protect the GPU miners this currency was designed for. There is a perpetual tug of war between ASIC-resistant algorithms and the ASICs that emerge to successfully handle them.

So how do you bridge this gap?

19-02-2019 14:54:56  |   Guest posts
For all of the talk of decentralization, crypto has a clear trend toward centralization. The reality of this industry is that the person with the most processing power is going to win, so mining gets concentrated among the few who run the most powerful hardware. Businesses active in this space are closer to being the supportive infrastructure that props the entire system up than they are greedy for-profit enterprises. Even the most fine-tuned at-home operation can’t compete with an industrial-scale mining business. That’s like a person putting solar panels on their roof and saying they’re competing with the local utility company.

Yes, cryptocurrency mining depends on solving complex math problems in pursuit of profit, but getting started in this space isn’t necessarily complicated. Would-be miners can start their own GPU-based operation at home, go industrial-scale with lots of ASICs, or find a happy medium by renting processing power from a cloud mining company.

It should be an easy decision, not a heated debate.

By Philip Salter, head of mining operations at Genesis Mining

Image courtesy of: Cudo Miner