Just this month, IEEE Spectrum magazine ran an article written by Morgen E. Peck titled “Why the Biggest Bitcoin Mines Are in China.” The article primarily discusses Bitmain, a company that claims to have made 70% of the bitcoin mining rigs in the world. The company’s current top-of-the-line bitcoin-mining machine, the one that Bitmain says is the most powerful bitcoin miner in the world, is called the Antminer S9. Each Antminer S9 incorporates 189 of Bitmain’s 16nm ASIC, the BM1387. The Antminer S9 can execute 14 TeraHashes/sec in its fastest speed grade.
Bitmain’s Antminer S9, the world’s most powerful bitcoin miner
According to the IEEE Spectrum article, FPGAs were used to mine bitcoin until about 2013. After that, ASICs took over the heavy-duty task of running the bitcoin SHA-256 hashing algorithm as fast as possible. That’s because bitcoin mining is a race and the winner of the Bitcoin race is the fastest one to compute and register a hash that meets the criteria established for Bitcoin. The first to register that hash with the Bitcoin network owns that bitcoin, currently worth a little more than $6000 according to the exchange rate posted at the bottom of the Web page for the Antminer S9 mining machine.
So if the days of FPGA-based bitcoin mining are over, why cover Bitmain in an Xcell Daily blog? Because something needs to manage and direct the 189 ASICs in each Antminer S9 mining machine and that something is a Xilinx Zynq Z-7010 SoC according to Bitmain’s Antminer S9 Web page. Among the features that Bitmain liked about the Zynq SoC is that it “supports Gigabit Ethernet to ensure that mined blocks are submitted instantly” because finding the right hash is one thing, but being the first to register it is everything.